When you read the title of this month’s message, what came to mind? The word dash can define many different things, from a splash (dash) of water, to a small amount of an added ingredient for a recipe, to a footrace usually shorter than a quarter-mile. However, I have a word of wonderful encouragement contained in the word dash that comes under a totally different heading.
Picture a tombstone and you will see two dates separated by a hyphen (dash) in the middle. The first date on the left is the date of birth. The second date on the right is the date of death. The dash in the middle of these two dates represents everything that went on between birth and death. So, with a clear understanding of the meaning of the dash for this brief message of encouragement, let me ask you this question: When all is said and done in your life, what would you like said about all you have done?
Powerful question, wouldn’t you agree? Whatever it is you would like said about you when all is said and done will not happen by accident. And the Bible makes it clear that we are to consider deeply just how we are spending our dash. The number on the left side of our dash is already chiseled into the stone. But none of us knows when the number on the right side will come. Jesus is calling us to consider the life we are currently living to see if we are living a life that truly matters. In the Bible, we find only two different classifications of tombstones: one with the inscription wise; the other with the inscription fool. So, what is the difference between these two classifications? In a word…GOD!
Foolish or wise?
But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20).
Now if you read the larger passage (verses 13-21) you will notice Jesus is not teaching against acquiring possessions, planning for the future and making provisions for retirement. Only the fool forsakes prudent planning for the future. The point Jesus was making is rooted in His words, “all kinds of greed,” which was the message of this parable. Make no mistake, retirement planning before death is wise and a good witness, but to neglect retirement planning after death is foolish and fatal. The fool lives for the self. The wise lives for the Savior. And in living for the Savior, we live in the light of eternity. What follows is a story about a man who determined to change his dash.
A sobering experience
The Nobel Prizes are awarded for exemplary achievement in literature, medicine, economics, peace and the sciences. They were created by Alfred B. Nobel (1833-1869), who made his fortune producing explosives, having invented dynamite. So, what happened to this Swedish munitions manufacturer to change the course and direction of his life, dedicating the lion’s share of his fortune to acknowledging and rewarding those who advanced the cause of the human race? In a word, his obituary!
Alfred’s brother Ludvig died and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary instead of his brother’s. This gave Alfred a very unique opportunity – reading his obituary before it was too late to read it…and what he read brought him to his knees: Alfred Nobel, the munitions manufacturer who became rich by making it possible to kill more people more quickly than anyone who has ever lived, died yesterday. The merchant of death is dead!
Reading this brought Alfred to the realization of two things: this is how the world would remember him, and this is not how he wanted the world to remember him. In that moment, he changed the course and direction of his life, establishing the Nobel Prizes, which is what the world remembers Alfred for today…not for making explosives.
What is your legacy?
Make no mistake, what we do lives carries on long after we are gone, whether for good or for bad. So, when was the last time you gave any thought to how you would want your epitaph to read? What is your dash going to represent for the brief time you are here on this earth? Remember, right now, whether you have thought through it or not, you are leaving a lasting legacy behind for your loved ones. And because the number on the right side has not been set in stone yet, you have time to consider your dash and course correct where necessary.
This is the gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that…Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.