Wealth and fame can never buy eternal life

Categorized as 07/06/09 Goshen News column

“Poor little rich boy.” These words have been ringing in my mind since the news of Michael Jackson’s death broke nearly two weeks ago.

I watched that night as the world went nuts. There was shock, and then grief around the globe at the news of his passing.

Immediately, television stations began airing footage of his performances. I watched thousands of screaming, cheering fans, some of them weeping, overwhelmed with emotion simply from being in his presence. I listened as somber newscasters recounted his achievements and awards, which were many. Michael, they said, was the King of Pop.

And indeed, he was. His talent was indisputable. Very few, after all, had been twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as he was. He smashed records on the Billboard charts and in the Guinness Book of World Records. His album, “Thriller,” remains the best-selling album of all time. He could sing and he could dance, and people loved him for it.

Early footage of Michael Jackson is captivating. He was a charmer, that 10 year old boy, twirling about on the stage with his brothers. Seeing him, you couldn’t help but smile at his energy and enthusiasm.

It was the use of his gifts that brought Michael Jackson unimaginable fame and fortune. Millions worldwide admired, even idolized him. Everyone wanted to walk in his shadow, to be close to greatness. His mere appearance would set off a media frenzy, and an eager public devoured every detail of his life.

Over the years, however, cracks began to appear in the façade. We watched as his appearance grew stranger and stranger. Then charges were made, none of which were proven, and you wondered.

Shouldn’t he have been the happiest man on earth? What opportunities he had. With his vast fortune, the world was at his feet. His wealth and name opened doors for him that you and I can scarcely dream of. And yet.

And yet, it seems that after all, there are a few things that money can never buy; things like peace, for instance, and unconditional love. In observing Michael’s life, I cannot help but believe that in spite of all he had, he was a poor, lonely boy who spent his life in pursuit of these very things.

With his self-described history of abuse by his father and the sacrifice of his childhood for the sake of a career, he missed out on childhood as it was meant to be. Never having known the pure and true love and care of an earthly father surely left him vulnerable to empty alternatives with which to fill the void. While this sorrowful history does not excuse his deplorable choices, still my heart aches for him and what he missed.

And so, in the end, we are again reminded that fame means nothing. Earthly riches? Less than nothing. The adoration of others? Worthless for anyone who has no relationship with the living Christ.

As Jesus said in Matthew 16, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” The answer, again, is nothing.

You and I are rich beyond compare, we who are followers of God. You are rich if you are not yet a follower of God in that while you still breathe, you have the opportunity to turn around, to change your course, to find the eternal life and the unconditional love we all are meant for.

It’s still day, and there is still work to do, for, as Jesus said, “Night is coming when no man can work (Jn. 9:4).” Oh, let us take every opportunity to witness of Christ’s love to those along our way. There are many who are thirsting and hungering. We dare not ignore their cries.

If you have not yet said yes to Him, come now. Come quickly. True life awaits. It’s still day, but night is coming.

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