Dag Hammarskjold was the second ever Secretary General of the United Nations and served from 1953-1961. Hammarskjold died in a plane crash in 1961, and that same year was posthumously awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Throughout his life he kept a journal which was published after his death under the title, “Markings.”
Sometime in 1954 Hammarskjold wrote a warning in his journal. to the effect that, “Every virtue, every raw material which God gives us for our achievement can also become the keys to the Gates of Hell. Page 101.
It’s an interesting and gripping thought – that something God gives me can be used for ill purposes. There’s a part of me that wants to say, “No, that can’t be – God doesn’t give something whose value is determined by the receiver or user.”
However, when I think about it, numerous examples come to mind of people who took something good and misused it.
Adam and Eve who used divine freedom for their own greed, or
Cain who raised good crops reserved the best for himself, or
Joseph who had great dreams but used them to belittle his brothers, or
David, who used his God-given power as king to rape Bathsheba.
Solomon, who used his wealth to build wealth and majesty for himself.
The list is endless.
What of people today with endless wealth, who use it to buy homes and yachts and seats on a space flight, but who never think about how this wealth could be used to end hunger and disease in the world. Or educate. Or elect noble, compassionate leaders.
What of churches that market a message of health and wealth. “Do this and you can be fabulously wealthy like I am.” Rather than admit the truth that some people can never think or influence or power their way out of illness and poverty, and “my wealth can be used to help them.”
The parable of the wealthy farmer seems appropriate in light of Hammarskjold’s reflection on God’s gifts. In the Luke 12 parable, a wealthy farmer said, “What should I do with my overflow crops? I’ll tear down MY barns and build bigger ones…then I’ll have room to story all MY wheat….and then I’ll say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come.” To which God said, “You fool! You will die this very night, and who’s wealth will it be then?”
What God gives us can be used to do great good or to open the gates of Hell. It’s a choice we all have to make.
In a small village there was a wise old man, noted for his wisdom and good advice. An arrogant young boy decided he would lure the old man into a trap and show him to be a fool.
He found a little bird which he cupped in his hands, behind his back and went to the old man. “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” he would ask. If the old man answered correctly, he would ask, “Is the bird dead or alive?” If the old man answered “alive” the boy would crush the life out of the bird and present it dead. If “dead” the boy would present the bird alive and allow it to fly away.
The old man knew the young boy had a bird and answered so. But when the boy asked if it was dead or alive, the old man said, “Whether the bird is alive or dead is in your hands my child. The choice is yours.”
Which is what God says to us. How will you use your choices?