Living the good life
A long lifespan can be a great blessing—or not
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Whatever you think of Elon Musk, the man dreams big. Buying Twitter and planting a colony on Mars are two more recent goals. So when the South African–born CEO of Tesla was asked by The Wall Street Journal if he would consider throwing a few billions toward anti-aging research, you would think he’d be all over it.
He said no: “It would cause asphyxiation of society, because the truth is, most people don’t change their mind. They just die.”
With the money Musk has, you can say stuff like that and still be invited to the best parties. But the idea of a “fountain of youth” has haunted Who’s Who types since before Ponce de León in the 15th century. Speaking for myself, Musk has a point.
It’s like what Jesus said: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Only in this case it’s: What will it profit a man to live long as Methuselah (Genesis 5:27) and still die as foolish as at 40?
I always liked Jimmy Durante’s rendition of “Young at Heart” (1954) with the line “And if you should survive to a hundred and five, look at all you’ll derive out of being alive.” But I happened to interview a local woman who was 105, and she had not “derived” much; I left disappointed. In 1973 in the Swiss Alps I met an old bent man with a staff who had never been down the mountain, from whom I hoped to pry secrets as ancient as the hills. He turned out to be a lecher.
Long life is a blessing in the Bible: “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation,” says the Lord (Psalm 91:16) of the man who loves him (verse 14). Yet Jesus—who loved the Lord supremely—died at 33. It was enough, for He had lived well. By contrast, Hezekiah was granted the extra 15 years he pleaded for (2 Kings 20:5-6), and in that reprieve managed to sire an heir named Manasseh who “did that which is evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:2-3, 6, 16).
A certain man I knew who died of an illness in his 40s said the most startling thing on his deathbed: “It’s a good thing this is happening to me, because I know that if I had lived, I would have gone away from God.” Long story, but he may have been right. Consider the wisdom and mercy of God in His individual dealings with man. Four months of solid repentance rather than an additional 30 years of mediocre living is a good bargain in the light of eternity.
By contrast behold Jezebel, whose graciously extended life avails her nothing: “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:21).
“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31). But “Like snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting in a fool” (Proverbs 26:1). The latter is, as Musk noted, the person who will not have his mind changed, or receive correction. It is as grotesque an aspect as was the fig tree Jesus saw that was all leaf and no fruit (Mark 11:12-25). It is good for nothing but to be cursed.
The older Jesus got, the wiser He got (Luke 2:40). It is supposed to be the same with us, who walk as He walked (1 John 2:6), that we may be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
On my 70th birthday my sister sent this verse: “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (Psalm 71:18).
I thought, okay, I’m officially old. “Be worthy of your beard,” they used to say. Prove Elon wrong.
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