If you had to predict the epitaph on your grave marker, what would it be? How would you be remembered? In one sense, life is too short and too important to be spent thinking about its end. But now and then it’s good to ask whether our lives will have counted for something when our time here has run out. In this regard, there seems to be only three possibilities. First, it’s possible for our lives to have a negative effect on the world. 2000 years ago, King Herod ruled in Israel. He was in many ways brilliant, but he was also sadistic and cruel. Shortly before he died, he decreed that 300 prominent citizens in his kingdom be executed on the day of his death so that people would cry and mourn and people might think some of it was for him. It reminds me of a tombstone erected to a man named Benjamin Wood. The lines on it read, “Here lies one Wood enclosed in wood; one Wood with another. The outer wood is very good; we cannot praise the other.” So it is with some people. The world is made poorer because they passed through it. Second, it is possible to have a neutral effect on the world. In the Gospel, Christ says about some of us, “I know your works; you are neither hot nor cold.” There are people who have no convictions, who change sides at a moments notice. They tell people exactly what they want to hear. They are always protecting their own interests and they spend their days acting out whatever part is in their best interest. When they are gone, no one really cares. Finally, our lives can have a positive effect on the world. Someone said once, “The happiest people are those who are too busy to know whether they are happy or not.” The world depends on people like this. They live at an astounding pace and accomplish incredible things. Abraham Lincoln, when asked how he would like to be remembered, said he hoped it would be said of him, “He plucked a thistle and planted a flower where a flower would grow”. People who plant flowers where thorns have grown can be sure their epitaph will read, Gone but not forgotten. Because they lived, the world is a better place.
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