How do we measure life?
Everybody wants to have a “Good Life”. OK, this risks being an overstatement with an absolute word such as “every”, but I have never heard anybody say “I hope to have a bad life”. I have never seen a book entitled “Your Worst Life, Now” or “Meaninglessly Driven Life” top the New York Times Best Seller list. So while I know I am at risk here, I am rather confident that we ALL want a “Good Life”.
Jesus wants that for us, too! In John 10, Jesus declares His purpose for leaving Heaven and entering the world as a human. Jesus says He is subjecting Himself to the struggles of this world so that each and every one of us can live life to the full; another translation says have an abundant life. It is the Devil who seeks to “steal, kill and destroy”.
What does it mean to live a “Good Life”? And no, this isn’t a trick question. Take a few minutes right now to stop and think about specific, measurable ways you can know you’ve had a “Good Life” … I mean it … Measurable means you can be 100% certain it happened or it didn’t happen or you can measure how much it happened.
Have you thought of any? This is not an easy exercise, and if you were able to do it, you are way ahead of the game. Most people say we want a “good life”, but what makes a good life remains completely undefined. For example, happiness would be a common way people measure a good life. Well, happiness is also largely immeasurable. Some people use possessions or achievements to measure if they have had a good life, only to find out they aren’t satisfied if they do achieve it or need to reevaluate their whole life if they don’t achieve it. Is a “Good Life” really measured by a bank statement or the number of followers you have on social media?
If we never find a measurable, tangible way to define for ourselves if our life is “good”, we will never truly know if we lived a “good” life. In the book of Amos, God tells Amos, the prophet, that a “plumb line” is what will be used to judge the people of Israel. A plumb line is a tool that is used to accurately create a wall that is straight up and down. Without a plumb line you end up with the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or worse).
What is your plumb line? What can you look at and definitively know that you are living a good life? For me, I look at my relationship with God and the promises He has for me. My relationship with God is immoveable. I know this because it isn’t dependent on me or my actions. God is faithful and, in my Baptism, has promised to never leave me no matter what. This is about as good as life gets from my perspective. Not only this, but I have a plumb line to measure my life choices against to know if I am building a house with sturdy walls or a house with slanted walls that will lean and fall over.
I don’t share this with you to make you feel guilty or uncertain. This isn’t a “pastor answer” and every other answer is wrong. But, it is an answer that I have come to over years of putting my hope for a “good life” in many different things: my accomplishments, my experiences, my family, my plans for a future. All of these other things bring happiness for a moment, but the feeling soon leaves for one reason or another. But, no matter what, I can always come back to the firm foundation, the solid rock, the plumb line named Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. He is ALWAYS good and that is certain.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss