Authored by Marie Story
Here’s a clichéd question for you: How would you live if you knew this day was your last day on earth?
This question is presented in hundreds of motivational books, seminars, and lectures. Sometimes it’s worded differently, but the concept is the same: “Live every day as if it were your last.” The unfortunate thing about often-repeated phrases is that they very soon lose their meaning.
It’s also kind of a difficult question to answer—at least if you’re not really dying the next day. Most people say that they’d use that last day to do something good. They would reconnect with those who are important to them. They’d do something to help others. They’d right some wrong. They’d forgive and ask for forgiveness. It seems most folks see it as sort of a day of redemption—a day to make up for all that they failed to do throughout their lives.
The point is, live your life in such a way that you don’t need a last day to set everything right. This is easier said than done, though. We can get so caught up in the busyness of life that we fail to think about (much less do) the important stuff—the things that will make our lives count. On top of that, it can be tough to know what those important things are. We tend to have basic ideas of how our lives should be lived and the qualities we should possess—we know we should “be like Jesus”—but it can be hard to know where to start.
So how do you live each day as if it were your last?
That question can be answered by another clichéd question: “What would Jesus do?” You’ve probably seen people with the WWJD message on a bracelet or a tee shirt. It’s a good question, but again, it’s been so often repeated and plastered on all kinds of merchandise that it’s kinda lost its meaning. However, when you apply this question to the first, it clarifies things.
Jesus was aware that His time on earth was coming to a close. His mission on earth was nearly complete and He knew that He would soon be betrayed and executed. So how did He live during His last 24 hours?
He was humble. He set aside time with His disciples where He shared a meal with them. First, though, He welcomed each of them by washing their feet. Foot washing was a job generally given to the lowest servant. People walked around in sandals on dusty, muddy roads, so most feet were pretty grungy. But Jesus showed each of His disciples great love and humility by stooping to wash their feet. He made Himself a servant. 1
He was yielded and obedient. I don’t imagine He was thrilled with the prospect of torture and death. In fact, it was so difficult that He prayed so hard that He was sweating drops of blood. But He trusted that His Father knew best, and said “Not My will, but Thy will be done.”2
He was unconditionally loving. He was betrayed, but He didn’t retaliate. He was mistreated, yet He didn’t lose His temper. Those closest to Him turned their backs on Him, but He didn’t react in anger. He was wrongfully accused and humiliated, but He held His tongue.3
He was honest. When He was brought before His judges—first the Sanhedrin and then Pilate—they asked Him straight out, “Are You the Son of God?” He could have saved Himself a lot of pain and anguish by simply skirting the truth. But He upheld the truth, no matter what the cost.4
He was forgiving. After being whipped, mocked, spit on, and dragged through the streets to hang on a cross, He said, “Father, forgive them.” He could have called down fire and lightning on His tormentors and cursed them for hurting the Son of God. But instead He forgave even as they mocked and insulted Him.5
He was unselfish.6 Despite the agony of hanging on the cross, He took time to make sure His mother would be cared for. He took time to listen to the thief dying beside Him, and to reassure him as he died. Instead of thinking about Himself and the pain He was in, He thought of others and their well-being.
In talking about all this, I’m not saying that we need to become some superhero rescuer of the poor and destitute. We shouldn’t feel that we have to struggle to constantly find “good works” to do. Even Jesus didn’t spend all His time feeding the poor, healing the sick, or preaching.
The way Jesus spent His last day was really no different from the way He lived His whole life. He didn’t work extra hard to be more “godly,” more loving, or more giving on that last day. Rather, that day, like every day, He found opportunities to love, to give, and to share God with others.
Jesus lived every day as if it were His last, because honesty, humility, love, forgiveness, and kindness were an integral part of His nature, so those were the qualities He portrayed. Living each day as your last is about spending your time and energy on the important things—things that won’t fade with time, but will last through eternity.
1 John 13:5.
2 Luke 22:41–44.
3 Luke 22:45–71.
4 Luke 22:66–71; Luke 23:1–3.
5 Luke 23:34.
6 Luke 23:39–43; John 19:25–27.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International