Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper:
“Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised
a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before,
and he died a very rich man.”
Actually, it was Alfred’s older brother who had died; a newspaper reporter had bungled the epitaph. But the account had a profound effect on Nobel. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing the means to kill people efficiently and for amassing a fortune in the process. So he initiated the Nobel Prize, the award for scientists and writers who foster peace. Today he is more widely known for the Nobel Peace Prize than he is for inventing dynamite. Nobel is quoted as saying, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.”
As I read this quote, I was hit with a very arresting thought: My obituary has not yet been written. Whatever it is, I still have the opportunity to make it better. Whatever mistakes I have made, the possibility still exists for me to correct them. Whatever it is that I have yet not done, but should have, I still have time. As long as God gives me life and liberty, I can make of it something meaningful and lasting. As long as I have breath and desire, I can do my part to improve myself, my family, my neighborhood, the church, even the world.
Everyone still has the opportunity to correct his epitaph, up until the day he dies. Of course, the best thing that could ever be written in our obituary is that we were a faithful Christian. And certainly there are many wonderful things we can add to that. And if you awoke this morning and are able to read this, there’s still time to make sure that is the case.
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17, NRSV)