Joan Rivers was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She ran away from home at age 23 to become an actress, and changed her name at the advice of her agent. By 1958, she had decided to do comedy. She auditioned for The Tonight Show seven times before she first appeared on the show in 1965. She eventually became Johnny Carson’s permanent substitute, appearing more than 80 times by 1983.
In the years after, she did her own comedy show, appeared on numerous talk shows and television programs, wrote 12 best-selling books, and became a fashion designer. On August 28, she underwent a vocal chord procedure at a doctor’s office in Manhattan, but experienced serious complications and was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital. Yesterday she passed away at the age of 81.
I have two thoughts about the death of Joan Rivers.
One: life is guaranteed to no one. Joan Rivers’ net worth is estimated to have been more than $200 million, with a salary of $50 million a year. She recently sold her country house in Connecticut and her Manhattan penthouse apartment for a combined $34 million. And yet her wealth could not protect her from a medical tragedy no one would have foreseen.
I was a pastor for 25 years. In that capacity, I walked with parents who lost newborn and preborn babies, with families who lost teenagers to accidents and to suicide, and with children who lost parents to plane crashes and disease. Death was almost never expected when it came. Wise King Solomon advised us: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1). The only day to be ready to meet God is today.
Two: we should share Jesus with everyone we can. Joan Rivers was a member of the Reform synagogue Temple Emanu-El in New York. Her father established the first synagogue in her family’s hometown. She remained committed to Jewish tradition throughout her life. I have no idea if anyone explained to her the good news of God’s love in Christ, or prayed for her salvation. But I do know that everyone deserves to hear the gospel in words and to see it in action.
Sharing Jesus with everyone you know may seem like a courageous, difficult commitment to make. Actually, it should be the natural result of your love for your Lord. Since our granddaughter was born seven months ago, I have shown her picture to friends and colleagues, strangers on airplanes and rooms full of people. The reason is simple: I love her and want people to know about her.
When I am reluctant to talk about Jesus, it’s usually because my heart is not right with his. When I am in love with him, I want everyone to love him and experience his transforming love as I have.
It’s been said: If you want to get along with God, stay off his throne. Here’s another way to say it: If you want to exalt Jesus, put him on yours.