The Methuselah Principle

Methuselah was the son of Enoch, the father of Lamech, and the grandfather of Noah.

Longevity is driving our culture, productivity, and economy. Methuselah of Biblical times is the metaphor of embracing long life. Methuselah purportedly lived to the ripe old age of 969. There were, according to the Bible, at least 6 others who hit the 900 plus year-old age mark. Methuselah was Noah's grandfather, and according to some extra-biblical accounts, was at Noah's side trying to convince the rest of society that tough times were ahead.

Living longer is a topic close to the heart of most over the years. Juan Ponce de Leon supposedly lead a major expedition into Florida from what is now Cuba, looking for the Fountain of Life.

When the US Social Security system began in the mid-1930s, life expectancy was about 63. Interesting that the system did not even start to pay off until you reached 65. Easy to cover the costs when people died before the implementation date. Today, the story is quite different.

Because we live in the present, we don't consider changing life patterns, let alone lifestyles.

We assume that we will live as long as those who preceded us. Our population growth fueled by longevity is a result of the boom in new births right after WWII, the impact of medical science, and a change in diet. Now our time here may be maxed because of our diet plus the number of premature deaths sparked by the opioid epidemic. It’s not really an epidemic, it is the result of product availability and a series of very bad choices. Epidemic suggests no one is responsible when the reality is that each of us is responsible for our own decisions and consequently much of our own health. 

The Methuselah principle holds that every people group has a different lifetime horizon and each horizon has a new set of issues and consequences.

The generation approaching retirement now is no different. Those of us in our 60s+ can reasonably expect another 30+ years of life. A 30-year life expectancy when we are in our 60s holds challenges, issues, and opportunities not faced by any recent generation. When I was growing up, you worked to 65 and died at 67. If you lived into your 70s, you were really old. Preparing financially and otherwise for those 2 to 7 years was not too daunting. Facing 30 years of retirement, however, is quite a different matter.

I wonder if Methuselah was asked when he hit 600 what he was going to do with the rest of his life? Do you think he answered as many of us do, “Well nothing, really. Do a little fishing, play a little kickball, hike around the mountains and eat with my friends. Might even help my grandson build a boat.” Somehow, I imagine that he had quite a list of items bringing meaning and purpose to his life. We are not sure of how many children and grandchildren he had, but the extended family must have been huge. Teaching, mentoring, building, leading, and worshiping were surely high on his list. His relatives, extending from Cain’s side of the family, were busy inventing things such as musical instruments and perfecting skills. Noah had to learn multiple trades to carry out his destiny. Methuselah surely played a role in that learning process.

So, what do we do with the time we have left?

First, we are each called to be faithful for a lifetime, not just a season. We know that God chooses us for a purpose. He then calls us to a task and role in building His Kingdom here on earth. Then He strengthens us for the tasks at hand. And finally, He upholds us when we are weak, failing, or confused.

Those are great promises and should give us strength for the day and perseverance to finish the task. We need to learn to “Be still and know that I am God.” Listening to God’s whisper starts with our willingness to be still. In the cacophony of life, it is increasingly hard to do. Each of us has a special listening place. It is important we find it, use it, and listen to God.

The oldest living tree named The Methuselah Tree was identified in 1957. It’s estimated germination date is 2833BC. You read it right. That makes it 4851 years old today if I’ve done my math right. The tree is in the Bristlecone Pine forest in California. Hard for me to wrap my head, let alone my arms, around that tree. Upon further research, they've found another Bristlecone Pine in the same forest that is a little older. Maybe the first one can be called Methuselah Junior.

Here are 4 somewhat universal question you can ponder over the next week:

  1. How did I get here?

  2. Why am I here?

  3. What am I to do?

  4. How will it build the Kingdom?

Those are questions worth pondering especially when we realize the time we have left. Let’s make the Methuselah principle work for us and not against us. Embrace the time you have and make it count in relationships, growing with God, building emotional maturity, and enhancing the Kingdom.

The Methuselah Principle is an opportunity in waiting.

Bruce Bruinsma