He cradled the back of his head in his hands, propped up his feet and said “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.”
His investments had multiplied, assets increased, and businesses all profitably ran themselves. But what should he do with all this wealth? His children were well taken care of… there were grandchildren coming soon, he hoped. “I will secure a future for myself, my children, and my children’s children. I will say to my soul ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’”
He does not know this is the night his soul will be required of him.
He hits play, and an orchestra surrounds him. Closing his eyes, the wine slips smoothly past his lips. He smiles, intent to meditate on his many accomplishments and abundance of possessions: feature story in Macleans, private homes at three exotic locations, beautiful wife, intelligent children, and a Rolls-Royce with a V12 engine, hand-stitched leather, and a paintjob so gorgeous his own reflection stares back at him.
Thoughts from his sister’s letter abruptly hijacked his brain, interrupting his bliss like a loud mouthed fool at a fine banquet. All good feelings fled, and unpleasant thoughts dead bolted the door.
“Money doesn’t satisfy that deepest part of you,” she’d said.
What kind of sentimental, pre-teen girl talk was that, he scoffed.
Besides, he wasn’t selfish. Charities hit him up every year like kids at an ice cream truck. They knew they could count on his generosity. It’s not like he sits and counts his dollar bills at night.
Money doesn’t satisfy? He guessed not. But it sure was nice.
And that silly verse she had quoted at him! It wasn’t relevant at all. He flattened the crinkled letter to read it again.
Proverbs 23:4-5 “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”
His financial advisors were more than able to take care of that concern. What century was she living in? It’s like she has the idea that people still burry their money bags in the field for robbers to dig up. But he was secure. Secure, secure, secure. No green bills were sprouting wings around here anytime soon.
He could shrug those warnings off like last years’ Armani. But what really wrenched his guts was her audacity to talk about “sin.”
Christian’s greatest sin is all the emphasis they put on… sin. Yeah, some people are bad. But what society needs to do is foster the good that is in everyone, not point out flaws. Criminals are people who have had the good beat out of them by a lack of care, kindness, and encouragement. They suffer from a serious lack of self-esteem. How is the word “sinner” going to help anyone? It’s only making things worse.
He kept reading. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement.”
Well there’s a positive view on life. Thanks for hope sis. But he knew better, not like these prehistoric Christians with their caveman like thinking. God isn’t out there to knock people with a club; he looks for the best in everyone.
“God holds us accountable for our sin.”
And she thinks she has a “high view” of God? He was pretty sure God is bigger than that. Christians think God’s mind is as narrow as their own. But God is much more welcoming than they know. He wonders if they’ll be angry in Heaven when God welcomes the Buddhists, Muslims, and humanists. He laughed to himself as he imagined the Christians rallying to kick them out. They’re such petty people.
He glanced over the finishing words, but he’d heard them all before. “Jesus died for you sin… He took the punishment you deserve… repent… trust in Him… I love you Marv, and I want to see you in Heaven.”
She really believed this stuff. A current of sympathy rolled into the tumult of anger in his stomach. He swallowed hard to try and suppress them both. He had told her time and time again that he did believe in Jesus. But for him, Jesus was like a spiritual lottery. The more prayers you prayed, the higher your chances of… blessings. Jesus existed for him, not the other way around. It seemed obvious that Jesus had taken a great liking to him, he thought as he gazed out the window at his private garden, the lit path inviting him for a walk.
Standing on the small bridge, the crisp night air felt good, and his heart calmed as he watched the fountain steadily cascade into the pond. More comfortable concerns filled his head.
What to get Nina for Christmas? Jewellery always excited her… but over half of it glittered in a locked box all year in the deeper recesses of the closet. Maybe a surprise trip. A nice idea, but how could it stand out from the other five vacations they take each year?
His head had been aching for an hour. He scanned the area for a servant to bring him some Tylenol. Not one in sight. He felt unusually cold for a moderate night. It was then he realized his shirt was damp with sweat.
“Did her letter stress me out that much?” He felt embarrassed for being affected by such nonsense. His heart seemed to skip a beat in his chest, and his air caught in his lungs. He turned to head to the house and stumbled. Gasping for breath, a crushing pain was set ablaze and began to roar within his chest. His knees hit pavement as some unseen force seemed to cruelly wring the life out of him.
His face pressed closer to the cement as he laboured to resist it. Death was gripping him. It squeezed tighter and tighter. This seemed a merciless way to die. No friends or family beside his bed. No preparation, no last words, no peaceful escape.
No breathe left for final prayers.
His few last seconds were spent fighting to keep his eyes opened. This is what he saw, and this is for eternity how he will remember his exit from this world:
His home loomed above him, glorious and strong. It was a testimony to his life’s ambition fulfilled. Hard work had seemed to pay off. Few peopled had earned the right to enjoy life as much as he had. Some would say he was “privileged,” but he resented that kind of talk. Privilege had nothing to do with it; he had earned the right to live luxuriously.
Then rain began to fall like he had never seen before. The wind came upon the house rumbling and rushing like a thousand trains. It pummelled the rain like bullets at his home from all directions. The water gathered all around him and quickly rose.
He heard a loud creak, and a groaning from the house. It was then he realized that both he and his home were suddenly standing on loose sand. There were no roots, no depths, or strength to withstand this terrible storm.
He watched his home swiftly fall to pieces and be carried out to sea, as his life ended. For the first time he began to consider the concept of what his sister called “eternal death.” Was this it? He was horrified to find that he still existed, yet the inescapable sensation he felt was one of dying.
His hands longed to reach out again for the things of that last world, but his hands were empty and his land was desolate. His true condition was being unveiled, but too late. What he had been on earth, he forever would be. Death had sealed his fate in eternity. The evildoer would still do evil, the filthy would still be filthy, the righteous would still do right, and the holy would still be holy (Revelation 22:10).
Years passed. Hundreds of them. At first, he tried vainly to comfort himself with memories of that past life. But it was a fading dream. No matter how he fought to keep it, it slipped further into the background, until it became a haunt to him, and a detested torturer.
Revelation 3:17 “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
Proverbs 11:4 “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
*Part Two titled “The Poor Man” in this two part story will soon follow.