Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” (I was confident that sentiment was somewhere in Proverbs, but I couldn’t find it.) I think old Ben may have missed a few certainties of life, but he surely got those two correct. We will go to the polls in a few months in an attempt to affect the tax rate (depending on your politics you may want to raise it or lower it), but I imagine things won’t change too much in this old world. On April 15th we’ll be reminded of Mr. Franklin’s truism.
Neither will death cease to be a reality. It’s a constant. We just don’t think about it all the time. In the past five weeks I’ve officiated at four funerals, and have had to think about death more than usual. The wise man said in Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” (You don’t see that verse on many Christian bumper stickers, do you?) So, what did Solomon mean? I think he meant that since we are all going to die, it is good for us to think about death. Experiencing the grief and sorrow surrounding death reminds us that this life has an endpoint. Grieving over the death of someone we love reminds us that none of us are going to live forever. It confronts us with our own mortality. A foolish person is someone who, in spite of all the evidence, lives as though he or she will never die. A wise person faces the reality of his or her eventual death, and makes preparations.
I’ve dealt with widows whose husbands had refused to discuss or plan for the certainty of their death. It was unnecessarily difficult for those ladies to make all the decisions and arrangements that come at such a time. I grieved that their spouse had not heeded the advice of either Franklin or Solomon. Even though it’s difficult, those survivors eventually work through all the plans and finances and legal probates and go on with life. It is far more devastating for the survivors of one who has refused to make preparations for eternity. I am grateful that all four of my recent funerals were a victory celebration because all four had made the most important preparations. They had all accepted Jesus’ offer to “give them life.” The family – and this preacher – could rejoice that they were “absent from the body, but present with the Lord.”
Maybe performing a funeral every week has been good for me. Since some of you were present at some or all of them, I hope it was good for you too to “go to the house of mourning.” I hope it makes us all think about our preparations.