If You Could Read Your Own Obituary
April 1 2011 by D.E. Parkerson

One morning in 1888, Alfred B. Nobel, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary in the newspaper. It was his brother who had died, and the French reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother. Nobel was totally shocked by what he read. His obituary described him as the dynamite king, the man who had invented explosives. To the world he was nothing more than a merchant of death.

Horrified by what the world would consider his legacy to be, Nobel resolved to change his life and to do something positive for society. He left his entire fortune to be awarded to individuals who have done the most for the benefit of humanity. The result was the Nobel Prize — five prizes are awarded each year, the most notable being the Nobel Peace Prize.

Even thinking about your obituary appearing in the newspaper is disconcerting. When yours does appear one day, will it have nothing more than the usual list of names, dates, and personal facts? Or will it reveal a legacy that made the world a better place to live?

James Moffatt once said, “When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he will leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.” If you could read your obituary in today’s newspaper:

What would it say about your priorities?
Jesus told the story of a rich man we call Dives who became so preoccupied with making money that he could not see the beggar named Lazarus sitting just outside his gate. Lazarus would have loved to have some of the crumbs which fell from Dives’ table, but Dives never even knew he was there. There is nothing wrong with being successful in life. Our world is tremendously blessed by the generous bequests of persons who have legitimately earned much wealth, but whose sole purpose in life was not accumulation.

What and how much do you own? Or does the wealth you have accumulated own you? Is pleasure your number one goal in life? America is full of “Good-Time-Charlies” and “One-Night-Stand-Anns,” persons who believe in the hedonistic philosophy that “you only live once,” so why not “eat, drink, and be merry.”

What would it say about your relationships?
Who will it say have been the important people in your life? How important are the members of your family? How faithful are you to your mate? And how much time do you make in your schedule for your children? What are your attitudes toward others? Do you have prejudice in your heart toward any person or group? Is there ill will in your heart against anyone? If so, you need to know that maintaining anger in your heart against anyone is like taking poison into your own body and waiting for the other person to die.

What would it say you had invested in the lives of others? The person who is wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. If your world revolves around yourself, what you invest in the lives of others will likely be very small. The people who live longest in our memory are those who have been committed to the goal of serving others.  

Where will it say you will spend eternity?
“Happy are the dead who die in the Lord. Yes, says the Spirit, for they will rest from their labor, for their deeds follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Though your obituary will hopefully not appear in today’s newspaper, one day it will be there. At that time what is written will remain forever written and cannot ever be changed to the slightest degree. It is only while you are living that you can influence what it will say.  

Is there anything about your life that needs changing? If so, you need to change it while you are living. When your obituary appears in the newspaper, it will be too late.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parkerson is a native of Georgia, a graduate of Mercer University [B.A.], Southeastern Seminary [M. Div. and Th.M.], and Campbell University [D.D.]. He has served as pastor of one church in Georgia and five churches in North Carolina. Following retirement as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sanford on Sept. 30, 1996, he has served 10 North Carolina churches as interim pastor. His column, The Paper Pulpit, has appeared weekly in a few newspapers and other publications since 1958. He and his wife, Jessie, live in Wilmington near their daughter and family.)

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4/1/2011 9:57:00 AM by D.E. Parkerson | with 0 comments

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