There are few people who have had as much influence on culture in the last couple of decades as Steve Jobs. Last night he died. Jobs was co-founder and, for a time, chief executive of the widely loved technology company, Apple. The significance of his death is clear to see, with Barack Obama leading the long line of illustrious tributes.
In 2005 Jobs made a commencement address at Stanford University which I'm sure we'll here a lot about in the next few days. In it he made three points, each of which are fascinating to ponder now that he's the 'wrong' side of death. I may post on the first two in the next couple of days, but here's part of what he said in his last point, on death:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. 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 is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
He has a point, doesn't he? The fact of death should colour our approach to life. It's reality should cause us to sit up and make life count. I don't know if Jobs' thoughts had changed by the time he died, but if not I think his approach to life and death may have fallen just short of one that is truly exciting. There's lots to be said in response to his approach on life and death, let me say just two things.
The Bible describes a humanity created in the image of it's creator, part of which means being creative. It kind of means having an 'inner voice' as Jobs said, thinking big, doing new and exciting things. Jobs' creativity is something that I think the God of the Bible applauds and enjoys, and would want to see in his people. His approach to life is far more Christian, I think, than most Christians.
Be creative, explore and mine the possibilities of the world that God has created. Develop it's resources, seek to impact it for good. Don't be put into a box, crush creativity and stifle the desires and dreams that come, I think, from God. Where it's not sinful, go for it! (For more thoughts on this, read Julian Hardyman's excellent book, 'Maximum Life').
But the Bible offers something even better. It says live life to the max, fill the earth and subdue it, obey the creation mandate. But hope for something better.
Jobs saw this life as all there was, and so felt the need to do all he could in it. Everything else was secondary. But for the Christian we can love life and dream big dreams, whilst at the back of our mind having a bigger dream. A dream of an even more fulfilling live the other side of death, in the New Creation with Jesus.
Jobs said that 'even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there.' I think he's got a too-small view of heaven. The apostle Paul said 'For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain'. If life, and death, is about Jesus Christ, then to die is gain.
Creativity is good and fun and part of what we're created for. But death need not be the motivation for that. We won't be cleared away.
If Jobs' worldview is correct, then where he is (or isn't) now makes his life fairly meaningless. He's gone. He may have pushed and influenced culture, but for him, that is all swept away, it is all gone.
For the Christian, we have hope for beyond death, that gives real meaning to life now. It means we can do life well, but that won't end, and it won't all be a waste of time, because there's something beyond life.
I hope Job realised this before he died. If he didn't, then as he looked death in the eye, it would have seemed like a tragedy. But if he did, then in the end he made his life really count; his life wasn't completely pointless - it was in lots of ways great - and it was just the first step before something much greater.