One morning in 1888, a Norwegian businessman opened his newspaper, flipped through the pages, and received the shock of his life: there, in black and white, he saw his own obituary. It was all a terrible mistake, of course. The man’s brother had died and a careless reporter, confusing the two of them, composed an obituary for the wrong man. But because of that blunder, the businessman got a rare and disturbing glimpse of how he was viewed by the world, of what the world would say of him when he died.
The man didn’t like what he read. To be sure, the facts of his life were described accurately enough; his inventions, his factories, his patents, his great wealth, and all his impressive achievements were laid out in detail. Yet there was nothing there of his high principles, his beliefs, his values, the things he held most dear. Decades earlier he had created an explosive called “dynamite,” and this weapon of destruction had made him wealthy and famous.
But on the day that he read his own obituary, Alfred Nobel began a new life. He realized that the world saw his life as founded on violence and war, on blowing things to bits. Nobel decided that this experience had given him a second chance, an opportunity for resurrection and redemption. He began giving his money away. He made provision in his will for the Nobel prizes, rewarding those who had made the greatest contributions to peace. Today, Nobel is best remembered for his humanitarian work. Alfred Nobel, in effect, rewrote his own obituary.
Thank God for second chances! Praise the Lord that there are some occasions in life when we are given the sheer grace to see ourselves as we really are, to discern that something is wrong and to fix it. Alfred Nobel got a second chance to use his money, not for destruction, but for joy; not for violence, but for happiness.
Stewardship gives all of us that same second chance. “God loves a cheerful giver,” writes the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. What a concept – that giving things away will bring us joy! But it’s God’s honest truth. Anyone who’s ever dug down deep enough to give a sacrificial gift, a gift that really costs something in money, time, or effort, and then has watched the smile of gratitude in the recipients, knows what it means to be a cheerful giver. It feels wonderful to give things away, if by giving we bring joy.
- 2 Corinthians 9:6 - 15