Carpe Diem. Seize the day. In times like these, when tomorrow is uncertain, when the price of everything goes up every day, when wars and rumors of wars abound, people all around us are more likely to say Carpe Diem, Seize the day. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Carpe Diem. Seize the day.
Even as Christians, we have mixed emotions about how to face uncertainty. The Bible teaches us that preparing for tomorrow is a good thing to do, and yet Jesus says not to worry about tomorrow. In the parable about the rich man and his barns full of grain, Jesus says thou fool, tonight thy soul will be required of thee. Bigger barns full of more stuff do not guarantee our tomorrow.
So what is the Christian equivalent of Carpe Diem? Seize the Day? I believe it is contained in today's scripture, from Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Let's hear the word of the LORD:
So be careful how you live. Don't live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Don't be fools, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do. Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father.
-- Ephesians 5:15-20 (GNV)
Let me tell you a story of two Tuckers. Just over 20 years ago, two Tuckers worked for a large natural gas firm based in Birmingham, AL. Joel Tucker, that would be me, was in print communications, writing for a black-and-white employee newspaper. The other Tucker was in video productions, making corporate films, promotional material and investor advertisements. Joel Tucker drove an old clunker, while the other Tucker drove a sporty convertible. Joel Tucker had a degree in journalism from a little cow college, and the other Tucker had a degree in corporate communications from a major university. Joel Tucker dressed in mismatched second-hand jackets and ties, while the other Tucker wore tailor-made suits. Joel Tucker lived in a shotgun house outside of town, while the other Tucker lived on a golf course in a nice, new home. Joel Tucker had a screaming baby at home to keep him awake, while the other Tucker had no children and was always rested and alert -- and he didn't even drink coffee!
Perhaps you can tell, I was a bit jealous of the other Tucker.
But because we were about the same age and had the same last name, and because we often worked together, and we were hired by the same company at about the same time, we actually became good friends. I admired the other Tucker, and I just knew that I could be as successful as he was if I could just learn to live like he did. I ask him one day, "What is the secret of your success? Why does everything you touch turn to gold?" Without blinking an eye, the other Tucker said to me, "Carpe Diem! Seize the day! You get an assignment, you do it! You see an opening, you take it! That's what I do, and it works for me. Carpe Diem! Seize the day!"
About that time, Birmingham was just getting over its dark past of racism and church bombings. For the first time ever, we had a golf club with the facilities to host a major PGA golf event. Jack Nicholas would be there, and all the big names in golf. The television networks would have the big names in broadcasting there to show the world the new face of Birmingham, Alabama, through live coverage of the event.
Our company was a major sponsor of this event. We would have the hospitality tent for all the bigwigs of golf and broadcasting who were expected to show up. It would be three days of wine, women and song. And wouldn't you know it, I was given the assignment of shooting photographs at the event. What an opportunity!
But I still saw myself as a backwoods redneck with cotton lint in my hair, someone who couldn't talk right, dress right, walk right. I was shaking in my shoes at the thought of meeting all those big names, of doing my job in front of all those celebrities and corporate officers. Fortunately, I had an instant out. I went to the other Tucker and asked if he would be willing to cover the event.
"Are you kidding?" he said. "Your loss, man; I'm there. Carpe Diem! Seize the day!"
So that's what the other Tucker did. He covered the event, got Jack Nicholas' autograph, made a good impression on the corporate officers, and enjoyed to the fullest all of the complimentary food and beverages. Unfortunately, he enjoyed the complimentary beverages a bit too much. He was racing down the swerving scenic drive from the golf course and ran his sporty little car into a tree. The other Tucker lived fast and died young. He was only 29 years old.
Carpe Diem. Seize the day.
The other Tucker had life all figured out. He lived with enthusiasm, and he never put off till tomorrow what he could do today. The other Tucker made the most of every opportunity -- to succeed in business, to succeed with women, to enjoy the good life. I learned later that his wife had already filed for divorce, and that his work performance was not as admired by higher-ups as by his peers.
The problem with the other Tucker is that he was filled with the wrong spirit. He was like the man always gathering his stuff into bigger barns ... the stuff was more important than life itself. He would rather conquer another woman than conquer the problems with his own marriage. He did seize the day, but he was seizing the wrong part of the day. He was happier to spend Sunday morning drinking complimentary beverages than to spend it in church considering his immortal soul.
It is quite a shock to admire someone, then to have them die because of a stupid mistake in judgment. All of a sudden, I was better off than the other Tucker, even with my clunker of a car, my shack of a house, my southern drawl and my mismatched sportscoat.
Be careful how you live. Don't live like ignorant people, but like wise people. And Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Carpe Diem. Seize the day.
The difference is that a Christian's Carpe Diem is not to serve self, but to serve God. Try to find out what the Lord wants you to do. Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit.
This doesn't mean that we only work for the Lord. We can't earn God's love, but we can and should dwell in it. The scripture says to sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father. Obviously, this isn't about avoiding merriment. It is about finding your pleasure in God, your friends among God's people, your joy in praising God.
I used to think there would be an advantage to being a "professional Christian." What am I supposed to do with my time? Make the most of every opportunity, but which opportunities? I summarize my job as Spread the Gospel and Encourage the saints. I plant roses to encourage the saints; I pull weeds to encourage the saints. I struggle with accounting systems to encourage the saints.
This week, I tried several times to study this scripture. Usually, I didn't get past verse 16 and 17: "Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Don't be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do."
When I read that, I ran to the hospital. I went to visit three different church members that I haven't seen in a while. I stopped to pray. I counseled a caller. Because when I try to find out what the Lord wants me to do, that's what I find. I know we need to straighten out the books, and beautify the entrance to our church, but the Lord wants me to go after the lost sheep.
Those were evil days. These are evil days. What does the Lord want you to do? Not to suffer; you're allowed to sing and rejoice and enjoy your Christian walk. You don't have to work to earn God's love. Just take advantage of the opportunities God gives you. Right now, you have an opportunity to worship, to pray, to take communion. It's what the Lord wants you to do. Enjoy it. Tomorrow, he might give you an opportunity to encourage a friend, or to make things easier for your boss, or your spouse. Enjoy that opportunity as well.
Carpe Diem. Seize the day. But don't seize it for yourself; seize it for the Kingdom of God, for your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And don't moan and suffer your way through it; praise God for the opportunity to serve Him. Sing with all your heart. Give thanks for everything. That is what the Lord wants you to do.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.