If You Can’t Say Something Nice

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets (Luke 6:26).”

The sensibilities of many were shocked recently when a sharp obituary went viral for a recently deceased Minnesota woman. The article read that she “married Dennis Dehmlow” in 1957 and “had two children Gina and Jay.” (1) It continued, “In 1962 she got pregnant by her husband’s brother…and moved to California. She abandoned her children…She passed away on May 31, 2018 and will now face judgment. She will not be missed by Gina and Jay, and they understand that this world is a better place without her.” It is reported that this is a new growing trend known as the “revenge obituary” where family members can pronounce the final word on those who precede them in death who left unresolved issues behind. For centuries it had just been considered indecent to speak ill of the dead and was even the antithesis of the idea of a “eulogy” which actually means to speak well of.

There are some grim epitaphs preserved in Scripture for some particularly evil characters. David’s grandson Rehoboam was recorded as doing “evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD (2 Chronicles 12:14).” Ahab had the distinction etched on his eternal record of doing “more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all of the kings of Israel who were before him (1 Kings 16:33).” But perhaps Jeroboam faired worst of all in that in the NKJV translation it is recorded twenty-two times that not only did he do evil but he caused the entire nation of Israel to fall into sin.

These bitter pronouncements fall on these men by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Should men tag the deceased with such a damaging banner, since after all they have no ability to respond in their own defense (Ecclesiastes 9:5)? We understand that Christians are to speak evil of no one but to be gentle to all (Titus 3:2) and to put off our own judgement before the time (1 Corinthians 4:5).

There is certainly one thing these hurt siblings did get accurate in their final farewell; this woman has departed and will now face judgement (Hebrews 9:27). And that is a truth we must all face as well. Along with this we understand that there will be books opened on this occasion, one will be the Book of Life and the dead will be judged according to what they have done in life (Revelation 20:12). But this assessment will not be performed by our peers, grudge bearing family members, nor any who may have libeled or even correctly reported our misdeeds – this will assessment of what we have done in the flesh will be performed by the Lord Himself (2 Corinthians 5:10). And here is the great hope that we may possess in facing such a solemn truth; Our Judge is also our present Advocate (2 John 2:1) and for those who have accepted His mercy (Acts 22:16) have had their evil charges expunged and completely cleared from the eternal register. Those revenge obituaries will fade with the bitter memories of those who harbor them. But those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life will endure forever.

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (Romans 8:33).”

  1. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/06/06/survivors-penning-revenge-obituaries-to-settle-scores-with-departed.html

Billy Alexander is a member of the church of Christ in Jersey Village in Houston, TX. He and his wife Gwen both work at Hewlett-Packard where they met and have worked more than 25 years each. Billy enjoys teaching Bible several times each week at Jersey Village and Memorial church of Christ. Since 2008, his weekly article "Equipping the Saints" as run in the Jersey Village bulletin.