About 15 years ago Pam and I decided that it was time to buy our grave sites and visited a number of cemeteries. At many of the graves, we read the epitaphs and looked at the birth date and date of death to determine their ages. In between these dates was a dash (“-”). As best as we could from their epitaph and their dates of birth and death, we sought to determine the quality of life a person lived. What happened during their “-”?
Looking at the epitaphs, we noticed something very quickly. The things that were engraved on the tombstones were not about material things and prestige but rather family, relationships, and service. Often, relational descriptions were used like loyal, honorable, compassionate, caring, loving, gentle, good, forgiving, faithful, and trustworthy reflecting their character. If someone was a teacher, counselor, soldier or minister, their family often mentioned this on their memorial stone. It became abundantly clear that stuff we frequently focus on in life doesn’t matter and of little value in the light of eternity. There was nothing inscribed of mansions lived in, luxury cars driven, or elegant trips taken, and very little mentioned about accolades accomplished. After death, it became clear that material things and prestige were not significant. You could tell the “rich” folks only because their gravesite and headstone were gaudier and more opulent. That’s it. We discovered that death reduced all of us to how we treated others during our “-”.
When asked, Jesus was vivid about the things that really mattered to God and resonated in heaven. Matthew 22:37-40, 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment…?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
First, Jesus said to love God totally and make Him your savior and Lord. Trust Him with your heart, your soul and all your mind making sure that your life is synched up with Him. Matthew 6:33 and Revelation 3:20 state this a bit differently with the same outcome, “Seek you first the Kingdom of God and all the other things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “Behold, I stand at the door of your heart and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come into him to sup/dine with him and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). Jesus wants to spend intimate time with each of us and paid for this right at the cross. Get your relationship with God in order. Everything begins and ends right here.
“Second, love your neighbor as yourself.” Make sure that you focus your life on serving others not yourself. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34&35).
This life is not about things and wants. It is about relationships, first, with God and, second, with others. You get this right and God will be more than pleased with your “_”.