Old Age but Alone
“If a man begets a hundred and he lives many years and the days of his years are great but his soul is not satisfied with the goodness and furthermore there is no-one to bury him, I say it would have been better for him to have been miscarried. Though in vanity it comes and in darkness it goes; though, in darkness its name is concealed. Even though it has not seen the sun and has not known it, to it is given more satisfaction than he.”
At first glance, I must confess, this sounds hard. It is close to the old Tennyson quote, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” yet Solomon takes it to a higher level and is essentially saying, “Tis better to have never lived than to have lived but with no one to mourn your passing.” Knowing just how many people in our American culture die alone and are more our less outsiders to their family, these words should weigh heavily on our souls.
The man that Solomon has in mind is not the one who died childless, but in this case, he had children or even many children (the hundred is meant to be hyperbole), but who has lived his life so poorly that for one reason or another, by the time of his death (even if it is at a ripe-old age), his children do not gather to bury his body. Here is the picture of the man who is a workaholic to such an extent that his children do not mourn his passing because they did not know their father in life. Here is the picture of a man who has abandoned his family for the lusts of his heart or who has lived so selfishly that he did not take responsibility for the children he ushered into this world. Here is the picture of a man whose demeanor and character is such that he alienated even those who were supposed to be closest to him. And this man — whichever category, or combination of categories in which he exists — is worse off than the miscarried child. For at least this child goes to his rest in peace and satisfaction.
This testimony is sad on two levels. First, it is sad because many people (especially men) do abandon their families for their careers, their personal goals, or for the lusts of their heart. And, in the end, these men often die very much alone. Second, it is sad that we as the church, often do a very poor job of reaching out to such folks and bringing them back into the community of those who will speak truth and wisdom into their lives and who will help them reconcile their broken family relationships. So, folks, the blame is not merely one-sided, but it is one we all share.
The reality is that getting involved in people’s lives can be inconvenient and messy. At the same time, has not God gotten involved in ours, messy as we are? Has not God engaged us through others who have pulled us out of bad situations? Have there not been people in our lives that have put up with our stubbornness and have been used by God to teach us wisdom? Ought we not show our gratitude to God by getting involved in the lives of others — even if that means being the one who will mourn a lonely man’s passing?