Once upon a time there were two brothers. Both of them were wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. They were also evil. They each lived a destructive, malevolent existence; they both used their wealth to cover up the dark side of their lives. Few who knew them superficially would have guessed at the malice that lay at their cores because they were such consummate cover-up artists.
Then, suddenly, one of the brothers died. The surviving brother called the local Lutheran pastor and asked him to bury his brother out of the pastor’s church and to preach at his brother’s funeral. If the pastor would preach at his brother’s funeral, the surviving brother promised to give the Lutheran pastor enough money to build a brand-new sanctuary, on one condition. The pastor must be sure to say the deceased brother was a saint.
In fact, the brother would give the pastor the money right now, in cash, if the pastor would promise to say that the deceased brother was a saint.
The Lutheran pastor was known throughout the community as a man who preached the truth with zeal and courage. He was beloved by his congregants, and everyone believed him when he spoke. So the surviving brother was delighted when the pastor told him that in his sermon he would be sure to say that the deceased was a saint.
Imagine the surviving brother’s delight when he saw the pastor mount into the pulpit on the day of his brother’s funeral. The church was packed to the rafters with people who knew this pastor was to be trusted in every word he spoke.
Then he heard the pastor say, “The deceased was an evil man, wicked to the core. He was unfaithful to his wife, hot-tempered with his children, ruthless in his business, ungodly, unbelieving, and a hypocrite in every way. He is most likely in hell right now, and he will certainly not be missed by anybody who really knew him … but compared with his brother, he was a saint.”