Gold-plated Coffin: Are You Going Out in Style?

Mark A. Kellner

Noted American singer Aretha Franklin, beloved by millions around the world as the “Queen of Soul” music, passed away on August 16. Her funeral, to be held in Detroit, Michigan, is expected to take place on August 31, more than two weeks after her passing.

It would be only speculation to guess at how the service will be conducted and who will attend. But it’s a fair guess to suggest it will be carried live on television in Detroit and via cable news outlets worldwide.

However Ms. Franklin’s final appearance is orchestrated, it may be measured against the high-dollar sendoffs many wealthy people are contracting for as their funerals. In fact, Bloomberg News reports that “funerals are becoming the final opportunity to flaunt immense wealth.”


Luxury Funerals

These super-rich individuals who are planning their departure are sparing little expense. Many are “choosing to be laid to rest in $60,000 gold-plated coffins and ferried by horse-drawn funeral carriages or Rolls-Royce hearses. Some are even flying friends and relatives to exotic locales for destination funerals.”

There’s even a boom in “Viking-style” funerals where the remains are sent out onto a body of water in a burning boat that resembles the ancient Viking seacraft. Others hire massive gospel choirs to sing as the funeral winds down.

Sometimes, Bloomberg reports, it’s even the burial site that can stretch the budget.

“A crypt beneath New York’s Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is available for $7 million,” the news service Image Search said. “This isn’t just any crypt: It’s one of the last full-body burial spots in Manhattan and can hold nine caskets and [ten] cremated remains.”

Presumably, one would have to be affiliated with the Roman Catholic faith—and the possessor of a substantial bank account balance—to take advantage of this offer. So far, a church official has said, three families have expressed interest.

Of course, having lavish funerals is not limited to the top-tier wealthy in the United States. Coffin-makers in Ghana have often created models that resemble cars or other cherished items, hoping to give the deceased the departure they would have wanted. Those costs, however, are generally far below those contemplated by the high-society types eyeing a $60,000 casket.


Funerals in Scripture

Interestingly, the Bible is relatively silent on the topic of funerals. There is no commandment to have a particular type of service or what should be performed. When Abraham’s wife, Sarah, died, he negotiated with local tribal leaders to buy a burial cave, paying “four hundred shekels of silver,” as noted in Genesis 23.

When Joseph’s father Jacob, also known as Israel, died, Joseph followed Egyptian customs for embalming and the days of mourning (Genesis 50). The seventy days allotted for this mourning period seems excessive by today’s standards, but Joseph was, after all, the effective prime minister of the land, serving directly under Pharoah.

In the New Testament, we read of Jesus interrupting a funeral, raising the just-deceased son of a widow in Nain (Luke 7:11–17) as the funeral procession was passing by. The reaction, as you might imagine was electric: “[T]hey glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us’; and, ‘God has visited His people.’”

And by the time Jesus sacrificed His life to redeem us from our sins, the thought of a funeral was the last thing anyone considered. Joseph of Arimathea, a follower who kept his belief in Jesus hidden, asked Pontius Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body. The request was granted, and Nicodemus and Joseph saw to the quick burial before sunset (John 19:38–42).

We can’t get too much counsel from the Bible on how to plan our funerals, but we can apply the principles of Scripture. Self-serving ostentation should be avoided, and if anything, excess wealth at the end of life could be better dedicated to helping others, especially in spreading the gospel message to places where it has yet to be heard.

One more thought: Don’t arrange your funeral before you have to! Amazing Facts founder Joe Crews discussed the Bible’s proven laws of health in a video message titled “How to Postpone Your Funeral,” and from it you can learn much on staying here, happy and healthy, all the days of your life. Click here to watch!

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