When someone famous dies nowadays, the various media find ways to pay tribute to that person. This week, when Steve Jobs died, many of those tributes, appropriately, took place via the Internet. This makes sense, since the company Jobs co-founded, Apple, revolutionized the world of computing – not just once, but time and time again.
I’m a relatively recent convert to Apple, acquiring an iPad and an iPhone this year. (I still use a PC for my general computing needs, however, so I’m a bit of a hybrid in that way.) In using these tools, however, I have come to appreciate the degree of innovation that is required to make online technology as simple as it is today. No one doubts that Steve Jobs was an innovator.
When these tributes come in, of course, there are always quotations (often taken out of context) from the deceased famous person. One I read that Jobs uttered at a graduation event at Stanford University, struck me. He said, “No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there,” he told the Stanford graduates. “And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new….Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
I’m not sure what Steve Jobs’ spiritual position was. Some say he was a self-styled Buddhist who had been baptized a Missouri Synod Lutheran as a child. So what he meant by what he said might differ from the way I interpret it. Regardless of that, however, his words can be instructive for us as followers of Jesus. We who know the Lord have confidence that when we die, we will enter the glorious, eternal presence of the living God himself. Still, if we’re honest, most of us really aren’t all that interested in dying. Or, to put it more accurately for some, dying doesn’t bother us, but the process of reaching that point is not something we look forward to. We want to see the Lord, but we don’t want to leave our loved ones; we want to be in heaven, but we don’t want to have to die to get there, as Jobs said.
But he is right to say that death is something no one has ever escaped. When he described death as “the single best invention of life,” he made a good point, though, didn’t he? Death is life’s change agent. The apostle Paul put it another way: “When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put into the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have” (1 Corinthians 15.36-38a, NLT). Paul wrote that to a church that was questioning the resurrection. He wanted to assure the people that what waits beyond this life is amazing and new. Death really is the change agent of life, the innovator of All Things New. But at the same time, God has given us a life to live, here and now, and we do well to live it to its fullest, to the glory of God. As Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
God has given you a life to live, and as a follower of Jesus, you can take comfort in the words of the Saviour himself: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10.10, NIV).
None of us knows how long we have, so let’s live the life Jesus has given us, and live it fully, to his honour and glory!
I hope yours is long and fruitful!