By Gerald Cowan
I’ve borrowed this story from Douglas F. Parsons, something he wrote about fifty years ago. According to him, on a plot of ground near a small town in a certain state, stands a group of gravestones that are a real challenge to imagination and belief. A man there, a determined “self-made” man, managed to amass a considerable fortune, but he had very few friends and no relatives he cared for, other than his wife. When she died he had an elaborate statue erected, showing her and himself seated at opposite ends of a love seat. This monument pleased him so much that he decided to commission another, this time showing himself kneeling at her grave with a wreath of flowers in his hand. That one made a fine impression upon him too, and so he erected yet another tombstone depicting his wife kneeling at his future grave with flowers in her hand. Because she was “already an angel in the other world” he had wings placed on her back. As time passed one idea led to another. He ultimately spent more than a quarter million dollars on the monuments to himself and his wife. He had no interest in helping his fellow men or his community. Nor did he ever become a blessing in the church. He used all his resources on himself. He died at 92, a lonely and bitter man. His cherished monuments, ravaged by time and weather and damaged by vandals, are slowly sinking into the soil. Nothing but a curiosity to some, but a monument to a man’s folly, when understood.
How many people today live out their lives in much the same way, building monuments to themselves while ignoring the needs and the good of others? Some try to make a place for themselves in the hearts and lives of others. They do things for which others will build monuments to them, and that is surely more honorable than building for oneself. Some have made such indelible marks upon our minds and hearts that we will never forget them – they live on in our memories. It is not difficult to find monuments raised to those whom a grateful community or nation desires to commemorate.
But there is something better, far better, than that, something that will outlast any earthly monument man can build. Notice what Jesus said about the woman who poured an expensive ointment upon him. “She has done what she could (for me)....Wherever the gospel is preached this will be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:8-9). You and I can have the Lord build a monument to us that will last forever. Just obey the gospel and remain faithful to it and to the Lord – be an overcomer of life’s troubles and temptations, with help that Lord provides. Stay faithful all your life and die with your faithfulness intact (Rev. 2:10). Here’s what the Lord will do: Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of God, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God. ...and I will write upon him my own new name” (Rev. 3:12).
To have a monument raised to one in the temple of God, to be fixed in place for eternity in God’s heaven, to be identified with God and His Christ forever – what could be better or greater than that? Who could ask for more than that? But you cannot do it for yourself. There will be no self-promoting monuments to self-made men in heaven. Any monument you build for yourself will crumble and disappear with the world that is passing away (1 John 2:17). To have the Lord build an enduring monument for you, you must give yourself to him in obedient faith and trust.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com