Updated: Aug 28, 2021
People are afraid of death, yet no one can escape the winding down of time. Everyone lives and eventually dies. The inevitability of death and the mystery that surrounds it has led many to fear death. The thought of leaving behind this world is difficult–especially if an individual feels as if they haven’t truly “lived.” And out of this fear, a way of life known as “You Only Live Once,” or “YOLO” has been born. It teaches to live by pursuing pleasure. They are the ones who jump off cliffs, spend wild nights out, and make decisions with little to no afterthought–an adrenaline junky of sorts who are addicted to say yes. But is this the best way to approach life? That is, does maximizing pleasure and diminishing pain offer a good life?
A bankrupt view of life
As the old adage goes, “Nothing is new under the sun,” and so the same can be said about YOLO. Its roots reach far back to the Greek and Roman hedonists who would say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” While the true ancient, Epicurean hedonist valued higher order pleasures over lower, that is, pleasures of virtue such as friendship, love, and the good, the modern day YOLO hedonists are ruled by their stomachs. Every action is weighed by instinctive desires with little to no consideration about consequence.
Truth behind YOLO
There is some truth to the YOLO perspective. Living for the moment typically means making the most of life. Far too many waste their days and do not venture out into the unknown. Having a sense of adventure and a spirit to make your mark is a virtuous quality. But YOLO mistakes what it means to have real pleasure. Instead of thinking of pleasure as a way to bring forth good, those who are committed to YOLO think of themselves. What is going to be fun for me or make me happy, me being the prime word.
According to the YOLO perspective, every action in life needs to bring pleasure for oneself and nothing else. Glorifying God becomes incompatible with YOLO because Christians are often called to live life at the expense of themselves. Martyrs know this well. And no one knew it better than Christ who gave up all his privileges in order to become like us, human . He set aside being in the near presence with God the Father and Holy Spirit in order to come into this world knowing he would endure the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). Still, he counted it worth it because he knew that enduring pain would bring about the ultimate pleasure; that is, humans becoming redeemed and regaining fellowship with God.
Fear That Sets You Free
Christianity teaches us that death is not the ultimate end, and our hearts confirm it. However, if we hold to YOLO philosophy, then we can ruin our lives for all eternity. Scripture reminds us that we die once then face judgment (Hebrew 9:27). For this reason, we ought to understand how to live. While some may say that this is a fear based motivation that forces belief in Christianity, YOLO actually falls into the same category. It uses fear to make you think that you must live for pleasure or you’ll miss out.
Proverbs says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” (9:10). Fear is healthy when it is true and godly. There are certain things in life that are healthy to fear: hurting someone you love, being reckless with your actions, and not fulfilling your purpose on this earth. Through the right kind of fear, we can take life seriously. A godly fear causes us to value good and true living; it causes us to behold what is true. A godly fear teaches us not only how to live for this life but also the next.