By John Ortberg
14 October 2016
“His death was a major story in the financial community. His obituary was written up in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. It’s too bad he was dead, because he would have loved to read what they wrote about him.
“Then came the memorial service. Because of his prominence, the whole community turned out. People filed past his casket and made the same foolish comment people always make at funerals: ‘He looks so peaceful.’ Rigor mortis will do that. Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down. They ask the same foolish question people ask when someone rich dies: ‘I wonder how much he left.’ He left it all. Everybody always leaves it all.
“People got up to eulogize him. Mostly, they talked about his accomplishments, because while everybody knew about him, no one really knew him.
‘He was one of the leading entrepreneurs of his day,’ said one.
‘He was an innovator of technology and delivery systems,’ said another.
‘He was a man of principles,’ somebody else said; ‘he would never cheat on his taxes, his expense account, or his wife.’
Another admirer noted his civic achievements: ‘He was a pillar in the community. He knew everybody. This man was a networker.’
They had commissioned a large marble column for him. On it they wrote all these inspiring words: Visionary. Innovator. Leader. Entrepreneur. And at the top they wrote this word, the man’s favourite word, the word he’d given his soul for: Success. They put up the man’s memorial stone, buried his body, and went home.
“Then when it was dark and no one was present to note what was taking place, the angel of God was sent to this cemetery. Unseen and unheard, the angel made his way past all the other tombstones until he came to the man’s wonderful memorial stone. There the angel traced with a finger the single word God had chosen to summarize this wealthy, busy, respectable, successful man’s life: Fool.
“God said, ‘You fool. This very night your soul will be required of you. And the things you have stored up—whose will they be?”
(Extracted from a chapter titled “Be Rich Toward God”, in John Ortberg’s When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007] Ortberg is a pastor at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, in Menlo Park, California.)