One morning in April of 1888 Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, woke up to read his own obituary.
His brother, Ludvig, had died. But a newspaper reporter mistakenly thought it was Alfred and carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother! Anyone would be disturbed under those circumstances to read their own obituary. However, the headline was even more disconcerting to Nobel. It read:
“The Merchant of Death is Dead.”
The article called him “The Dynamite King” and stated: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
Alfred Nobel was horrified and overwhelmed. For the first time this great inventor and industrialist who amassed an immense fortune from explosives saw himself as the world saw him–“The Dynamite King. Nobel did not want to be remembered as “the merchant of death,” so he resolved to do something about it.
On November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his final will and testament at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris. When Nobel died on December 10, 1896, it was discovered that according to his will, his vast wealth was to be used for five annual prizes: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. The first prizes were awarded 113 years ago on December 10, 1901.
The prize for peace was to be awarded to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses.” Just before his death, he confided in a friend, “I want to be remembered for peace, not destruction.”
When Alfred Nobel actually died he held 355 patents, had built companies and laboratories in over 20 countries and left a nine million dollar endowment fund to award the prizes. Nobel literally changed his legacy. Today we remember him for the Nobel peace prize.
While most of us will not leave behind inventions, world-wide success or a 9 million dollars endowment, we are leaving a legacy.
Consider the legacy of some of the great Bible characters. King David is remembered as “a man after God’s own heart.” Abraham is known as the “Father of Faith” and the Friend of God.” John is called “the apostle of love.” We remember Paul as the persecutor who became a great preacher and writer of epistles. The great leader of Israel, Moses, as “the meekest man in all the earth.”
Job is pictured as a man of great patience. Esther is esteemed as the beautiful, but courageous Queen. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and as woman of prayer. Ruth, the faithful daughter-in-law. And Mary, the mother of Jesus, virtuous, humble and highly favored by God.
How will you be remembered? What kind of reputation are you building? What legacy are you leaving?
It’s possible to live under a delusion. To think you’re kind when you’re really inconsiderate. To think you’re gracious, when your personality is actually grating. To think you’re generous, when others regard you as cheap. To believe you are loved, when you are merely tolerated.
The wise man wrote, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Prov 22:1).
Alfred Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his eulogy in midstream and write a new one.”
How will your eulogy read?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman