Do you have a car? Then you are only one of seven people in one hundred who own a car—7%. Please do not feel guilty! I do not feel guilty for having a Jeep. I am just saying that 93% of the people on the planet get through the day somehow without a car. And I am just wondering what it would do to my ego if I did not have one.
I have an ability to draw. I only have one piece of art that I have kept over the years, a fairly large, golden-framed, charcoal rendering of Michelangelo’s statue of David (pictured), one of the most famous works of art ever. I did not store it with my stuff in a pod in LA on Monday. I packed it carefully in my Jeep and brought it with me. Why? Yes, it is rare, in that it is the only piece of my art that I own, and since I do not really like drawing all that much, I do not anticipate creating more pieces. So it is a special piece. But it is more than that. Yes, I am proud of it and I like it. But it is more than mere pride and aesthetics. I think I value it because of the message it sends to me, and perhaps others who see it. It says that Bert matters. It says God gave me a valuable, quantifiable gift. If it did not exist, how could I prove to others or to myself that I have a significant capacity, an admirable talent, that says to me and to whomever, that I count, and that I contributed something tangible and even beautiful during my short life? But that answer bothers me.
I once participated in a men’s event about personal significance. It was a religious program that focused on your death. I am not kidding! Apparently it is all about your epitaph. The macho speakers presented a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps approach to “men’s Christian spirituality,” one aimed at redoubling your effort to be “a good man,” so that your family, friends, church, and community will say good things about you at a ceremony while you lie dead in a casket. A well-meaning program perhaps, but also horribly misguided.
I do not think there is anything wrong with leaving a legacy, in and of itself. I particularly enjoy funerals that truly celebrate a person’s life in specific terms and stories. I hate going to those one-size-fits-all services where the person’s name is mentioned but little more about him. What a wasted opportunity to remember and grieve and celebrate and learn together! And, in my biased opinion, any eulogizer who does not take the time to sit down with grieving family and friends to ask questions, listen carefully, take good notes, and write a fitting remembrance to be delivered in the context of worship, is not worth his salt.
You know, the cross of Christ alone should teach us this. All that Jesus owned was stripped from his back and gambled over by Roman soldiers. He died naked with nothing. Most of the people who watched him die laughed and made sport of him. If the measure of his life’s worth was merely external circumstances, he and his life were worth nothing at all.
It cannot have been success. While he learned a trade, he abandoned it. While his preaching and healing ministry could be described as successful, he had no income and he depended on a group of loyal, generous women for daily bread. He did not own a home, depending on friends in Capernaum and Bethany for lodging. He slept on the road, having “no place to lay his head.” He left behind, so far as we know, no properties, businesses, or inheritances of any kind. These things could not have been the source of his sense of self-worth. His last week involved being arrested, being incarcerated, being found guilty of sedition, and being executed for that crime—hardly a successful legacy by any earthly standard of success.
Jesus loved large, and therefore he lived large. That was what mattered to him. And I think that is why his own life mattered to him. Love mattered so much to him that he even gave up his own life for the sake of it. Jesus lived and died for love.