He was born in 551 B.C. out of wedlock to a noble, but poor man in the Chinese province of Lu.
He was raised in a time of political upheaval, oppression and catastrophic bloodshed. Further, he suffered abandonment by his family and abject poverty. Worst of all, because he was an unusually large, ugly and socially awkward child, he endured a profound sense of loneliness. His intelligence and sensitive nature only served to make the wounds of his childhood more keenly felt.
Yet, from his suffering and fertile mind, came a revolutionary belief system. This gentle giant of a man taught that nobility should be based on deeds and a virtuous life rather than on birth. He believed that political power should be exercised to serve the people rather than to oppress and plunder them. His credo stated that we should not do to others what we would not like done to us. He taught that the true marks of a superior man were not lineage and riches. They consisted of the practice of contentment in poverty, joy in suffering, and kindness toward others – even to our enemies.
For decades he taught others his wisdom, lived a model example, and made many disciples. Yet this sage knew that without political power his reforms would never be implemented and enforced. So he made it his quest to convert the powerful—governors, warlords, and kings. But no one listened. This sage went ignored by the architects of power. At the end of life, he sorrowfully asked, “Will no ruler come forward and take me as his master (teacher).” He died convinced he had failed and had done little to influence his countrymen.
This despondent sage was none other than the great philosopher-teacher, Confucius. Yes, the man who went to his grave believing he had failed to influence anyone had actually made thousands of disciples. Though they were primarily from among the poor, these disciples took Confucius’ message and converted most of China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Consequently, today more than a billion people venerate his memory and base their existence on his teachings.
No one should judge his life a failure if he has sought to do good and to be a blessing to others. Even at the point of death the final chapter of our life has not yet been written. For, even at its end, we cannot understand the ultimate influence of our lives. “Trust in the LORD and do good,” was the sound advice of the aging King David. “Commit your way to the LORD and He will bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:3, 5). If you feel like your life influences no one, remember Confucius. Remember to commit your work to God and allow Him to give your work and your life eternal significance.
Dear Father in heaven, please bless my life and make me a blessing to others. To You, O God, I commit the work and ultimate effect of my life. Please grant eternal significance and meaning to my days and my deeds. Amen.