I fancy myself as somewhat of a “wordsmith.” I like reading dictionaries. I love dissecting famous speeches. Listening to recordings of major addresses is so much fun. The cadence is remarkable, the phrasing so noteworthy. Words carry meaning, the context for the expressions is important and they ought to count.
So, with some substantial interest, I read an article recently that discussed the shocking last words of death row inmates. If ever there were a time when our words should be laden with meaning, those uttered just before your execution ought to be earth shattering.
But they weren’t. Several of them used the opportunity to express a sick sense of humor. An inmate with the last name of French said, “How’s this for a headline? French fries?”
George Appel turned to the officers standing by the electric chair and said, “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”
One death row inmate asked for a long list of items for his last meal. Apparently the kitchen staff had to replace one of his items (room temperature can of Spaghetti Os) with regular spaghetti. So his last words were, “I did not get my Spaghetti Os. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know.”
But, the last recorded words of the Apostle Paul are worth noting. You talk about important stuff. Arrested and detained in Rome, Paul in just a two or three year period wrote most of the New Testament in the form of letters to churches and key individuals. A few weeks before his death, he penned a second letter to his beloved Timothy. We call that book, II Timothy.
Towards the end of the letter, Paul described his life as a drink offering. He asserted that it had been poured out in ministry and he acknowledged that his death was near.
And then he makes those three incredible statements: “I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” In other words, he is stating that he did what he was supposed to do. He got the job done. He followed God’s plan for his life.
None of us know when we will face death. Nor are we privy to the details of how that will happen (I still vote for heart attack in my sleep). We can’t anticipate who will be at our side or what activity we will be engaged in.
But this week we could plan out some last words, something like: “Lord, to the best of my ability, I tried to discern your will and do it. I worked hard to keep the faith.”
That’s a whole lot better than “Where’s my Spaghetti Os?”