Over this past week, there has been wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth. For anyone watching, you will have received insights into her life and activities, and learnt much about her character and views. For me, what has stood out has been the extent to which Elizabeth, the woman, lived her life so thoroughly well.
Without a doubt, the Queen was born into a life that would allow her to command authority and receive honour. As queen, Elizabeth could open just about every door possible to power and prestige. She could command obedience and expect devotion from others. The crown she wore has influenced the lives of countless peoples and nations, often for good but not always or for all people.
As we have all learnt this week, however, at the heart of what motivated her in her manner of living was her faith in God. Queen Elizabeth was a humble woman of Christian faith; unsophisticated, simple and devotional, reading Scripture daily, attending church weekly and praying regularly. She was faithful in her service and sacrificial in her love.
In her Christmas message of 2002, Queen Elizabeth said, ‘I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.’
I make mention of all of this, not to ‘canonise’ the Queen, nor to make her out as the model for us all. Rather, it is to point out how one life might be a witness to a life well lived in Christ. This is a life for us all to live: a life of service built on love, of faithfulness built on trust, of goodness built on humility. This woman of immense power, authority and privilege lived in humble obedience before God to her calling. Elizabeth did not seek benefit in the crown, but gave benefit from it.
The opposite might be observed in the pointed words of Jesus today, and in the example from Micah of weakness through power. No servant can be a slave of both money and God, said Jesus. Those who seek to create a life for their own benefit, to take rather than give, are no witness to a life well lived in God. When benefit is self-directed, rather than other-directed, then there is no witness to faithfulness and humble service. The path of Jesus—and our path to Jesus—is always sacrificial in nature; it is giving, not taking.
Some of the businesspeople in the marketplace that the Prophet Micah observed on behalf of God had only their own benefit in view. It involved cheating from the poor and disregarding the lowly. Money robbed them of integrity, as they robbed money from others. There was nothing honourable about their lives of wealth and prestige. Missing from them was simplicity, humility, faithfulness.
Might these words—simplicity, humility, faithfulness in God—be the words by which our lives are measured, whatever our situation or station is in life.
Image: Queen Elizabeth II in Berlin, 2015. Photo by PolizeiBerlin (Wikimedia Commons).
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli20 November 2022