True confession: Over the past two years I’ve performed 41 weddings. Before every ceremony I remind myself that the word is “wedding” and not “funeral” because I’ve come thisclose to mixing them up more times than I can count.
I’m not sure why my mind confuses the two, perhaps because a wedding is a funeral of sorts—it’s the death of two individuals and the beginning of one shared life.
But if I can be honest, I prefer officiating at funerals over weddings. Hands down.
Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation as we explore why funerals are better than weddings.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Ecclesiastes 7:1-12:14. Read slowly, because today’s reading is full of gems…
People like me who have struggled with anger would do well to meditate on Ecclesiastes 7:9: “Anger resides in the lap of fools.” The word “lap” literally means “bosom” so the reference to anger implies not only fits of rage but also that low simmering anger no one sees. Anger causes us to do and say things that are out of character with a godly life. “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20).
After exploring the meaningless of life, Solomon finally comes to this conclusion of his book: “Fear God and keep his commandments.”
2 Corinthians 7:8-8:15. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow over sin brings change. But if we say we’re sorry and we don’t change, it leads to death. How can this be? Habitual sin works like a cancer in our hearts. If you’re a believer, you’ll still go to heaven, but your salvation becomes little more than fire insurance.
Chapter 8 is an excellent explanation of why Christians should be the most generous people in the world. Although Jesus was rich, he became poor so we might become rich. In the same way, because we are rich in spiritual and financial blessings, we should become poor so others might become rich.
Then Paul makes an interesting statement: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality” (8:13). I doubt Paul was advocating socialism, but he was advocating sacrificial generosity.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
At the beginning of Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon offers some advice that nearly knocked me off my chair. Why is it better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting and how can a sad face be good for the heart?
I can tell you why I prefer funerals to weddings: at weddings nobody hears a word I say. People in the audience cry about the cute little couple, paying little attention to the hard road ahead of them. In fact, when I meet with couples for their premarital counseling, they’re so blinded by love that they fail to see red flags when they present themselves. So when I tell them “Marriage is hard work,” too many of them have remarked, “We’ve never had a fight.” To which I respond, “Then you aren’t ready to get married.”
Funerals, on the other hand, are firmly planted in the soil of reality. A loved one has died and people are asking ultimate questions like “Why did he have to die?” or “What good can come from suffering?”
Years ago I walked with a dear friend whose brain was being slowly eaten away by brain cancer. A few weeks before he died, he told me what to say at his funeral. So on that sad and glorious day when I stood before a standing room only crowd to honor Lyle’s life, I gave my friend an opportunity to speak from the grave.
And people listened. Boy, did they listen!
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). No one can mourn without a death.
Death is a cold slap in the face that awakens our senses. It brings buried questions to the surface and reminds us of our mortality and of ultimate reality. So in an odd way, death is a purveyor of hope.
Solomon added to his thoughts about mourning: “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!” (Ecclesiastes 9:4) Our hope is this: while we’re still alive we can learn, we can still grow, we can still change, we can still find redemption in our tragic stories. Death forces us to evaluate our lives.
Not so coincidentally, our reading in Psalm 49 reinforces the message that all of us die. But the good news is this: to those who live for God, we can say “God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself” (Psalm 49:15).
Although I prefer living to dying, through the deaths of others God gives us a multitude of opportunities to explore the meaning of this life.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Does death frighten you? Why?
- How has the death of someone else changed you?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.