Whether by default or design, everyone is exercising influence – all the time. For good or for evil, for righteousness or for wrong, each of us is making our mark on mankind. With our words and ways, our deeds and desires, our attitudes and our actions, we are living a life worthy either of emulation or avoidance. Thus, no one ever fully escapes the unrelenting responsibility of exercising our influence effectively.
The atheist, Max Jutes, lived out his godless life as a neighbor to the extraordinary 18th century preacher, Jonathan Edwards. He declared Edwards to be a scourge to the community and sought to destroy him in every way. Believing that men were best served by living their lives in the context of the secular, rather than the sacred, world, Jutes sought to persuade the public that Edward’s faith was a farce.
Not coincidentally, when, in an effort to calculate the sum of public funds invested in their respective families, New York state officials compared the descendants of Edwards and Jutes, the differences in the two men were brought into sharp relief. The 540 individuals who could be positively traced to Max Jutes were less than half the 1,394 who followed in the footsteps of Jonathan Edwards.
But not surprisingly, the difference was not just one of quantity, but quality as well. Of those 540 who descended from Jutes, 310 were said to have died paupers – no fewer than 150 had criminal records – 7 were in fact found guilty of murder – at least 100 were drunkards and more than half the women were believed to be involved in prostitution. It was estimated that these individuals cost the state some $250,000 in 18th century currency, or approximately ten million of today’s dollars.
Conversely, among the 1,394 descendants of Jonathan Edwards were 13 college presidents – 65 university professors – 3 United States Senators – 30 judges – 100 lawyers – 60 physicians – and at least 75 who served as military officers. More than 100 of Edwards’ offspring became ministers or missionaries – 60 were prominent authors – 1 served as Vice President of the United States – and at least 80 others were public officials in some capacity. Of the 295 who were college graduates, several were either state governors or members of the foreign service. Obviously, his descendants did not cost the state of New York, but contributed to the welfare of society both naturally and spiritually.
Suffice it to say, the wise man was right when he wrote, The memory of the just is blessed. (Proverbs 10:7) Whether as a father to his family, a pastor to parishioners, or just a man to his friends, we must constantly and carefully consider both the ability – and the responsibility – we have to exercise our influence effectively.
Maybe now, more than ever, we must be men of substance to whom others can tether their lives in our out of orbit age. May the proclamation of Paul to young Timothy find its fulfillment in us, That, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour: Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1st Timothy 2:1,3-4)