Death is understood as implying cessation of life. It can only be an insane person who desires to die, because life implies exuding value, which an insane person cannot appreciate. Yet, at the same time, when not appreciating the reason for life, desiring to live longer can also be unreasonable.
What is most important for those living is knowing that, virtually, death affects every human being, regardless of background. There is nothing peculiar with death—as it affects, virtually, all human beings—without consideration of posture, skin colour, class, or status.
Since Adam, all human beings are known to be here today but sure to be dead and buried the next day. Others die young, while others die in good old age. But, whether a person dies young or in good old age, that is all immaterial, as death has got no superlative considerations.
It is a question of what one does during those years that one would be alive, before dying. Jesus died at age thirty three and a half years. On average consideration, that is quite a young age, but Jesus fulfilled everything that He intended to accomplish, without fail. Jesus fully utilized His time during His existence on earth.
Paul, also expressed satisfaction with the purpose of his own life: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing”(2 Timothy 4:6-8) (ESV).
Like Jesus, Paul did not die a bitter man. He looked forward to his death, regardless of how much pain would be inflicted on him before his death. To Paul, death didn’t come as a surprise. He looked forward to it, as he knew that all die, but it is a question of what one would have done before dying.
“As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith”(Philippians 1:20-22) (ESV).
In Paul, we see a man who fully appreciated the principle of altruism. For this life to be meaningful, it has to be for other people to benefit. Otherwise, survival in this life is as meaningless as any idle piece of stone is meaningless, if it cannot be utilized for anything of value. Death was not abhorrent to Paul. See [Christianity is defined in one word: Altruism].
The most surprising thing, especially among African communities, is that death is treated with more respect, instead of life being treated with respect? It is commonly known—how difficult it is to obtain funding to finance medication—when a relative is sick. Varied excuses are often given for not being able to assist.
However, on receiving news that the same person has died, those close relatives would do everything necessary to attend the funeral. They would, actually, even be willing to pay for a very expensive casket, in which the person would be buried. This is quite strange—when also considering the fact that the person being mourned would not even be aware of such lavish treatment.
It would only have been possible for the person to appreciate such expressions of love, when alive. The mysterious question remains: Why are such mourners not aware of what they would be doing, under those circumstances?
Why would a person be willing to spend on buying a two-thousand dollar worth coffin for his/her relative? And yet having been unable to spend the same amount, for the relative to access the required medication?
Of course, the winner, under those circumstances would be the funeral undertaker. This is why funeral undertaking businesses are highly profitable. They merely take advantage of people caught up in confusion, failing to distinguish between things of value and valueless things.
Death is valueless, but people contribute in making it a valuable business. While it is life that is supposed to be treated as valuable, people do the opposite and treat life as valueless. This describes what confusion is all about, as it also manifests in areas where wisdom is viewed as stupidity and stupidity considered as wisdom.
Education is viewed as imparting knowledge, when in actual fact it is more about making a so-called educated person, more stupid than before. It is through the educational system that most people lose their dignity and self-worth, when succumbing to pride. See [What’s in a title, if not to deceive?].
But it is death that seems to be taking the crown in human confusion. Death is given utmost dignity, where life is not given any value. The world would turn out to be the opposite of what currently prevails, if the reverse was to be taken as norm. There is no value in death, except that the person would have come to the end of his/her existence on this planet.
Whether God has allowed one to live only for twenty years, or one hundred years in this world, is neither here nor there. The question is whether the person produced anything of value, according to the purpose for which God allowed him/her to live that long. That value is about how others benefit, more than self.
This is why the question has always got to be: “In all my toiling on this planet, where most people glad that I lived.” This is contrary to the question: “In all my toiling on this planet, was I ever happy that I lived?” While nothing appears amiss with the last question, it quantifies the fact that nothing is admirable in this world. This highlights the reason why people die in misery and why it is only death that is given undue significance.
It is only the first question that makes living in this world worthwhile. This disregards goals and objectives of what one intends to accomplish, but what one does on each day. How many people would have appreciated the person’s existence on each single day?
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the ;power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead”(Philippians 3:7-11) (ESV).
In Jesus we are as good as dead, as we value nothing, except when people benefit from our endeavours, because we represent Christ. Blessings are no longer appreciated as blessings if acquired for self—or on the basis of how long one would have lived on this planet.
In Christ, blessings are counted in terms of how many people would have benefitted from the person’s existence, at any given time. Each day becomes meaningful, only where other people would have benefitted.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?’”(Matthew 6:25-27) (ESV).
The purpose of living a Christian life is to attain God’s Kingdom. The assurance can be obtained right at the significance of that person’s certainty with repentance. At the point of repentance, the person becomes a new creation, so that the old way of looking at things disappears.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”(Romans 6:6-11) (ESV).
I have heard Christians encouraging one another at funeral gatherings—stating words like; “Ngatichemei tiinetariro” (Let us mourn with hopefulness). Such words are intended to encourage one another, having lost loved ones. But such words of encouragement ought to have been said at the point of the person’s conversion, if indeed the person became a Christian?
A Christian dies at the point of conversion. Mourners ought to have encouraged one another at point of conversion, as that would have been the time that they lost their loved one. A true Christian is no longer of this world. After his/her physical demise, he/she can no longer be accorded the similar respect, as traditionally accorded common people dying in this world.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints”(Psalms 116:15) (ESV).
A Christian does not even deserve to be highly spoken of. The more ill-treated at death, the better for a true Christian. Jesus said many words that are generally ignored, in Christianity. For instance, it was never in the vocabulary of Jesus, that a person should be glad when people speak highly of one. But:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”(Matthew 5:11-12).
When applying the law of opposites, what Jesus is saying is that the only time that a true Christian should feel distressed is when people speak highly of one. Who could have mourned Stephen, at his death, as people stoned him to death? Who could have effectively mourned the disciples, at the point of their deaths? Let alone Jesus of Nazareth? See [The enigmatic Sons of peace represent truth].
Death is something that should drive one to the point of celebration—when truly appreciating the purpose of one’s calling. However, while those of this world give honour to death, God’s children do not honour, but despise death. After all, death was defeated on the cross:
“’……..Death is swallowed up in victory.’ O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Corinthians 15:54-56) (ESV).
The only time a Christian loses everything in this life—as to be mourned by friends and relatives, is at his/her time of conversion. What follows after that is a new twist, so that the person celebrates, only when persecuted and insulted by other people, for the sake of his/her conviction (Matthew 5:11-12). When in Christ, death is something to be looked forward to. See [Seven obstacles of Christian Faith].
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99