Like most teenage boys I went through a “scary movie” phase. In fact I remember going all by myself to see one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies at the AMC theater by Lakeside Mall (ironically, the same location where our church meets on Sunday nights!). And yes, I lied about my age to get in. I think I was just 14.
If you were ever into scary movies like I used to be, seeing the Stephen King ones were a must. I saw my fair share. Carrie. Firestarter. Needful Things. The Dead Zone.
Over the years I have seen several interviews with Stephen King and always judged him as being ultra-weird and nothing more.
This morning I had to repent of that judgment.
I was reading a book that quoted an excerpt of a commencement speech that Stephen King gave to Vassar college graduates about a decade ago. It took place just a couple years removed from his well-publicized car crash and near brush with death.
Although Stephen King did not reference God or the Bible once in the speech, the words he shared are as if he had used the books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs from the Old Testament as his source material. Here is what he said:
A couple years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.
We all know that life is ephemeral, but on that particular day and in the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths. We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime.
All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade — all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late whether you tell time on a Timex or a Rolex. No matter how large your bank account, no matter how many credit cards you have, sooner or later things will begin to go wrong with the only three things you have that you can really call your own: your body, your spirit, and your mind.
So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on…
We have a power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Please. Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs — on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities that nurture us.
A life of giving — not just money, but time and spirit — repays. It helps us remember that we may be going out broke, but right now we’re doing O.K. Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves.
So I ask you to begin giving…I think you’ll find in the end that you got [back in return] far more than you ever [gave], and did more good than you ever dreamed.
I am sure you were nodding your head a bunch as you read his words. I know I did. I am sure you can say “Amen” to Stephen King’s perspective. The question is this — and I ask it of myself as well — are we going to simply agree with his perspective and do nothing about it or are we going to do something today or this week that is radically generous?
***Join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. We will be continuing our verse-by-verse look at the gospel of Matthew, and I might even read this Stephen King quote in my sermon as it fits with the topic of the day! Plus, worship, communion, and an opportunity for 1-on-1 prayer. Sunday. September 4. 6pm. More info at tevchurch.org***