We have all heard it from someone younger than 25 (and weirdly, perhaps sarcastically from those above 25).
It is a saying that encapsulates the age; the time of history when there is no tomorrow.
No tomorrow but today.
I have a friend, not naming names, that I think follows this philosophy.
All of their decisions are spontaneous, based on emotion/desire, and have almost no thought for tomorrow.
And in some cases an appalling lack of wisdom.
Or am I talking about myself again; it is said the things we most find irritating in others are often true about us…
In either case, they (and sometimes I) live by YOLO.
You only life once.
Now, there is a sense in which this saying is true and in same cases wise.
YOLO is real in the sense of “If you don’t take the chance today, you may not get to tomorrow and may regret it for the rest of your life.”
If there is someone you are in love with, and they don’t know about it, then YOLO is a doctrine you may need to consider.
If there is a big job/career opportunity and it is a once-in-a-life time sort of thing, YOLO may be a good option to consider.
The Romans had a similar saying, “Carpe diem!” or “Seize the day!”
Now, I am not saying you should not consult scripture, pray, or seek counsel.
I am saying that if you have done all of those things…you might want to think “YOLO.”
There is another since in which YOLO is true.
On this earth, in this age, we only live once.
Every action that we do is permanent; every choice we make is set into the stones of eternity.
They can be redeemed and forgiven; thank God for that!
But they are permanent and we will be accountable for them.
For the Christian then, YOLO is a reminder that we only get one shot at being sinners saved by grace; there is only this life to choose Christ over sin.
In these senses, YOLO is right and worth and embracing.
But then there is the other sense of YOLO.
It is the anti-supernatural, winner-takes-all view of the world.
Since we live and die, then exist no more…we have to make the most of what we have here.
Experience is key; we want to experience the most that we can before we die and no longer exist.
This has been a reaction against our parents’ equally anti-supernatural, winner-takes-all view on materialism.
Whoever has the biggest house wins has turned to whoever has the most spontaneous, free life wins.
One is based on the consumption of things.
The other is based on the consumption of experience.
Both deny one very unsettling truth.
While you only live once here; you will be resurrected to eternal life or death somewhere else.
The powerful content themselves with winning the game; they die kicking and screaming because they have no control over it…
Then they realize, I believe, that YOLO at its core is a hideous lie.
You do live once, but without Christ you die twice.
Scripture says that the believer, the follower of Christ, only dies once and lives twice.
We have the privilege to live a new life in Christ now, but then we have the reward of living united with Christ after we die…we live twice.
Jesus even hints those who believe in him will “never taste death.”
So, maybe even in physical death…we will only experience life in Christ.
While this trust is eternally damning for those who die without Christ, it is also eternally sobering for those in Christ.
We will be held accountable for how we live on earth; we live for now and later.
The balance or rather tension between the two is something we cannot and must not separate.
When we make choices because of YOLO, especially ones that go against what we believe God wants for us, we will deal with the consequences.
Adopting YOLO is not a life minus responsibility; it is a life that will ultimately catch up to you.
That time you were offered a chance to get drunk and you said, “YOLO!”?
That’s going to end up on Facebook…for everyone to see.
That time you were tempted to flirt and spend time someone who was not your spouse, and you said “YOLO!”?
That’s going end up in your divorce papers or your kids’ counseling sessions.
That time when you were tempted to spend a little more money than you made to take that vacation or buy that car, and you said “YOLO!”?
That’s going to show up in bankruptcy court.
Every time you choose to dump your character or God-given wisdom for the sake of a “new” experience and you say, “YOLO!” you ensure that you will pay for it…not once but twice.
It may seem more exciting, but YOLO without wisdom is destructive; it is nothing new.
As the Teacher in Ecclesiastes so aptly puts it, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Same old sins, just new manifestations.
Same results, just new consequences.
Because if you are in Christ, you don’t live once but twice.
And if you are not in Christ, you may physically live once…but in reality you never live at all.
And you will die twice.
Either way, we all will be held accountable to God for this life.
So think twice before making a decision based on YOLO.
Because as Andy Stanley puts it, “Everyone is going to live forever in eternity somewhere.”
The righteous (those in Christ) will inherit eternal life.
The wicked will be tossed into the lake of fire and will die forever.
Grace and Peace