Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the News: A Lonely Death

ImageThis past week I read an interesting, but depressing article about the 2014 death of a man in New York City. The article was titled, The Lonely Death of George Bell, was published in the New York Times last October, and was written by N.R. Kleinfield.

George Bell was a hoarder. He was found in his cluttered apartment about a week after his death. The article described the events that followed that death, as government agencies sought to identify his remains, locate any family or heirs, and settle what turned out to be a fairly large estate (approximately $500,000).

All in all, the reconstruction of George Bell’s life and death was a fitting example of the wise man’s words in Ecclesiastes, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever” (1:2-4).

After a fairly normal early life, Bell in his later years had become a recluse, with no close friends, and an obvious mental illness. Several individuals who inherited money from him were not even aware of his existence. He was known by few, loved by few, and his death had little personal effect on anyone. He had fallen between the cracks.

While George Bell was almost completely cut off from humanity, he was a living soul, precious in the sight of God. All are familiar with the words of Jesus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God sent His Son to die on the cross for my sins, and yours, and for the sins of George Bell as well.

As depressing as the article was, it dealt almost exclusively on the life and death of Bell. Little was said about his prospects for eternity. In fact the only reference made was to an opinion given by the undertaker who handled Bell’s cremation. The article identified the undertaker as a Christian, and expressed his belief, “that George Bell was already in another place, a better place.” This opinion is commonly expressed at death, but has no bearing on whether the man was actually in good standing with God.

In fact, the details of the article would seem to indicate otherwise. There is no indication that George Bell was in any way trying to serve the Lord. In fact, it seems that the only time spent outside his loft was spent on a barstool. Those who remembered him, remembered him as a prodigious drinker. While it is possible that he repented of his sins and turned to God, there is no mention of it in the piece.

This is far and away why the article was so depressing to read. The writer had no interest or concern about the man’s spiritual standing, and George Bell himself did not seem to be an obedient child of God. While Bell may stand out to us as an example of a wasted life, his lack of spiritual standing is rather unremarkable. Most, in fact, are in the same boat (cf. Matthew 7:13-14).

The Hebrew writer warns us, “as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). However, that warning comes with the promise, “To those who eagerly wait for Him [i.e.—the righteous] He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” The question must be asked, are you eagerly waiting for Him?