“Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”
Epitaphs provide rich evidence that mankind does have a sense of humour.
At least that is the case for those merry souls who have died in Canada and the United States.
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia is an epitaph that reads:
Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102
The Good Die Young
He sounds as if he was an interesting man.
Lester Moore, a Wells Fargo station agent in Tombstone, Arizona, was shot and killed during a robbery.
His grave marker, located in Boothill Cemetery, reads:
Here lies Lester Moore,
Four slugs from a forty-four.
In Ruidoso, New Mexico, the gravestone of John Yeast states:
Here lies John Yeast,
Pardon me for not rising.
In Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a tombstone of a man killed in a vehicle crash is inscribed with the following statement:
Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake,
Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.
A favourite memorial statement in my estimate is recorded on a headstone in Thurmont, Maryland; it reads simply:
Here lies an atheist,
All dressed up and,
No place to go.
On a grave from the 1880’s in Nantucket, Massachusetts is an epitaph that speaks of confidence in what follows this life.
Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease
He is not here, there’s only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.
Each of us faces the prospect of having an epitaph inscribed on a piece of granite.
How will your epitaph read?
How will you be remembered?
If the Master delays His return, each of us listening to this message will taste death.
Barring the Master’s return as He has promised, death is the destiny of each of us.
The only monuments that we will leave with lasting value are the memories of those who have known us and the impact of our lives on others.
The memory of who we were, the memory resulting from the impact of our character will have greater endurance than all our possessions.
The FORTY-NINTH PSALM focuses on death.
The Psalmist reminds readers that God alone is capable of providing a ransom for the soul of an individual.
He forces us, in the tenth verse, to consider the common fate of all mankind.
The wise man, the foolish and the stupid alike die.
Wealth and great assets are meaningless when death comes.
Arriving at the final strophe, the Psalmist leaves us with valuable insight.
That portion of this excellent Psalm is the focus of our attention in this hour.
Nearly all commentators divide this Psalm into five parts.
The first four verses form an introduction.
Verses five through nine speak of the foolishness of trusting riches.
Verses ten through twelve remind us of the inevitability of death.
Verses 13 through 15 provide a contrast between those who trust riches and those who trust God.
The final strophe, which serves as our text, is an appeal to be wise concerning wealth.
*A SITUATION THAT IS FOREIGN TO MOST OF US* — This sobering Psalm might well be addressed to modern Canadians.
Clearly, the Psalmist is cautioning against depending upon wealth and position to influence God.
Christians should be respectful of all people; we should respect all mankind and not only the powerful and the well to do who are transiting this dying world.
This is the teaching of James.
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” [JAMES 2:1].
We are a wealthy people.
Perhaps we doubt that assessment, but we are wealthy.
Most of us have so many labour saving devices that we cannot find the time to do all that we are expected to do.
I invest more hours in front of the monitor doing research and preparing sermons than did any preacher of past decades.
I seriously doubt that I have more insight than did a Spurgeon or a Criswell; and I know I have less power with God.
Modern Canadians have so many opportunities for recreation that we exhaust ourselves attempting to be refreshed.
We have almost universally bought into the modern myth that wealth is equated with power, and we almost unconsciously absorb that myth.
We are counted among the privileged few of the world.
Our needs are amply supplied, though our wants grow continually.
It is doubtful that any of us have ever known what it is to be hungry, to be homeless, to struggle to cover our nakedness.
Though there are scam artists who make the circuits of churches attempting to separate the people of God from their moneys, for the most part people who truly have needs will find assistance; this is especially true if an individual is willing to work, even though the work may be considered menial.
The death of an infant in Canada is sufficiently rare that such an event is counted the exception, unlike some African nations where a child is 30 times more likely to die before age five.
Almost four in ten children in southern Africa die within the first 28 days following birth.
We know no such conditions in Canada.
Even here in the north, health care is available—our water is clean, we have adequate housing and we are clothed for the weather.
The Psalmist begins the Psalm by speaking of opposition from the wealthy.
He is speaking of spiritual abuse at the hands of the rich and famous.
When I read verses five and six, I must ask myself, what do I actually know of abuse by the wealthy and the powerful?
What do I truly know concerning spiritual opposition?
How do I suffer spiritually?
The Psalmist speaks of a situation unknown to most of us, though that could change at any time.
I am unacquainted with suffering.
I cannot spiritualise this Psalm enough to make it apply directly to myself, though I have known some deprived people.
On one occasion, I invited two post-doctoral fellows to share Thanksgiving dinner.
They were from Taiwan, studying in the school where I was completing my doctoral studies.
Lynda had provided a simple meal that day, though it was sufficient to feed us all.
There was no turkey; we did not have enough money for that.
We had a small canned ham instead.
There were plenty of vegetables, and there were some cold cuts available.
There was a fine dessert; and we were able to offer juice, tea or and coffee to accompany the meal.
As my guests surveyed what we thought to be a meagre table, one said, with tears in his eyes, “How wealthy you are!
We had so little when I was a child.
I saved every rice sack, because I never knew when I would need the cloth to cover my nakedness.”
That comment certainly placed my situation into a global perspective.
I’ve never eaten a Thanksgiving meal since that time without thinking of that comment.
I was privileged to minister to a black church in Dallas; it was a rich experience.
I received the honorific title of the “Apostle to the Blacks” from one beloved pastor.
I recall with deep humility the prayer of one elderly deacon as he approached the altar to give thanks for the privilege of giving one Sunday morning.
“Massa’ Jesus,” spoke that humble saint.