“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:1-2
What a strange passage. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, is saying it is better to go to a funeral than a feast. Why? Death is a reality and often it is only at a funeral do we think about living and dying at the same time.
These thoughts have been on my mind all week as we faced the sudden death of my cousin’s boy Austin Wilkes this past weekend. Being at his funeral, a young man only twenty-three years old, made me think about this passage. Living and dying, the day of our birth and the day of our death.
Solomon says that the day of our death is better than the day of our birth. It has to do with our name. See, the day you were born, you were given a name, but the day you die it will be what have you done with the name you have been given that will count.
At a funeral Solomon says we all think about what we have done, what we are doing and where we are heading and what people will remember about us. He says, if we leave behind a good name, it is like a precious ointment or perfume of a memory to their mind and heart.
You and I certainly do not want our name to be mentioned and it bring a foul order to someone’s mind. I thought about it like this. What is the worst smell you could ever imagine? For me, it is rotten chicken.
I remember a time when I was pastoring a church and we had a smell we could not get rid of. It was awful. Turns out it was rotten chicken someone had left in the bottom of a grocery bag full of can goods. It sat for over a month; you can imagine the smell.
To put Solomon's words in simple county boy language. At a party, you do not think about death. But at a funeral you do. And if you do think about your life after you are gone, do you want people to think Old Spice (the cologne of real men) or do you want them to think rotten chicken.
And if you do not want to be remembered as rotten chicken, then you cannot wait until you die to be Old Spice. How we live now is how people will remember us then.
The most important thing to remember in living and dying is this: who you live for here will determine where you will live when you die. Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and if you want to live with Him after you die, you must live for Him now. You must trust Christ now to be with Christ then.
Funeral or feast?
It doesn’t have to be morbid to think about living and dying but it is something to think about.
One Indian proverb says, “When you were born you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world will cry, and you will rejoice!”