Be Nice When You Speak of the Dead

Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, phoned yesterday with the sad news that a mutual friend had died. Some folks are a treat to know in life. When they die, their kindness, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for life are greatly missed. We will remember our departed friend for those very reasons.

My old neighbor can have a sharp, cutting side to him even when folks are grieving. Ed does not believe in speaking well of the dead unless they were deserving of it. “If a person acted like a jerk in life, I don’t want to hear that he has become a great guy once he is dead,” Ed has religiously said repeatedly about the deceased. I have offered to Ed that perhaps he never saw a better side of the person he has described as a jerk. I also suggested in consideration, for those that loved the jerk, it is best not to say anything, if what we say cannot be kind. Ed has always maintained that he calls people as he sees them whether they are dead or alive.

Calling other people as we see them may not be as satisfying as we think. Judging the behavior, of another person is a fruitless endeavour unless we can find something positive and good to say about another person. To praise, to encourage, and to speak well of another is uplifting to everyone. If we have a fault-finding mindset towards others, we may well be blind to our personal faults. We may be working on the faulty thinking that my sins are better than your sins, or my dirt is cleaner than your dirt. Any fool can judge the behavior of another person, but no one can see their hearts, motives, and reasons for their behavior. It is not wise to judge anyone except oneself.

Zacchaeus in the Bible was a tax collector. Then as now no one likes to pay taxes. Tax collectors were resented and often called sinners because it was felt that they cheated people taking way more than was required when they collected the taxes. When Jesus entered Jericho, the wealthy tax collector Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. Being a short man, he climbed a tree so he could see Jesus when he passed by in the street. When Jesus reached the tree, he stopped to call Zacchaeus to come down. Jesus wanted to stay at his house that day. Jesus’ desire to stay with him upset the crowd there. They grumbled about Jesus going to be a guest of the sinner, Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus vowed to Jesus before the crowd that right then he would give half of his wealth to the poor. He also promised to repay back four times if he had cheated anyone. Jesus came to seek and save what was lost. Zacchaeus was lost in his life of being a wealthy tax collector at the expense of his neighbors, and without charity to the poor. Meeting Jesus was his opportunity to show everyone that he was not a cheat or unconcerned about the poor. Jesus sought out Zacchaeus as a sinner who could change to honor God and his neighbor. Jesus came to seek and to save those that others saw as obvious sinners.

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