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The Grim Reaper

Ambition, Power, and the Grim Reaper

A man costumed as the grim reaper: with a skull-like mask, dark hooded robe, and a large stylized scythe.
Yomex-owo, Unsplash

This photo of the Grim Reaper fascinates me. It tells me most people are uninterested in him and are oblivious to him. No crowds form around him. The people sitting behind him and the woman walking and reading a book probably don’t see him and her surroundings.

I wonder whether the man beneath the Grim Reaper’s costume is trying to send us an urgent message about our mortality. He attracts no attention. Could it be that most people are completely ignorant or unafraid of our eternal destination?

For me, this Grim Reaper reminds me of Macbeth’s remorseful soliloquy about the brevity of his life. He says:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Shakespeare’s Macbeth Act V, Scene V)

Today’s power struggles for dominance, influence, and importance mimic those of Macbeth’s. Often they bring death and/or disgrace to their misguided followers. Terrorists, jihadist, and hate groups hide behind their misguided interpretation of God’s will and use it as justification for their predatory deeds. Corrupt clergy hide out in their religious institutions and cover up their crimes threatening God’s wrath on their victims who don’t submit to them and keep their silence. Despots stay in power with the help of their armies. Some political leaders secure their positions by lying or misleading their followers. They then blame their opponents for societal problems. On and on people seeking power use whatever pathways that lead them to their goal.

Can we learn from Jesus who once said:

If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? (Mark 8:34-36)

Think about it.

  • What does the picture of the Grim Reaper and his surroundings suggest to you?
  • Is he a metaphor for an eternal truth?
  • What lesson did Macbeth learn about life? Do you agree or disagree with his thoughts?
  • What are your thoughts about what Jesus said? Do you agree or disagree with him?