Do you have a bucket list? I first heard of this term in connection with the movie, “The Bucket List”, a story of two terminally-ill men who try to do a bunch of things they’ve always wanted to do before they die, or “kick the bucket.” On the one hand this sounds like a great idea if you’re going to die soon. But on the other hand, it displays a very limited perspective. It indicates a short-sighted, scarcity mentality that the only time we have to enjoy is the here and now. But that simply isn’t true for Christians.
Christians don’t need a bucket list because we are going to live forever in a new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22). If there are things that we don’t get around to doing before we die, that’s okay. When we are resurrected and receive glorified bodies upon Christ’s return, we’ll have plenty of time to explore those hills and mountains and sites that we never got to see before we died. If there are some things in the present world that don’t make it into the new earth, we trust in God’s wisdom that they should not have been preserved and that what is ahead is far more worthwhile than what was left behind.
Christians don’t need to feel like they are “missing out” if they don’t get to see the sites or have the exciting experiences that other people may have. Certainly, if you have the chance to see something amazing or have a really enjoyable trip with friends or family, that’s great. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the gifts and the creation that God has given to us.
But because Christians have a long-range perspective, we don’t need to worry that if we don’t do it now, we’ll never have the chance again. The highest priority for Christians should be serving God faithfully and enjoying Him. Along the way, we’ll enjoy many of the tangible gifts and relationships that he gives us but we shouldn’t have a scarcity mentality. We need not be enslaved to a “fear of missing out” or be regretful that we didn’t seize the day. When we find ourselves in the new earth with Jesus, we can spend 10,000 years enjoying God’s good creation. But even then, we’ll have just begun.
One of God’s servants who seems to have not had a bucket list was John Paton. As a young man in Scotland, he was burdened by the thought of all the people in the South Pacific islands who did not know Christ. Many tried to persuade him to remain in Scotland, where he had the prospect of many years of promising ministry. But he would not be persuaded, even though others had gone to that region before him and been killed and eaten by some of the islanders. In his autobiography, Paton wrote,
Amongst many who sought to deter me, was one dear old Christian gentleman, whose crowning argument always was, "The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!" At last I replied, "Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms, I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” The old gentleman, raising his hands in a deprecating attitude, left the room exclaiming, "After that I have nothing more to say!”
John Paton was not concerned with getting out of life all that the world had to offer before he died. He was concerned with honoring the Lord Jesus Christ, whether he lived or died. His long-range perspective on the resurrection and eternity freed him from the fear of missing out in the here and now. That is an important perspective to have in order to give oneself to a mission field that may include much suffering, or even early death. But in a world that pushes us towards instant gratification and idolatrous envy of other people’s lives as depicted by social media, it is essential for every Christian to keep this biblical perspective on eternity before us.