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Statues of Significance

December 1st, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 7 (NLT)

 7 We have happy memories of the godly,
      but the name of a wicked person rots away.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Depending on your age, you may or may not have any personal recollections of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, but its images are burned into my memory.  The year was 1989 and as a ten year-old boy, I didn’t quite grasp the full significance of what was being plastered across the television screen.  I think that the most enduring mental snapshot that I have is the pulling down of the statues of Lenin and Stalin.  To the citizens of the Soviet Union, taking down those statues originally erected to honor the memory of brutal communist dictators was a key moment in reforming their lives in a new age of democracy.

In a similar situation, a story recently circulated about an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad.  Kalat was so grateful for the American liberation of his country, he melted three of the heads of the fallen Saddam and made a statue out of the melted material as a memorial to the American soldiers. 

Memorials, you see, are sculpted to honor the memory of greatness.  Statues are not erected to remember the lives of murderers or thieves.  No, they are made to memorialize men and women who did something significant with their lives.  Founders of cities.  Soldiers who liberated the oppressed.  Leaders who courageously faced dark circumstances and emerged victorious.  Workers who spent their lives serving the hungry, the sick, the homeless, and the innocent.  These are those whose memories we strive to honor.

It’s an issue of legacy.  Even as a somewhat younger man (if I can still call myself that,) I often think about legacy.  I wonder what the significance of my life will be when I am no longer here to live it.  What will my wife remember about me. Did I make her feel loved?  Did I consistently communicate to her how valuable to me she was?  What about Sadie?  What will she recall about her Daddy?  Will the people who attend my church or have somehow been touched by my ministry consider the efforts of my life worthwhile?

Legacy can drive you crazy if you let it.  The obsession to do something significant can consume one’s life. Notice what this passage says about memorable lives.  It doesn’t reference “doing” at all.  No, it focuses instead on “being.”  How so?  “We have happy memories of the godly . . . ”  Godliness is not necessarily a reflection of what one does, but more so a reflection of whom one is.  

Sure, if we are godly, our actions will reflect it.  However, godly actions don’t necessarily prove godliness. We can, in fact, do the right things for the wrong reasons.  We can show kindness to someone whom we hope to selfishly benefit from.  We can half-heartedly apologize to avoid consequences.  In other words, “doing” does not necessarily reflect “being.”  But “being” will always result in “doing.”  Those whose hearts are godly and whose pursuits are praiseworthy will most definitely do things in life that demonstrate the godliness within them.  These are the ones whose memories we cherish.  

My Granny was such a person.  Were the accomplishments of her life astounding?  Will she be remembered in history books or written about in patriotic songs?  Will statues and memorials be erected in the town square to immortalize her life’s work?  No.  But her legacy of kindness and godliness will forever live in the hearts of her family.  Her gentleness.  Her prayer life.  Her unbending faith.  These are the traits that make her memory treasured.

The flip side of this whole thought is what happens to the memory of the wicked.  What does “wicked” mean, anyway?  We’ve defined godliness in the past few threads, so now let’s take a brief look at a word that we will repeatedly encounter in our journey through Proverbs.  “Wicked” is a word that can sound judgmental and archaic.  We seldom use it in our modern vernacular and seldom do we find it outside of a religious context.  Thus, a redefinition of the word with a modern viewpoint will help us understand it better.  Consider this: if we can define godliness as “being like God by being close to Him and benefiting from His grace,” then we can define wickedness as the opposite of this.  Those who are wicked are not like God because they have not benefited from being near to Him and His grace.

It’s important to remember that Godliness isn’t a result of “doing,” but rather a result of “being” close to God through the grace initiated by God.  Those who are truly godly have nothing to brag about except that God has made them godly.  Conversely, we begin to see that anyone can be described as “wicked” if they are far away from God’s grace.  Because of who they are not, their actions are not godly.  

Confused yet?  Don’t be.  We all fight the wickedness within us, but godliness is available to each of us.  It’s that simple.  

The memorials of the wicked may be built initially, but they will not stand eternally.  Just like the statues of Lenin, Stalin, and Hussein, they will be destroyed in due time . . . they will “rot away.”  I don’t know about you, but I want my legacy to be a happy memory.  I want to “be” a godly person who “does” something significant through the divine love invested in my life.  I want my life to reflect the significance of grace and give credence to the One who granted it to me.  

That’s a memorial that will never be pulled down.






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