Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’
Memento mori means “remember you will die.” It’s not a very happy phrase to repeat to yourself, but reading through any book of the Bible reveals that God wants us to remember it. Think about Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of everyone, and the living will lay it to heart.” Just as judging others shifts our focus away from our sin, attempting to plan out our lives as if they are our own tends to give us a false sense of independence and autonomy apart from God. He wants us to remember that we are brief, fleeting, and completely dependent on Him. It might not be the healthiest custom to wake up each morning, look in the mirror, and remind ourselves that we will die, but the knowledge does influence our short-term decisions. (And as we see from this passage, all of our decisions are short-term.) How would we treat others if we truly understood how short our lives are? How would we hoard wealth if we understood the futility of possessions? How would we act differently if we understood the impossibility of immortality even in memory? Do you know anything at all about your great-great grandparents? Who will remember me? The Lord wishes us to live now and carry out His will at this very moment.