“For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”
The Lord has brought this verse to mind lately. One thing I have received from it is a perspective check. Yes, I need to plan for various aspects of my life on earth, and I also need to weigh all of those things against the vast glory of eternity. I don’t mean dismissing the things of this life, saying, “I’m going to die anyway”. Instead, I want to consider how things done in the earthly life can have eternal value.
One big way that earthly actions have eternal impacts is through relationships with other people. Paul acknowledges that going to be with the Lord in heaven would be for his benefit, but for him to continue in this life is for the benefit of others. In verse 24 he said, “to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you”.
“To live is Christ” doesn’t just mean pain, it means purpose. It means you have an impact on others. It means someone needs you. Your actions, decisions, behavior, and demeanor really do affect other people. That sounds like an absurdly obvious statement, but, a truth like this always needs to be experienced and applied more deeply.
The overall condition of my life affects other people. I have recently heard the idea that, ‘you are responsible for yourself and for everyone else.’ (I believe the person I heard this from was quoting the author Dostoevsky. Also worth considering here is Cain’s reply to the Lord, in Genesis 4:9, “…am I my brother’s keeper?”). The intent of adopting this truth is not to emotionally burden myself with things I cannot immediately control, instead, this truth fuels me up because I am reminded of how valuable even the smallest of my actions are.
Again, the consideration of eternity should not encourage negligence or dismissiveness toward the earthly life, instead it should impart a sense of importance, value, and urgency to even the most mundane matters of daily life. Be enriched with awareness of the eternal context of life. Be encouraged by the idea that your attitude and actions affect other people.
See also Long-Term Thinking