The Un-Bucket List: 4 things NOT to do before you die

galvanized metal pail tipped on side“Bucket lists” are popular these days.  Movies and books propose lists of things to do before you “kick the bucket” (hence “bucket list”)—a kind of grocery shopping list for the soul before you walk up to the Grande Amen check-out line.

Usual list-toppers are things like a bungee jump or visit to Paris.

But what I want to share is an “Un-Bucket list”—4 things NOT to do before you die.  Sure the other list might be more popular to think about, but I hope this one gives more food for thought.

1. DON’T win the lottery.  People seem to put “win the lottery” on bucket lists.  It also sometimes appears as “make a million dollars.”  Friends, money will often make your life more complicated and miserable (This is only what I’ve heard from others, of course!)  Plus, I think I remember Jesus saying something about it being harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  As I heard it last week, “You never see a U-haul behind a casket.”

2. DON’T work 80 hours a week.  Ah, the modern invisible badge of “honour”: busyness.  One of the definitions of sin that Saint Augustine gave us a zillion years ago was that it’s loving things in the wrong order.  I hear people brag about working so much.  But the heartbreak is that they have placed work at the centre of their lives.  Not only does that mean God isn’t at the centre, but it means their family isn’t at the centre either.  You never see a tombstone that says, “So and so, never saw his family, but sure put in a lot of overtime for the boss!”

3. DON’T go to the moon.  Sometimes this one is listed as “experience zero gravity.”  I just personally feel as if this wreaks of escapism.  Why do so many people want to flee their lives?  I understand the thrill of sans-gravity, but many would love to never return to earth.  It’s as if we need to just stop and appreciate all the beauty around us—the beauty that we are so often rushing past that we fail to truly marvel at it.

4. DON’T experience 15 seconds of fame.  We idolize fame for some reason—even when those individuals often suffer problems much more complex and hurtful than many of us.  Perhaps we think that getting accolades will make up for some insecurity in our psyche.  But it’s just too fleeting.  Plus, with the internet, there are more 15-second-famers every day than we can count.  Maybe the word “fame” will lose currency soon.  Too much fame and we forget that we are still here to serve Someone else and not ourselves.  Fame can often have an aggressive me-first agenda.

An Alternative

So let me propose an alternative: Instead of winning the lottery or making a million, let’s be grateful for what we have, and work hard at what we do with integrity, knowing that the food on our table came about the same way it did for our grandparents.  Instead of working 80 hours a week, let’s work what’s fair, and spend most of our time cultivating our friends and family—the ones who will be there sharing stories and tears when we’re baptized and married and buried.  Let’s not go to the moon, but put two feet on this rugged earth, knowing where home is, in a culture that is increasingly unsure about which way is up.  Let’s not go out searching for 15 seconds of fame, but trust we are accepted and valued not because of who we are, but because of Whose we are.

Perhaps then we can kick the bucket with a smile and a clean conscience.


  1. Nice …. a couple of great 1 liners her Pastor Matthew … “You never see a U-haul behind a casket.” and “You never see a tombstone that says, “So and so, never saw his family, but sure put in a lot of overtime for the boss!” both of these true reflections of our culture today.


  2. Since I have joined Westminster, you seem to have the ability to say things that I need to hear at that specific time…unbelievable how the Lord puts people in our lives when we need them…you are a blessing in my life!


  3. Catching up on my reading this a.m.! Solid advice Matthew. I am going to use when I lead chapel – great workplace message and not just for #2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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