The expression “shovel-ready” entered the American lexicon in 2010 as Washington debated a plan to stimulate our moribund economy.

The intent was to infuse money into projects that were already beyond the planning stage – past the environmental impact and economic feasibility studies – so that workers could immediately replace unemployment checks with paychecks. The projects were to be “shovel-ready.” 

A year later, however, President Obama, in assessing the results of the stimulus, acknowledged that the projects were “not as shovel-ready as we expected."

Could the same be said for millions of Americans as they live their lives with little consideration of eternity – that many of them are not shovel-ready, that is, ready to die, be buried, and face the judgment of a merciful, but just God (First Peter 4:17-19)?

The New Testament explains that every soul God has made must return to face him, “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (Second Corinthians 5:10). Those bodies are shed at the point of death, but the spirits that animate our existence persist into eternity, for “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27; see also James 2:26).

While some bodies are never buried – they are perhaps cremated, mutilated, or submersed – the metaphor survives. Compared to eternity, life on Earth is little more than a vapor, and thus our investment must be in something that is infinite – “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (Second Corinthians 4:17; see also James 4:13-17).

The apostle Paul exemplifies the security and hope of one who believes himself to be “shovel-ready.” While in prison, facing the specter of a Roman execution, he assured his friends in Philippi that he was not worried:


For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:21-23)


Years later, his death was even more imminent, of course, and he reflected upon the results of his earthly life with images of athletic and spiritual victory: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (Second Timothy 4:7; see also First John 5:4). 

Every one of us has an appointment at the judgment bar and a reservation for eternity, making it incumbent upon us that we strive to be shovel-ready, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).


Author's Note: This article is not intended as a discussion of the political policy involved in the stimulus plan. The author was careful not to express personal opinion regarding a matter that utterly pales in comparison to the subject addressed here -- being "shovel-ready" to die, be buried and face eternity.