For those who observe Christians as people of solemnity and boredom the Biblical injunction to live life at its fullest, “in abundance” as some have it, might appear out of character. Yet the words are there in the gospel of John, and evidence of life’s envelope being deliberately pushed is prevalent in many facets of popular culture.
In film, we can think of Walter Mitty, most recently portrayed onscreen by Ben Stiller, getting out of both his office and his rut to go to Iceland, Greenland, and Afghanistan via Yemen. In the scene where the newly unemployed Mitty fills in his CV the change in his life is obvious. The quintessence of life (and of Life) is its people: people doing what people do. Sometimes people sit and eat lunch on the steps outside work, and sometimes those same people jump from helicopters. In a not unrelated way Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, while not affirming the theology behind the Deuteronomists’ call to choose life rather than death, directs readers to choose existence over annihilation. Don’t allow yourself to be robbed by the one who comes to thieve and destroy, make something of yourself.
There is much in the canon of English literature which picks up the change in outlook to a life filled with wonder and adventure as being a good thing. Think of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where Scrooge after the ghosts have been is a changed man.
Many laughed to see this alteration in him….His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
Looking beyond the contemporary, the seventeenth century Dutch painters Franz and Dirck Hals are known for their pictures of people making merry at a time when there was money to be earned and fun to be had as the shackles of religious duty were falling from common practice.
A Christian understanding of “life abundant” offers that it must be more than just “life with abundance”, having lots of stuff, but that life must have meaning. The injunctions of Jesus and Moses to honour God with the freedom expressed in a life of abundance is overlooked in modern expressions of fun, however consistency is found in the direction that the message remains constant that fatalism in the guise of hedonism is not an option either. Even without worship there must be some point to each expression of enjoyment or it ceases to be enjoyable. Joy for joy’s sake, or the freedom to relax in the assurance found in faith is a worthwhile pursuit. Having lots of stuff, abundance, without adventure or significance is never fun.