Someone once said that we should live our lives with a view toward who will cry at our funeral. The point of this statement is that our conduct should be such that our family, friends, and acquaintances will be sorry that we have passed from this life. It seems inconceivable that a person could be so mean, or so evil, that no one was sorry to see him die, but we know that some have come very close to this dubious distinction. In modern times, men such as Adolf Hitler, or Josef Stalin, or serial killers such as Ted Bundy, passed from this life with very little sorrow at their passing.
In ancient times there may have also been men like these, whose passing brought few tears, but the scriptures identify one man whose death was met with absolutely no sorrow. This man was Jehoram and he was the king of Judah after his father, Jehoshaphat, died. In 2 Chr. 21:20 the scripture says of him, “He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”
Jehoram was despised by the people of Judah, but what made him so? In 2 Chr. 21:4 the scripture says that when he ascended to the throne he immediately killed all of his brothers, and even some of the rulers who had served his father. This was an unprecedented act in Judah, but had been routinely practiced by the kings of Israel, the northern kingdom. A second thing that made Jehoram despised is that he followed the example of the kings of Israel in leading Judah away from God. He did this because he was married to a daughter of wicked king Ahab of Israel (2 Chr. 21:6). Although he only reigned for eight years in Judah, Jehoram’s evil influence was so great that even the reforms of good kings Josiah, Uzziah, and Hezekiah were unable to keep Judah from being punished by God.
Considering the evil impact that Jehoram had on his nation, and their utter disregard for him at the time of his death, what can we learn from his life? First, we learn that the things we do, whether good or bad, can have a powerful effect on many people. The things we do can even affect those we may never know. If we live in rebellion to God’s law, we must be prepared for the consequences of doing so, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of our children and grandchildren, as well as neighbors, friends, acquaintances, and many others. On the other hand, if we live righteously, our positive influence can lead these same people to eternal life.
Secondly, we learn from Jehoram that how we treat others greatly affects their opinion of us. It seems certain that Jehoram treated his people so badly that they were happy to see him gone. If we follow his example, we may expect the same kind of reaction when we die. We may also expect to be called to account for the wreckage we left behind because of our evil influence.
Jesus said we should treat others in the same way we would have them treat us (Mt. 7:12). This means that we must consider what effect our actions will have on the lives of others. If we follow the Lord’s command, we will do all within our power to live righteously. If we do so, we may indeed expect our family, friends, and acquaintances to shed sincere tears when we pass from life. We can also expect to receive a reward in heaven at the end of time. Jehoram’s sad epitaph was that he departed with no one’s regret. May we so lead our lives that this cannot be said of any of us.