“In the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
I have seen that quote several times recently. It has a nice, feel good sound to it. The person speaking seems to want us to understand that at the end of our life what we have done with the time available is of much more importance than the number of years we lived. That sounds well and good.
The quote has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, someone with a well-deserved reputation for careful, deliberate thinking and who used his intellect and understanding of human nature to lead our country through its most troubled time. Lincoln should be a trustworthy source of wisdom. A quick check online, here, shows that Lincoln is not the likely source. But even removing Lincoln as the source doesn’t really lessen the meaning we might take from the message.
But, I wonder, is it true? Is the ‘life’ that we put in our years what is of real importance when life reaches its end? Or does such an idea point to us to an even greater truth?
Recently I read Think, by John Piper. My review is here. Piper’s proposes that for the Christian, critical thinking is essential to loving God. He reminds us that we are called to love God with all of our minds, as well as our hearts and souls. This is sound biblical teaching, from Matthew 22:37. Piper wants us to encourage us use our intellect actively as we grow in faith.
With that thought my question becomes something more like this: How can I use my mind and add ‘life to my years’ in a way that gives glory and honor to God?
Or maybe this: How can I add ‘life to my years’ in a way that points beyond me and both to others and to God?
The key, I believe, also lies in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew 6:19-21 says:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus is teaching that when I invest my time in things of eternal significance I do more than merely ‘add life to my years.’ Much more. And when I look around God has placed all kinds of opportunities around me.
One opportunity involves my youngest daughter. I want to do my part to help her grow up. To teach her how to do all kinds of things, like learning to ride a bike and learning to read. I also want to help her learn confidence and build character. I want to help her learn how to pick good friends and nurture relationships over a lifetime.
And all of these are good things, the things that add ‘life to my years,’ but at the end of the day, or of my life, they are meaningless unless I have made my greatest priority the nurturing within her of a vibrant and deep-seated love of God, God as made known in Jesus Christ. Above anything else my calling as a parent includes teaching my daughter what it means to love God with all of her heart, and her mind and her soul.
My treasure is in heaven, in the person of Jesus Christ. And one of the longings of my heart is for my daughter’s treasure to be there too.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.