Charles Spurgeon preached these words in a sermon on the death of the traitor, Ahithophel, based on 2 Samuel 17:23: “He…put his household in order, and hanged himself.”
“His case teaches us that the greatest worldly wisdom will not preserve a man from the utmost folly. Here was a man worthy to be called the Nestor of debate, who yet had not wit enough to keep his neck from the fatal noose! Many a man, supremely wise for a time, fails in the long run. The renowned monarch, shrewd for the hour, has before long proved his whole system to be a fatal mistake. Instances there are, near to hand, where a brilliant career has ended in shame—a life of wealth closed in poverty—an empire collapsed in ruin. The wisdom which contemplates only this life fails even in its own sphere. Its tricks are too shallow, its devices too temporary and the whole comes down with a crash when least expected to fall! What sad cases have we seen of men who have been wise in policy, who have utterly failed from lack of principle! For lack of the spirit of honor and truth to establish them, they have built palaces of ice which have melted before they were complete. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The wisdom which comes from above is the only wisdom—the secular is folly until the sacred blends its golden stream therewith!
I desire to call your attention to the text on account of its very remarkable character. “He put his house in order, and hanged himself”. To put his house in order showed that he was a prudent man. To hang himself proved that he was a fool. Herein is a strange mixture of discretion and desperation, mind and madness. Shall a man have wisdom enough to arrange his worldly affairs with care and yet shall be so hapless as to take his own life afterwards? As Bishop Hall pithily says, “Could it be possible that he should be careful to order his house who regarded not to order his impetuous passions? That he should care for his house who cared not for either body or soul?” Strange incongruity—he makes his will and then, because he cannot have his will, he wills to die! ‘Tis another proof that madness is in the hearts of the sons of men!
Marvel not at this one display of folly, for I shall have to show you that the case of Ahithophel is, in the spirit of it, almost universal. And as I shall describe sundry similar individuals, many of you will perceive that I speak of you. Thousands set their houses in order, but destroy their souls! They look well to their flocks and their herds, but not to their hearts’ best interests. They gather broken shells with continuous industry, but they throw away priceless diamonds. They exercise forethought, prudence, care—everywhere but where they are most required. They save their money, but squander their happiness. They are guardians of their estates, but suicides of their souls. This folly takes many forms, but it is seen on all hands, and the sight should make the Christian weep over the madness of his fellow men. May the series of portraits which will now pass before us, while they hold the mirror up to Nature, also point us in the way of Grace!”