What Is Better Than Life Itself?

Psalm 63:1-11

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

Jack Benny was a beloved American entertainer. Though in real life he was an excellent violinist and a generous man, he often played comedic roles in which he was a terrible musician and an extreme penny-pincher. One of Benny’s most famous sketches involves an attempted robbery. A thief sticks a gun in Benny’s back, saying, “This is a stickup! Now come on. Your money or your life.” Benny fails to respond, saying or doing nothing for several seconds. The thief repeats his demand, “Look, bud, I said, ‘Your money or your life.’ ” Benny responds, “I’m thinking it over!” For Jack Benny’s miserly character, there was something better than life, namely money.

The author of Psalm 63 would agree with Benny that there is something better than life, but it wouldn’t be money. In verse 3, David prays, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” What is better than life? God’s love.

The Hebrew word translated here as “love” is chesed, a theologically-pregnant term that is also translated as “kindness” or “mercy” or “steadfast love.” In the Old Testament, God’s chesed is closely associated with his covenant relationship with Israel. Chesed is love in the context of commitment. It is love that reflects God’s grace and perseverance.

Do you really believe God’s love is better than life? I know I do, in principle. But I must confess that sometimes I live as if life, even the temporal pleasures of life, are better than God’s love. I’m embarrassed to admit that if I have to choose between my favorite TV show and spending some quiet time with God, I might very well echo Jack Benny, “I’m thinking it over.” And, more often than I’d like to acknowledge, I’d choose the show over the Lord.

Yet, if God’s love is better than life itself, then I would be well served to build into my life opportunities to experience and grow in God’s love. And so would you if you haven’t done so already. I need regular time with the Lord. I need times of retreat, so I can clear out my head and pay attention to God. I need deep relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ, who convey God’s love to me through their words and deeds. I need to be faithful in joining with others for worship, so I can remember the Gospel as it is preached and celebrated in communion.

May God help us to live our lives each day with his love as our foundation and priority.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When has God’s love been especially real to you? In what ways do you structure your life so that you might experience God’s love on a regular basis?

PRAYER: All praise be to you, O God, because your love is better than life. Thank you for making your love known to me. Thank you for the faithfulness of your love. Thank you for loving me when I neglect you. Thank you for breaking through the hardness of my heart so that I might know your love more deeply.

All praise be to you, O God, because your love is better than life! Amen.
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This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling, along with Laity Lodge, is part of Foundations for Laity Renewal.


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