Before I die, I want to ______________. (Fill in the Blank)
It is common to hear such expressions among Christians. We state, without much thought, that we hope that we get to do something or see something before we die. We call it our “bucket list,” which refers to the things that we want to do before we “kick the bucket.” The implication is that death will steal from us opportunities that we do not want to miss out on in this life. I understand this to a point, but I contend that we need to be careful about what we are communicating to others regarding our hope in Christ with such statements. For the believer, death does not deprive us of pleasure, but instead, ushers us into our reward in Christ. Paul would put it this way, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” How could anyone believe that “death is gain?”
The apostle Paul helps us answer this question. For Paul, “whatever gain that he possessed” as a result of his status and situation in life as a Roman citizen and well-educated Pharisee, “he counted as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, his Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8). Paul knew that the “weight of glory that was coming” made the “affliction” of his present life “momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). The glory of the things of this world could not be compared to the glory of the things that were to come with the resurrection (Philippians 3:9-11). Therefore, Paul was ready and willing to forego some of the temporary pleasures and comforts of his day so that he might lay up for himself eternal “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21).
My point is not that Christians shouldn’t desire to accomplish or enjoy things in this life before they die. Even the apostle Paul had ambitions regarding ministry that he wanted to fulfill before his death (Romans 15:20). My point is that we should not allow the things on “our bucket list” to excite us more than the return of Christ. Christians are to be marked by an “eager expectation” of Christ’s return (Hebrew 9:28). They should believe that if Jesus returns before they accomplish a certain goal or enjoy a certain thing that they will not have been deprived of anything. Did you read that last sentence? If Jesus returns before you get married, go skydiving, travel abroad, retire, have children, finish your degree, walk your daughter down the aisle, own a home, write a book, or any other good thing in this life, you will not feel like you have been deprived. All of the joys and pleasure that we have in this life are intended by God to point us to the greatest pleasure – Christ Himself. So, enjoy the blessings that God affords you in this life (1 Timothy 6:17), but never forget: Jesus is better than your bucket list.