Should Christians Think and Talk About Death?

Ignoring Death Leads to Ignorance

I can only imagine how you as a reader are responding at this point. This may be the first time someone has encouraged you to think deeply about death and judgment. We are unaccustomed to conversations about death. Our society goes to incredible lengths to hide the inevitable reality of death from us. It is considered intrusive or even rude to ask others to think about their deaths. Inevitably someone will quickly change the subject once it gets too serious or solemn. But should we?

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

It is better to go to a funeral than a party? The fact that you’ve never heard this expression in conversation reveals just how far our society is from biblical wisdom.

I have performed many funerals. It’s not uncommon to see crowds go out drinking immediately following the service. It is their way to “move on” and not dwell on the severity of the situation.

Others may not get drunk, but they find other ways to intoxicate themselves—heading back to work, going to a movie, laughing, talking, texting, getting on social media. People will do anything to avoid thinking about the only thing that matters. Reality is right there before their eyes, but they’ll desperately pursue any alternative to facing the facts.

The Bible shows that ignoring death leads to ignorance.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:4)

The wise man doesn’t quickly move past funerals. His heart lingers in a state of mourning. The fool tells jokes as soon as the funeral ends, not realizing the damage it does to his soul. Fools do whatever is easiest.

Eating pie is easy, but kale takes effort. The things that build us up require intentionality and work. Contemplating death takes work; watching a typical movie does not. The wise man makes time to think about serious issues. The hard work of mourning builds up the wisdom of the heart.

Linger in the House of Mourning

When I was in seminary, I learned that “the heart” refers to the mission-control center of our bodies. It is the seat of decision-making. This is why you and I make wiser decisions after our hearts spend time in the house of mourning. I tend to make good decisions at funerals and poor ones in restaurants. I have made wise financial decisions while surrounded by starving children, and poor decisions from the suburbs. We need to keep our hearts close to the house of mourning to avoid decisions we will regret.

As difficult as it is, we need to be mindful of death. We must make decisions with our day of death in mind. Please, please, please consider spending just 10 minutes in solitude today, meditating about your own funeral. Imagine standing before a God who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16).

But don’t stop there. Perhaps ponder some major life decisions after meditating on death. Your heart, the seat of decision-making, will then be better conditioned to decide where to live, what to drive and which shoes to buy.  

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Francis Chan
Francis Chan is a California-based pastor and author of many bestselling books including his newest, Letters to the Church (David C Cook, September 2018).