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Words: Robert Harkness (b. Mar. 2, 1880; d. May 8, 1961)
Music: Robert Harkness
Note: In the first half of the twentieth century, Mr. Harkness was a gospel pianist for evangelist Ruben Archer Torrey, and a hymn writer with many compositions to his credit. In later years, he toured on his own, presenting the gospel in word and song.
It’s a sad and seemingly heartless procedure. When someone dies, there is usually a sorting and labeling of what are coldly called “the effects of the deceased.” Personal property is either distributed among family and friends–perhaps according to the terms of a will–or it is put up for auction. Some may even be thrown away.
In the classic 1941 motion picture Citizen Kane, we are given a stark look at this end-of-life routine as it relates to the very rich. In the story, Charles Foster Kane begins his adult life as an idealistic newspaper editor, but over time his goals deteriorate into an insatiable thirst for his own power and possessions. In his cavernous mansion, Xanadu, he houses an enormous collection of valuable statuary and paintings.
When he dies, these all have to be catalogued by a team of people, and we see this happening at the end of the film. What seems to be worthless junk is discarded. One item, a child’s sled, is thrown carelessly into the flames of a furnace. But this action thwarts the attempt to discover the meaning of Kane’s last word, “Rosebud.” It was the brand-name on the sled Charles played with as a boy, a symbol of a simpler and happier time.
For most of us, the accumulation of material things over a lifetime doesn’t really amount to anything like that. It’s all soon boxed and carried away. The Bible puts the things of this life in a proper perspective. God’s Word reminds us:
“What do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (I Cor. 4:7).
“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (I Tim. 6:7-8).
The Lord Jesus encourages us to, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20). We are to invest our time, talents, and treasures in achieving eternal goals, living lives that are pleasing to God, and engaging in kingdom business (vs. 33). This will involve showing the love of Christ to others, and encouraging them to put their faith in Him (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 1:16).
No one is poor who has a Saviour. Think of it: God the Son took on our humanity that He–though sinless Himself–might take our place under the wrath of God. When we trust in what He did for us on the cross of Calvary, our debt of sin is canceled and we are welcomed into the family of God. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).
Victor Hugo’s classic historical novel, Les Misérables (meaning The Wretched Ones), provides a heart-rending example of the self-sacrificing compassion infinitely found in Christ. Jean Valjean, a former convict, spends his life trying to atone for the wrongs he has done. Finally, in court, he takes upon himself charges against an innocent man. Victor Hugo describes this as a “simple and magnificent story of a man giving himself up that another might not be condemned.” And in the most perfect and profound sense, that’s exactly what Jesus did for us.
In 1937, hymnist Robert Harkness published a little song on the theme. His hymn says:
1) I have a Saviour, He died for me
In cruel anguish on Calvary’s tree.
I do not merit such love divine,
Only God’s mercy makes Jesus mine.
Jesus, my Saviour, I come to Thee,
In full surrender, Thine own to be.
2) I have a Keeper, He now prevails,
I fear no evil whate’er assails.
His arms enfold me safe and secure,
In His blest keeping, vict’ry is sure.
3) I have a Master, He bids me go
Rescue lost sinners from sin and woe.
I love to serve Him, this Master true,
Now I am willing His will to do.
1) In material terms, what is the most valuable thing you own?
2) In spiritual terms, what is your greatest treasure? (And why?)