Friday, October 19, 2012

Worse Than Death?

What could be worse than death? I think for most of us, death is one of the worst things that we can ponder.  That is partly due to what is called the "self preservation instinct" that humans are born with. Also, the fear we have of the pain involved in death and the unknown are both good reasons to dread it.  But are there things that are worse than death?

Our monthly book study met yesterday and the author of our book, D.A. Carson, brought up a really good point regarding some things that would be worse than death.  In his chapter on suffering and death he mentions that apart from leaving his family death would not be that bad. After he dies, he will not have any more pain or suffering and will be forever with God in heaven.

But then he goes on to contemplate things that would certainly be worse than death.  In doing so he references King Hezekiah in II Kings 20.  King Hezekiah was sick with a terminal illness.  After praying to be healed he is granted another 15 years of life.  During that time he receives emissaries from Babylon and engages in a proud and self aggrandizing presentation of all of the wealth of his kingdom.  For this sin he is told that after his death all of the riches of the kingdom, and even some of his own sons, will be carried away to Babylon.  His sons would also lose the ability to pass on the family name. This is truly a fate worse than death!

But Hezekiah's response is awful. He thinks to himself, "well, as long as all of this happens after I have died, it won't be so bad.  What do I care what happens after I die?"

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”
(2 Kings 20:16-19 ESV)

How often do we live like that?  Even when we should be living for lasting and eternal things we betray our true hearts with thoughts just like Hezekiah's.

But there are certainly things worse than death. It would be better to have your life cut short than to keep on living only to reject God.  Or to cheat on one's spouse and reject family in order to follow after selfish pursuits.  Would it not be better to die with vibrant and loving relationships, a clean conscience, and a good reputation, than to go on living and ruin one's life?

I think of my brother-in-law in Afghanistan.  Something in him is motivated to protect his family, his country, and his beliefs at the peril of his life.  He would rather die than see these things destroyed.

Is death really the worst thing you can imagine?

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