Eat, drink and be merry

What a cheerful Christmas greeting! It caught my eye on the front of a Christmas card as I walked along the aisle of a supermarket recently. But surely that is only half the quotation: I almost expected the message inside the card to read: ‘… for tomorrow you die’. It didn’t – that would certainly spoil the cheery seasonal message. eat-drink-and-be-merry-card But where does this saying come from, anyway? Not Shakespeare, Dickens or even Bob Dylan, but in fact the source is the Bible. It turns out it doesn’t appear in one story as I had always thought; rather it’s a blend of sayings from a few different parts of the Bible. The first half of the saying comes from a story Jesus told about a rich farmer whose barns were overflowing with grain and so he decided to take life easy and enjoy his wealth, telling himself to ‘eat, drink and be merry’. God said to this farmer: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” And the gospel writer (Luke) sums up the message of Jesus’ story: ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’ Almost the whole saying turns up in one of St Paul’s letters: ‘If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’. The message is the same: ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ is a perfectly valid approach to life if this life is all there is. However, for the Christian believer there is the real hope of a life to come and Jesus’ message that we must be ‘rich towards God’ is as demanding of us today as it was of the farmer in the gospel story. Jesus would be the last person to forbid us to celebrate and enjoy fun and laughter at Christmas time but he wants us to do this in a spirit of responsibility towards God and others. Maybe a better Christmas card greeting would be: ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we live!’ Happy Christmas!


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