YOLO. The overused acronym of 2012 stands for “You Only Live Once.” Some could call it a sad millennial version of “Carpe Diem.” However, YOLO is not as much about “seizing the day” as it has a better comparison to the ancient hedonistic phrase, “Let us drink for tomorrow we die.” The lifestyle acronym is usually associated with irresponsible, unwise, hedonistic, or stupid behavior because as the saying goes…“you only live once.”
While most people have left the YOLO fad back in 2012, the pseudo-existential mentality still is a part of our culture. Many people have the same idea of freedom, independence, and experiencing life because it is believed that the only way to find your life is in seeking happy experiences. Ideas like self-sacrifice, knowing God, character development, and wisdom are usually lost in the shuffle to “live life to the fullest.” I have these desires to experience and enjoy life, but I have to remember that my life isn’t just about finding enjoyment but seeking what God desires from my existence.
The writer of Ecclesiastes wrestled with tough questions about experiencing life. Qoheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, described the futility and struggle of existence and what a life of meaning should look like. I have often had similar questions about living. If I live this life (once) what should I do? I’m a Christian, so how does that impact my everyday life? I want to enjoy my life; does God want that for me? What does a fulfilled life look like? Most Christians struggle to enjoy life and also with answering questions of life’s meaning. Many tend to degrade any aspect of “worldly” pleasure, and try to escape into a life of pseudo-asceticism.
Qoheleth goes beyond religious asceticism and emphasized that God wants us to enjoy life! He stated that “…nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun” (Ecc. 8:15). For some people this verse means, “There it is! Eat, Drink, YOLO! Cue the PitBull song!” But before we declare that Qoheleth was advocating some form of hedonistic ‘wisdom’ (and bad party music) let’s not forget that this is a part of Hebrew literature. Since Ecclesiastes is based in the Hebraic tradition, other verses ground life’s enjoyment in constant reflection to God. Qoheleth also emphasized the very important idea of living life in the fear of the Lord (Ecc. 3:14), meaning a life of reverence and acknowledgement of God. A person does this properly by observing and obeying God’s standards (Ecc. 12:13).
From a Christian perspective, the application still applies to me. I enjoy my life. I have reverence and fear for God being my “life-giver.” And enjoy my life through understanding how He desires life to be, revealed in His Word. I trade my fallen way of living a “good life” for His. So I do only have one life to live (YOLO). And I should enjoy it! I should live it as a gift from God. But I should live it remembering the One who gave it to me. Understanding what He desires for my life and His standard for “real” living. If I work, worship, serve others, or enjoy a dinner with friends; all is a part of my life in God. If I climb a mountain, watch a sunset, or take a risk for something good or true; all should be lived in reflection to God. God gives us this life to live for a purpose. As much as I don’t want to live a wasted life I am also reminded of another saying, this one taken from a great action movie. Maximus, from the movie Gladiator, adds another important element to living when he stated, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”