Take a good look at the picture above. The traveler on the left happened upon the ruins in his trek across a vast desert. The base of the fallen statue reads,
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Whoever Ozymandias was, whatever great works he accomplished, whatever kingdom he built and empires he conquered no longer move men to despair. Ozymandias is no more, his great accomplishments gone, his great name forgotten. Percy Shelly (1792-1822), imagined the scene in a now-famous poem. He wrote,
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things…
Two trunkless legs, a shattered visage nearly swallowed by sand, a wrinkled lip, and a scowling brow are the sole remains of the great Ozymandias. He concludes with these words:
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Ozymandias - conquered by sand, his memory forgotten in a wasteland, his legacy stricken by the wind. How silly his boasting now looks. And yet man continues to boast in his trophies and triumphs. Man continues to live as if he can make his end something better than Ozymandias, that he can make a lasting name for himself and somehow avoid Ozymandias’ fate. And so we go on building dynasties in the desert, towering statues in the sand.
Obstacles that stand in the way of our dreams are pushed aside, whether they be spouses, children, or friends. They are met by boasts of “My name is Ozymandias! I must establish my name in this world.” Sadly, many Ozymandiases are in the church. They build bigger barns, amass greater wealth, erect bigger statues with bolder boasts. Jesus warns them: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…”(Mt 6:19) He tells them, “Don’t build dynasties in the desert. They won’t last.” Instead, Jesus says, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:20-21).
Heeding Jesus’ words will require chipping the gold out of our desert statues and putting it in His hands. It will require giving. But He promises that our hearts will follow our giving; our hearts will follow our treasure. We can either pile our treasure in a wasteland that will destroy it, forget us, and crush our hearts, or sacrificially give it to Him where we want our hearts to be. He will not crush us. He will not reject us. He will not forget us. Our hearts will follow our treasure. Ozymandias followed his into a wasteland. By sacrificially giving, we are given the opportunity to follow ours to heaven. Don’t be Ozymandias!