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A reader asks:

I was wondering, are our days numbered? Is the number of days we live predetermined? I know God knows when and how we die but do we have control over how long we live?

My answer:

Thousands of years ago, a dude named Job asked God that very same question:

Job 7:1 Is there not an APPOINTED TIME to man upon the earth?

There is no verse in Scripture that says “The day you are born, God picks a certain number of days for your life, and when you get to that day, it’s asta la vista baby”.  So in that sense, no, the length of your life is not predetermined nor are there any quotes from Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Bible.

On the other hand, God is such (all powerful, all knowing, all everything) that His will, His plan, and His way for your life was already a done deal from eternity past, so the day you are born, the exact number of days you’ll live are an established fact known to God. In that sense, the length of your life is predetermined, but I think saying “already known” is a more accurate way of saying in terms befitting humans.

Like most deep questions of life, there is usually one answer when viewed from God’s perspective, and one answer when seen through finite human eyes. Do we have control over how long we live?  Yes and no.  No, we don’t have even the slightest control over it. I can’t even keep hair from growing on my ears instead of my head much less control the length of my life.  I might live to be 105 or I could drop dead before the end of this…. … … ….. ———————————

Just kidding. I’m still here.  On the other hand, yes, we do have some control over the number of our days but it’s not a “secret formula” Magic Genie type of thing like some divine-health-prosperity characters would have you believe.  Lifestyle is a choice we have that helps predetermine whether IN PRINCIPLE our life will most likely be long or short.  Consider which lifestyle choices would most like increase your number of days:

  • Drug dealer or Accountant
  • Junk food consumer or health nut
  • Couch potato or outdoors man
  • Lying cheat or honest hard worker
  • Swindler of others or servant to others
  • Malcontent or happy and content

Many things we have a bit of  “control” over have an impact on the number of our days. When we choose health, goodness, honesty and love as our lifestyle it comes with activities, emotions, friends and circumstances that generally promote a long life.  On the other hand, when we abuse our bodies, mistreat others, lie, cheat and general use others for our own advantage, life seems to be full of stress, sickness and hard times, shortening our life.

Of course, there are always exceptions to that. Good people drop dead, die in accidents and are killed by bad people who seem to then prosper from it.   We’ve all heard of people who live a long time abusing the world and giving God the finger and we wonder how God tolerates them.  Only God  can answer all those “why?” questions.

The Bible also clearly teaches the general principle (I keep repeating “general principle” so I don’t get flooded with the “well what about…?” stories) that fearing God, obeying Him, and living a righteous life is generally rewarded with an larger “number of days”. Consider some of what God says about this topic:

  • There is a general length of time God has allotted for man’s lifespan so the efforts by science to discover the “secrets” to live longer than that are futile. Psalm 90:10 The days of OUR YEARS are threescore and ten [70 years]; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore [80 years]…
  • It is good for us to consider the number of our days because it makes us aware of how short our time is that we have to do God’s will. Psalm 90:12   So TEACH us to NUMBER our days that we may APPLY our heart unto wisdom.
  • Generally speaking, living a Godly life and obeying Him promotes a lifestyle that lends itself to long life. Proverbs 3:1,2   My son, forget not my law, but let your heart keep my commandments. For LENGTH of DAYS, and LONG LIFE, and peace, shall they ADD to you.
  • Godly wisdom will lead to life choices that generally increase your life span, not decrease it. Proverbs 3:16 (“her” is wisdom) Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.
  • Generally speaking, God rewards us with long life when we honor our parents. Ephesians 6:1–3  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
  • Considering the length of our life keeps things in perspective. We realize how frail, unknown and out of our control this thing called “life” is and it causes us to turn more fully to God. Psalm 39:4  Lord make me to KNOW mine end, and the MEASURE of my DAYS what is it, that I my know how frail I am.

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