Notes

Kipling to Christ in Richardson’s “Lords of the Earth”

Excerpt from Don Richardson, Lords of the Earth, Chapter 7, “The Weakling.”

One day his study uncovered evidence that Rudyard Kipling, foremost of his boyhood heroes, also drew inspiration from the Christian Scriptures, as Stanley himself was now doing. In a closing line of “If,” Kipling promised those who fulfilled his ideal of absolute, uncompromising manliness, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.” Stanley discovered that this expression paralleled a line from King David’s twenty-fourth psalm: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1).

So, Stanley reasoned, pondering the poet’s meaning afresh in the light of this newly realized background, Kipling intends us to understand that a truly ideal man will share in God’s ownership of creation — he will be, under God, a lord of the earth!

Could this be true? ¶ Stanley recalled that Christ Himself also proclaimed, in spite of Caesar’s evident sway, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5)! ¶ And was not Kipling’s ideal man also meek? Doubted by others, he makes allowance for their doubting. Lied about, he does not deal in lies. Hated, he gives no place in his own heart to hating. Talking with crowds, he still maintains virtue. Walking with kings, he does not lose the common touch. ¶ All without looking “too good” or talking “too wise”! ¶ Suddenly everything began to fall into place! Christ was the only Man in history who fulfilled Kipling’s ideal to perfection!

Stanley gazed intently at the open Bible before him. ¶ Surely Kipling must have used Christ as model for his ideal man! Still more exciting, the spirit of Christ used Kipling’s poem as a tutor for Stanley! A sort of interim Old Testament to help an otherwise uninstructed boy see his need for repentance. ¶ How many other “interim Old Testaments” might Christ have at His command throughout the world, preparing otherwise uninstructed men for encounter with Him?

Later, perusing the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Stanley found a further biblical source for Kipling’s soaring promise: “For all things are yours, whether… the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21–23).

He saw it now — the echelon that man is meant to fit into, the echelon that rises above man into the Godhead and descends below him to galaxies and atoms. He saw also the secret of that echelon: Remain subject to everything above you, and everything below you will be subject to you!

“Lord, apart from You,” he prayed in ecstasy, “Kipling’s poem remains just that — an awesome if which no man can measure up to! But any man who is united to You can do all things through You, because You have fulfilled Kipling’s ideal and more!”

Thus did Stanley Dale find insight to complete his transition from Kipling to Christ.


“If— ” by Rudyard Kipling, 1910

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!