Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
The whole is almost always worth more than its component pieces. In 1924, Dr. Charles H. Mayo estimated the value of the human body in a light hearted piece in the Northwestern Health Journal. He approximated the figure at 84 cents. Thomas Edison quipped, “From his neck down a man is worth a couple of dollars a day, from his neck up he is worth anything that his brain can produce.” More recently, Wired Magazine estimated that the chemical parts of a human body are collectively worth $17.18. But when those chemicals are combined into organs, marrow, and platelets, the value of the average human body sores to approximately $45,618,575.82. Why? Because the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.
In May of this year, Senator John McCain released his final memoir titled The Restless Wave. In this volume, he recounts the major events that defined the last decade of his national service, the last ten years of his natural life. In the opening paragraphs, he pauses to remember the sequence of his days, what he refers to as “Accumulated Memories.” He summarizes the major events of his life, the impact of his grandfather and father, his military service and time as a POW, his political victories and defeats, and his countless friends on both sides of the political spectrum. Many of whom, he notes, are gone. Considering the death of these companions, Senator McCain wrote:
Other friends have left, too. I’m tempted to say, before their time, but that isn’t the truth. What God and good luck provide we must accept with gratitude. Our time is our time. It’s up to us to make the most of it, make it amount to more than the sum of our days.
The day after his passing, papers all across the globe announced “John McCain, dead at age 81.” Had he lived till August 29, the headlines would have read 82. 29,935 days each one largely unimportant to itself, but collectively they were made to count for so much more than their sum. The impact of his life extends far past the boundaries of a dash between two dates.
The whole is worth more than its component pieces. A factory is more than its inventory, a book more than its index, a recipe more than its ingredients. And a life is more than its days. It’s what one does with the component pieces that makes a thing live. It must become more than just the sum of its parts.
Senator McCain was right. No one dies “before their time.” The component pieces of life are our days. Each one, a gift from God, and perhaps a smattering of good luck. The time we have is the time we have. We can only receive with gratitude what has been allotted to us and attempt to make it count for more than the sum of its parts.
Paul, writing under house arrest, recognized the looming weight of mortality and the limiting pressure of life’s inevitable restraints. The days are malicious, wicked, tyrants. They are, in a word, evil. We must make an effort to redeem each moment for a greater purpose.
When we catalog our days, what will we find? Will it be a collection of moments lived to an end in themselves. Days whose purpose was to provide self-joy and self-happiness from moment to moment until we arrived safely at death. Or will our days rise above the level of inventory, index, and ingredients to a place of impact and influence? Will we make them amount to more?
As followers of Jesus, we have a chance to make an eternal impact. We can do more than affect our nation, we can advance God’s kingdom. Through the power of the Gospel we can exert an influence that extends far past the boundaries of our natural life.
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