Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)

The other day I was throwing away an empty toothpaste tube. I had squeezed and squeezed the tube until it was impossible for me to get any more toothpaste out of it. Finally, no decision was left—throw the tube away, get another tube, and start over. After all, what is more useless than a crumpled, empty toothpaste tube that yields no more toothpaste?

I have gone through too many tubes of toothpaste to remember or count. I do not ever recall thinking about an empty tube of toothpaste before (I will confess I think some weird thoughts these days). However, some strange realizations immediately came to me when I threw that empty tube away: (1) The moment I take the cap off a new tube, I know in a little while all that will remain is an empty tube. (2) Toothpaste tubes have one function—to hold toothpaste. (I have never regretted throwing away an empty toothpaste tube by wondering if it could be used for something else.) (3) I best not waste the toothpaste inside because the time will come when there is no more. (4) Do not assume there always will be another tube, for there are places with no toothpaste and no access to toothpaste. Do not think you always will have toothpaste available or affordable.

(1) Physical life ends. Eat as we wish, exercise as we wish, follow all the healthy practices we can, and still our physical life ends. If you live long enough, the time will come when you cannot do what you easily did in the past. (2) Physical life has a primary purpose. Having fun is not it. Do we know the purpose of life? (3) It is our option to waste life. Life will be used as we choose. However, there will come a moment when no more is left to use, and we cannot recover what we have wasted. (4) It is easy to assume when we are young that we have an endless supply of physical life. It is easy to take physical life for granted. However, the moment will come when we know only “a few squeezes” remain. When physical life is gone, it is gone.

Cavity prevention is a wonderful thing. However, wasted toothpaste prevents nothing and serves no purpose.

Preventing evil in my life is a wonderful thing (to be appreciated but not to encourage arrogance). However, wasted life (selfish pursuits) prevents nothing and serves no purpose. It is devastating when we approach our last “squeeze” of physical life to realize we have wasted life, and to know there is no “do over” function.

Jesus once said (in a contrast to those who selfishly exploit others), “. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 29 January 2009

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