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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Which life: Abraham’s or Lazarus’s?

By Bola BOLAWOLE turnpot@gmail.com


I wish to know today which type of life my readers will prefer to live: Abraham’s or Lazarus’s? Biblical Abraham was wealthy, was richly blessed and lived life to the hilt here on earth. He died and went to paradise or heaven. Conversely, Lazarus was poverty-stricken and lived a life of penury on earth but when he died, he, too, went to heaven or paradise.

Now, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as told by Jesus Christ Himself in Luke 16: 19 – 31 was that there was a rich man who, while he lived, did nothing to help Lazarus, a desperately and multi-dimensionally poor beggar, such as we have in tens of millions today in Nigeria, the widely acclaimed poverty capital of the world. The poor man died and went to heaven, where he was seen resting at the bosom of Abraham but the rich man who had neglected to help Lazarus died and went to Hell.

As he suffered torture in Hell, the earthly-rich man looked up and saw Lazarus enjoying in paradise and beseeched Father Abraham to send help unto him (the rich man) through the same Lazarus but his request was rebuffed. You can read the entire story in the bible passage quoted above.

I came across a post on social media days back that got me thinking about life, death, heaven (paradise) and hell. I also remembered RCCG’s Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye once saying that whether you land in heaven like Abraham or you elect to take the route followed by Lazarus is a matter of personal choice – but he warned that poverty is not a good thing! Now, to the post, which was about the Jamaican reggae king, Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley; when I return, I will draw some conclusions.

Titled “The Biblical Story Behind ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley & The Wailers”, it reads: Peace, love, and social justice were at the heart of the messages Bob Marley spread through his music. His lyrics could have profound political connotations yet be about the mystical beauty of his surroundings. His celebration of the human condition resonated with people from all backgrounds. The consciousness and profundity of his place in the universe make us still interested in his songs today.

Marley’s spirituality is evident in each one of his albums. In 1999, Time magazine called Exodus the best album of the 20th century. Let’s look at the story behind a song from that album, “Three Little Birds,” by Bob Marley & The Wailers.

Don’t worry about a thing/Cause every little thing gonna be alright/Singing Don’t worry about a thing/Cause every little thing gonna be alright

A simple observation of nature, or Is It? The idea of birds singing in the morning is nothing unusual. But Marley brings the moment’s beauty alive in the verse of the song. His friend Tony Gilbert told author Vivien Goldman in The Book of Exodus: The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century, “Bob got inspired by many things around him. He observed life. I remember the three little birds. They were pretty birds, canaries, who would come by the windowsill at Hope Road.”

Marley himself told Sounds magazine in 1980, “That really happened. That’s where I get my inspiration.”

Rise up this mornin’/Smiled with the risin’ sun/Three little birds/Pitch by my doorstep/Singin’ sweet songs/Of melodies pure and true/Saying, (This is my message to you).

Another account of the inspiration comes from the trio of background singers, the I Threes. Marcia Griffiths claimed, “After the song was written, Bob would always refer to us as the Three Little Birds. After a show, there would be an encore. Sometimes, people even wanted us to go back onstage four times. Bob would still want to go back, and he would say, ‘What is my Three Little Birds saying?’”

Singin’ Don’t worry ’bout a thing/Cause every little thing gonna be alright/Singin’ Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing/Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Griffiths continued: “Three Little Birds’ was our song, officially for I Threes. It was more or less expressing how we all came together when he said, ‘Rise up this morning, smile with the rising sun.’ We loved it. Even when we were recording it, we knew that it was our song.”

Rise up this mornin’/Smiled with the risin’ sun/Three little birds/Pitch by my doorstep/Singin’ sweet songs/Of melodies pure and true/Sayin’, This is my message to you.

Marley’s awe and wonder of his surroundings tap into the mysticism of nature. In a bigger sense, his message praises God’s creation and conveys his thoughts of truth and hope. He would strike out around the world, sharing his songs with different cultures and people from different backgrounds.

Singin’ Don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh/Every little thing gonna be alright. Don’t/worry/Singin’ Don’t worry about a thing I won’t worry/Cause every little thing gonna be alright

The song has nothing specific about theology, yet it touches on the theory of God being all around us. Whatever God you believe in, it’s all around us in everything we interact with. The beauty within a moment of a trio of birds singing their song. On one hand, it’s just what they do. Birds sing. On the other hand, it’s a powerful, beautiful moment to be treasured and studied. The wonder of nature humbles us all.

Singin’ Don’t worry about a thing/Cause every little thing gonna be alright, I won’t worry/Singin’ Don’t worry about a thing/Cause every little thing gonna be alright/Singin’ Don’t worry about a thing, oh no/Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Although the lyrics are clearly not stolen, there is a vivid parallel between the lyrics of “Three Little Birds” and Matthew 6:25-27 from the American Standard Version of the Bible: Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you, by being anxious, can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?

When Marley was asked about the Bible and how many of his listeners didn’t believe in it, he responded, “Because the way they have been taught about the Bible, that is not the way of the Bible. You know? I mean, because if I was living in that world where the everyday interpretation of the Bible goes on, then I would adhere to the Bible, too. But know that we have found the right way of the Bible. The Bible is to be loved because the Bible is a record of man’s creation. It is the only book (that) can make, (that) can show you how mankind began without any prejudice, or anything like that or any boastfulness, pride, or anything like that. Just our God and that’s it.

“Well, all Christian people, not only Christians, all the people who go to church interpret the Bible as the preachers tell (them). That is not the right way,” he continued. “Because the greatest thing is life…and the preachers read the Bible and tell you, you have to die to go to heaven. That means he’s not really reading the Bible. Because the Bible tells you, you have to live in a heaven. You don’t die and go to heaven; you have to live in a heaven. A lot of places on Earth could be, but Africa is our heaven. Because that’s where we come from. Maybe you’re a Swiss. Maybe you come from Switzerland, and the people know God then, maybe you could live in peace, unity, harmony. But people are stubborn on this Earth because of material vanity.”

Imagine how revolutionary Marley’s interpretation of the Bible is; especially dying and going to heaven! We do not have to die before we go to or live in heaven; we can, and should, as we live here on earth also live in heaven or in a heavenly-like place! That is really impactful! Don’t postpone heaven; bring it down here right now! Don’t wait until you die before having the chance to live in a heavenly-like place.

Many of those who preach that we need to die first before having the chance to live in heaven themselves live in heavenly-like places right now here on earth. We have also seen the efforts of different parts of the world who, apparently, believe in this Bob Marley philosophy as they make their country look like heaven on earth; whereas our own place looks more and more like hell. We “japa” as we try to escape hell on earth in our own country to live in paradise on earth in other people’s countries! Otherwise, for many, maybe two Hell; and not a single Paradise!

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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