I confess that my first impulse on learning about the death of Hugh Hefner was neither sympathetic nor merciful.
The day of a man’s death is not the day for moral posturing or virtue signaling. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that the day of a man’s death is a day for the living to “lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
Up until the day of his death, each person has an opportunity to shape or affect the legacy he will leave. On the day of his death, that opportunity is gone.
And so, Hugh Hefner’s legacy is now out of his hands.
Russell Moore summarized the impact of Hefner’s life this way: He “did not create, but marketed ingeniously the idea that a man’s life consists in the abundance of his possessions and of his orgasms. To women, he marketed frenetically the idea that a woman’s value consists in her sexual availability and attractiveness to men.”
As a ministry, FamilyLife’s goal has always been to effectively develop godly marriages and families. Our efforts are aimed at providing people around the globe with practical, biblical help and hope for our most important human relationships.
Are marriages better because of how Hugh Hefner invested his life? For every couple who might say yes, there are thousands whose lives and marriages have been devastated by the way Hefner marketed his hedonistic worldview.
Are children better because of the legacy of Hugh Hefner? The connection between pornography use and child molestation is well documented.
Are families stronger today because of Hugh Hefner? Correlation may not be causation, but almost every social indicator—from the divorce rate to out-of-wedlock births to abortions to sexually transmitted diseases and sexual violence—is far more problematic today than when Playboy began.
Hugh Hefner is not responsible for the startling social statistics we see. His Playboy empire simply gave permission for sexual sin to be indulged. He whispered to our carnal appetites and said, “It’s natural! It’s normal! Have fun!”
While society and the media can debate the benefits or harm caused by Hefner’s media empire, these two thoughts have been most on my mind today:
First, if I understand what the Bible teaches, when Hugh Hefner died, he went immediately in front of a righteous and holy judge, a God whose name he blasphemed throughout his adult life. And in that moment, his deeds were brought to light. The opportunity for him to experience forgiveness, mercy, and grace were gone.
Hugh Hefner’s legacy is sealed. As is his eternal destiny. May God have mercy on his soul.
Second, that same moment in history is ahead for each one of us. And we deserve the same judgment that Hugh Hefner faced. Each of us is no less guilty of blasphemy and sexual sin (Matthew 5:28).
Our only hope, in life and death, is that as followers of Jesus we have an advocate and a redeemer—someone who has borne our sin, paid our debt before God, and who now intercedes for our souls.
It is good to visit the house of mourning to be reminded of the day that is ahead for all men and women … and to cry out for mercy in this life, while mercy is still being offered.
It is also good for us to reflect on days like today about the legacy each one of us will leave—to our children, our families, and our world. Will people be able to say of us when we die that we enriched the lives of the people whose lives we touched? Did we point people to Jesus or away from Him?
Almost 30 years ago, songwriter Jon Mohr summarized what should be the hope of everyone who names the name of Christ:
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful!