Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Have you ever heard of a necropolis? It means a “city of the dead.” We are most likely familiar with the necropolises left by the ancient Egyptians, but they exist among other cultures as well. For example, there is a necropolis near Dargavs, Russia. They say that if you look inside the windows of the “houses” in this city, you can see the inhabitants with their possessions. Unlike Egypt, Russia’s necropolis, which I’ve referenced were for the commoner. There are about 10,000 “residents” of this necropolis. Such monuments to the dead fascinate me. Why do men build such monuments and, indeed, cities for the dead?
I think the word that most often comes to mind is legacy. People want to leave a legacy, the proof of their existence. Legacy derives from the Latin “legate.” A legate was a post in the Roman army. The Roman Senate tasked a general with a particular task which the soldier faithfully performed. It is not difficult to see how the word evolved likewise to indicate a messenger or diplomat. By the middle ages, a legate became someone executing another’s will. Thus, as we think of our legacy, we are referring to that which outlives us. It is something testifying about our life. It serves to impart a message or gift to the future.
The Hebrews’ writer says Abel left such a legacy. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11.4 ). The remarkable thing about Abel’s legacy is that God serves as his Legate. Thus, God provides this testimony about the departed Abel. Hence, one cannot doubt the truthfulness of the testimony. That, friends, is better than any pyramid or endowment.
Men often praise those unworthy of such following their demise because they held power or prestige. Plus, their efforts to honor the deceased eventually come to naught. Again, I am mindful of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias. A traveler tells of a monument upon which he happened. The monument’s inscription suggests the visitor look upon his works and despair. But there was nothing but a desert waste as far as the traveler could see. Even so, the fictional Ozymandias was so proud. He was confident in his legacy, which decayed with time.
As we contemplate our legacy, we may think of progeny to carry our DNA into the future. God even says that children are a reward (Psalm 127.3). But we are powerless to change the people our offspring become in adulthood. Yes, we trust Solomon’s proverb about a trained child not departing from the way (Proverbs 22.6). But we know this is not universal. Therefore, future generations may soil one’s genetic legacy by their conduct. This phenomenon was undoubtedly the case with the few righteous kings of Judah, whose sons often did evil in worshipping foreign gods.
No, the only suitable legacy is one whose Legate is God. Like Abel, we need to ensure that our deeds please Him to Whom we must give account. Our righteousness is like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64.6 KJV). But when we are faithful, like the man with five talents, we will be welcomed into the joys of our Master (Matthew 25.20-21). It may be that when I “shuffle off this mortal coil,” none but my family and close friends will note my passing. If I have the testimony of God, though, I will have something far greater than any monument people may leave for me. So, strive not for earthly accolades or a fleshly heritage. Instead, work to ensure that God provides your eternal legacy.