Last week Adele Dunlap, the oldest American resident (she was 114 in December) died. About the same time, I read an article about an English gerontologist, Aubrey de Grey who published a scientific paper 15 years ago in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. In that paper, he claimed that the “indefinite postponement of aging…may be within sight.” Since then, his scientific contemporaries have been researching and affirming that someday soon we may be able to live almost indefinitely.
Based on my recent set of aches and pains, I am not sure I really want to reside in this body endlessly. But the concept of a very long physical life does spark interesting thoughts.
The Bible doesn’t say a great deal about the ideal life span. The Psalmist in Psalm 90:10 suggests that we might make it to “threescore and ten or maybe fourscore” (that’s 70 to 80 years). But then James (4:13-17) refers to our lives as a vapor that appears for a short while and then disappears.
So it appears that a Godly perspective should not be focused on the length of life, but on spiritual usefulness of that life. Since we do not know what a day may bring forth, we need to make sure our days are numbered with a mindset that God can honor.
It makes me think of Caleb in the Old Testament. He was one of the spies sent into Canaan to spy out the land. He and Joshua gave the only positive reports. If you fast-forward 40 years, Caleb has turned 85 years old. They are dividing up the Promised Land among the twelve tribes.
Caleb surveys the landscape, notices a difficult section of the countryside and knowing full well it would be tough to conquer it declares, “So here I am today, 85 years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out. I am just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country…”
This week we all ought to remind ourselves that age (regardless of its digits) is just a number. Our focus needs to be on what we are doing with that gift of life. Are we flittering the days away with too much entertainment and not enough spiritual work? Are we whining about the difficulties of our stage of life?
Or are we declaring with Caleb. “I see that tough assignment. I will take it on. Give me that hill country!”