Then Jesus told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you.'” – Luke 12:16-20
In the last decade or so of my father’s life he developed an interest in wine. He would read about the many varieties and vintages and vineyards. When a wine was purchased, it was carefully stored and catalogued. Occasionally he would even drink the stuff. That was always an elaborate ceremony, beginning with bringing the wine to the proper temperature, uncorking it at just the right moment, taking in the color, tasting the wine to make sure it was suitable to serve, accompanied by florid commentary about bouquet and body, descriptions that no one else understood or, frankly, cared much about.
When friends learned of my father’s interest in wine, they would sometimes give him a special gift of a rare and costly bottle. I never remember those wines being served. He always said he was waiting for a special occasion. The occasion never came. When my father died quite suddenly—”this very night your soul is required of you”—those bottles remained unopened. Special occasions, like tomorrow, seem never to arrive. As playwright Ben Hecht once put it, “Time is a circus that is always packing up and moving away.”
Of course, the point here is not that we should eat, drink, and be merry while we have a chance, even as that is not the point of Jesus’ parable. But if we postpone the little pleasures at our peril, how much more perilous is our tendency to put off doing what is truly important and noble in life. It may be a good idea to save money for a rainy day, but we sometimes act as if we are saving our lives for a rainy day, and what is most worth doing remains bottled in some dark corner, waiting for that rainy day, or at least another day. To which Jesus says, quite simply, “Don’t wait.”
Help me to make the most of the only day I live in—today.
Martin B. Copenhaver is President of Andover Newton Theological School. His newest book is Room to Grow: Meditations on Trying to Live as a Christian. Follow Martin on Twitter @mbcopenhaver.