Many of you saw the news yesterday that Paul Allen—cofounder of Microsoft—died at the age of 65. He had apparently battled cancer twice before this third bout took his life. We pray for peace and comfort for his loved ones. Many of us don’t know him personally, but know him for his wild business success, ownership of sports teams, and his generosity. Today I walked by several buildings on the campus of the University of Washington that were built from Paul Allen’s donations.Paul Allen was worth 15.8 billion dollars. He owned the Seattle Seahawks, The Portland Trailblazers, and The Seattle Sounders. He’s so wealthy that he’s given away more money than most people can comprehend having (1.5 billion dollars). I’m sure he could afford the very best treatment and medical care. Yet, in a country where the average life expectancy is 78 years, he died at the age of 65.
Death equalizes us.
No matter what we’ve gained in the world, none of us take anything out with us. That should sober us. When someone dies—even someone we don’t know personally—it makes us wrestle with our own mortality. As I reflected on Paul Allen’s death, I was reminded of some of things Jesus said
Note: I don’t know the spiritual life of Paul Allen. This is not to tarnish his legacy or talk bad about him in any way what so ever. These are just my reflections from what Jesus said about wealth, death, and our faith.
Jesus talking about what following him meant said, “for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul. For what can a man give in return for his soul?” Mark 8:35-37. The whole world and everything in it isn’t as valuable as our souls.
In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus tells a parable about a man obsessed with storing up more wealth. It’s a warning against covetousness and storing up things that don’t last. Another time he says, “and which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:27. Worrying, our wealth, or anything else can’t even add a single hour to our lives.
To me, it begs the question: What matters when it’s all said and done? If death equalizes us, then what matters in life?
1. Did I know God?
There is nothing more important than knowing God. That sounds old school, but it’s true. If there really is a God of the universe who created us and presumably has an intention for us, then there is nothing more important than knowing him.
I believe God loves us more than we could ever imagine. Knowing him is not just about finding the truth. It’s about finding the lover of our souls. It’s about finding the one who knows everything about us and loves us for it. Knowing and being loved by God are the single most transformative experiences a human can have.
2. Did I live with purpose?
God created us and the world for a purpose. He wants the world to reflect his loving, just, and peaceful character. If you’re a person of faith, we ultimately believe that we waste our lives when we don’t pursue those things. We can’t take our money with us after death. Our successes go the grave. Most of us won’t make it into the history books—which by the way will be forgotten eventually too. All our accumulated things will be given to someone else to enjoy.
It can feel like a harsh reality, but it’s actually freeing. At the end of our lives, the only thing that will count will be whether or not we joined in the purpose of God in creating a better world. Our contributions to building the Kingdom of God on Earth will endure in the people we’ve blessed, the structures we’ve changed, and the creation we’ve restored.
3. Did I love the people around me?
The human default is to live selfishly. I speak from personal experience when I say, I have to purposely choose to love other people and care about their needs. My default is to care about myself. My wants and desires are the voice I hear in my head every moment of every day! It takes work to think about someone else. It takes forethought to take time out of my busyness to love my family, friends, and neighbors.
Jesus has ultimately saved us from death. Even though we will die a physical death, we will also live on when he returns to recreate the world. Our relationships with the people of God are some of the few things we take with us through death. The moments of endlessly striving will turn to dust. However, the moments of love and empathy will live on forever.
Know God, live with purpose, and love the people around you. If you do that, then your life will matter now and forever.