There were three men lying in a hospital, all terminally ill. The first man was a very wealthy and successful businessman. His family was full of bickering and infighting, and not wanting that to ruin his industry, he had called his family together in those last minutes. His final words before passing were, “I love you. Please take care of my business.” In the next room over was another man that was passing. He too had gathered his family together in his final moments. As he was talking about the few minor things that he had left behind, and realizing that his time was near, he turned to his eldest son and said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t leave you more, but I do love you. Please take care of the family.”, and he passed. Down the hall was a man who was too weak even to listen, much less speak; a poor and humble man, who knew that his time too, was quickly coming to an end. With the family in the room, they gathered there to say their final “I love you’s’’. As one of the children leaned in to kiss their father on the cheek, she could hear her father say one last thing. As he gasped for final breath, he simply whispered… “Love God.”
If we have the opportunity, our last words will say a lot about us; won’t they? When you say your last good-bye; what will your last words mean? What will your life have meant to those around you?
Death, though identified with separation, (ironically) have a way of bringing people together. Whether that be on a very mundane level, such as the gathering together at a funeral, or a higher, more emotional or spiritual level, like strengthening the bonds of brotherhood or family, the assertion generally holds true. In the parable, all the families came to the side of their father in the final hours. Though they may have lived far apart, though certainly through the years there had been some rocky times for some, when someone is dying we can tend to put those differences or disagreements behind us, and be there for the one we “love”.
What the Three Fathers in the parable chose to say, said something about what they loved, didn’t it? The First Father was concerned with industry. He was worried about what he had built. The business that he had sacrificed his time and family for, he didn’t want that to be in vain. After all; how sad would it be to sacrifice your family on the altar of “success”, only to die and have your legacy become a failure? How truly sad. How truly tragic indeed. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-23) This First Father’s last words showed that he loved himself the most. It was about his business, his work, his life, his legacy… his vanity.
The Second Father was concerned about more noble things; wasn’t he? He had lived his life in such a way so as to leave his family a “little something”. I can picture this man as a guy who put family first. That is, he put time with them first. He would be at their soccer games. Take them to boy/girl scout outings. They’d go camping as a family. Take vacation together. Watch TV together. Have big family BBQ’s. Thanksgiving and Christmas would just be a riotous amount of joy and laughter. Good times. But in the end, what good was that time, if that time was never spent developing his family’s relationship with God? (Luke 16:27-28) With-out God, what is point of “spending time”? It’s time you don’t have. It’s time that’s wasted, if you are gaining all the time in the world, but forfeiting your eternity! (Matthew 8:36)
The Third Father. The Third Father didn’t say “I love you” like the other two did. Why not? What does that Father’s last words say about him? What do they prove about his love for his family? Does it show that he didn’t really love them? On the contrary.
The greatest thing a man can do on this earth is to lead his family to love God. To lead his wife, to lead his children, to lead his nieces/nephews/in-laws/grandchildren – EVERYONE – to love God! It’s the greatest service any of us can do! It’s what Jesus did for us!(I Jn 3:16) He showed us, He taught us, He led us... to love God!
You see, when this Third Father said “Love God!”, the reality is, he was saying, “I love you.” He was saying, “I love you” in the most powerful and profound way that he could. With his last words he was reminding them that loving God is what is MOST important (Mark 12:30). With his last words he was reminding them of what he had spent his life trying to teach them. (Ephesians 6:4) With those last words, he told them what every Father needs to tell their family… EVERY DAY! What every father needs to tell their family, in both deed and truth. (I John 3:18)
“Love God” – they shouldn’t just be our last words, they should be our first words. We should be declaring it throughout the day in our choices, our actions, our example, and our speech. They should be first in our hearts and minds as we worship God, and as we walk in His way, and as we work for His kingdom. They should be the first words when we rise up, and before bed at night, and they should be the first words as we strive to do what’s right. “Love God” – they shouldn’t just be our last words, but our first.
The BEST way to tell our kids that we love them… is to tell our kids to love God. The BEST way to teach our kids that we love them… is to teach our kids to love God. We don’t best teach our kids we love them by work-ing hard and leaving behind a big inheritance check for them. We don’t best tell our kids we love them just by spending time with them. We prove to our kids that we love them, when we prove to our kids we did what was best for them… we taught them to love God. When your days are dim, and your life is coming to a close, when it’s now your time for your family to gather by your side; what will be your last words? What will those words say about you? What will those words tell your family? Whatever words they are… I hope they truly do say… “I love you.”