We all need to take to heart the well-rehearsed injunction of the iconic swordsman, Iñigo Montoya, to the six-fingered man: “Prepare to die!” One way to apply this sage advice is to craft a nifty epitaph for your tombstone. This prevents eccentric relatives with a penchant for rhyming from composing one of these actual examples:
- Shakespeare: ‘Blessed be he who leaves these stones and cursed be he who moves my bones.’ It is a travesty that the late Bard lies under any prose other than iambic pentameter.
- In Silver City cemetery, Nevada: ‘Here lies Butch. We planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger but slow on the draw.’
- 1880 Nantucket Massachusetts. ‘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.’
- Boothill Cemetery Tombstone Arizona, ‘Here lies Les Moore, 4 slugs from a 44. No less, no more.’
Another way to prepare to die is to ponder the wisdom of Psalm 49.
- THE UNIVERSAL NEED TO PREPARE TO DIE
According to the CIA World Factbook 28 of the 29 countries with life expectancies of 60 or less are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where I live. Yikes. There are 40 countries boasting octogenarians as their average (Monaco tops the list at 90!). Life expectancy in the USA is 80 (or by reason of pills and procedures 85). But, sadly, there is no nation on earth known for its immortality. The death rate worldwide still holds steady at 100% (Elijah and Enoch notwithstanding).
Ps 90 says it matter-of-factly… “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”
So is this bad news?
For a believer death is an exciting reality, and shouldn’t make us avoid the topic, because death is not the end of anything, it is the beginning of eternity.
Pre-tribulational rapture views aside, I think it’s prudent for us all to prepare for the inescapable eventuality of departing this life suddenly. Today is the only moment you have been guaranteed in order to make decisions that affect forever. There are no second chances.
- WASTED EFFORTS AS YOU PREPARE TO DIE
From this Psalm we see two wasted efforts:
Material success doesn’t help in your spiritual life. Ps 49:5 Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life.
Financial investments are fine until you realize they outlast you (or worse, you outlast them!). Christians understand that we leave our wealth behind. We don’t build pyramids like the Pharaohs of Egypt, stocked with gold to shop with and honey to snack on in the afterlife. Our hearses don’t pull trailers. But do we live like we believe that?
How should we spend our time and money in light of that fact? Many people put more effort planning where their wealth goes when they die than where their soul goes! Just remember what J D Rockefeller’s accountant said when a curious funeral attendee asked how much the millionaire magnate left to his family: “Why, all of it, of course.”
Another futile effort we invest in while alive is earthly recognition.
Ps 49:10 For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others….Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.
You may have people thinking you are something, and treating you as if you are great, but at death, none of that makes it onto your CV. The published PhD’s, the captains of industry, the movers and shakers on Twitter, and the Hall of Famers all perish alike. No matter how great you are, your body fertilizes the same grass as the poodle buried next to your cemetery plot by your pet-obsessed neighbor.
If your confidence is in wealth, fame, power, accomplishments, or anything else, you are leaning on vapor. You know better than that. Stop wasting your life preparing for death in the wrong way.
- WISE EFFORTS AS YOU PREPARE TO DIE
Ps 49:15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.
This is the only worthwhile preparation for death.
The reason material success is futile is because it’s never enough to pay God back what you owe him for your soul. The wages of sin is death, not dollars. You can’t settle a traffic fine with Monopoly money, nor the wages of your sin with earthly accomplishments. There is only one currency God accepts: blood.
God’s holiness demands justice.
1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.
There it is! There is all our hope and stay. There is the price of life. Jesus gave himself!
The Father killed his Son so we can prepare to die.