Summary: A Different way to look at Luke 16: 19-31. It really does matter how we live now!
“Can’t Buy Me Love”
There is a fellow named Dr. David Demko who’s Death Device projects the date of a celebrity’s demise using lifestyle information such as smoking and exercise.
Whitney Houston? 2022. Keith Richards? Should have died in‘95.
But maybe it’s more important to discover when we are going to live.
Are you dying to know when you’ll die?
Okay, maybe not, but there’s at least one person who thinks it’s possible to determine death dates with reasonable accuracy. Dr. David Demko is a well-known gerontologist (a person who studies human aging) in Boca Raton, Florida, who for the last 30 years has been doing research on the lifestyle patterns that either enhance or diminish life expectancy.
In 1974, while in graduate school in Michigan, he developed the death calculator and shortly later received the support of the United States Administration on Aging. Since that time, many entities use the death calculator all over the world as a predictor of life expectancy, based upon certain lifestyle behavior patterns.
The death calculator itself is actually a simple quiz that includes questions like the following:
“Do you have an annual physical exam?” If so, add three years to your score. If not, subtract three years from your score.
“Do you volunteer on a weekly basis?” If so, add two years to your score. If not, one year deducted. Volunteering means non-paid service to unrelated individuals.
“Are you able to laugh at, and learn from your mistakes?” If not, subtract three years.
“Do you smoke a pack of cigarettes daily?” Subtract four years. Live or work with smokers? Subtract one year.
There’s more. “Do you own a pet?” Add two years for interactive pets (dog, cat, bird). Add one year for passive pets (fish, reptile, tarantula).
If you are left-handed, subtract one year. For every inch of your height that exceeds 5’8”, subtract six months. “Are you a religious person, and do you practice your faith?” If so, add two years.” (To take the entire 22-question quiz, see www.demko.com).
For the curious, Blender magazine asked Dr. Demko to predict the deaths of some celebrities based on their current and past lifestyles. Whitney Houston is predicted to die in 2022. She scores six years for being married but loses four for being married to Bobby Brown. (Her drug addiction doesn’t help her score either.)
Clean-living Clay Aiken will live to 82, while Courtney Love is outta here at 62, losing eight years for enjoying a smoking habit that is, among other personal habits, out of control. At least one well-known musician has beaten the odds — Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones should have died in 1995. Dr. Demko’s calculator gives Ozzy Osbourne only another nine years (based on an Associated Press report, February 11, 2004).
Most of the lifestyle patterns that Demko has identified are obvious, both those to be avoided and those to be adopted. On his Web site he writes, “Long life isn’t just a result of smart genes and dumb luck. Most of the time, it’s due to moderate eating, sleeping, diet, exercise, work and leisure. In fact, 80 percent of the factors that control how long you live are related to your lifestyle, not your genes.”
Which brings us to Jesus’ sobering parable of a certain rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). While he was alive Dives — Latin for “rich man” — lived a lifestyle of the rich and famous. Luke tells us he “feasted sumptuously every day” (16:19). While he was feasting, Lazarus was dying at his gate, wasting away with the afflictions of desperate hunger. Predictably, they both died.
That’s when the shock begins; or at least it ought to begin for those who are alive and have ears to hear. After all, Lazarus, who had no lifestyle choices, being desperately hungry and dependent upon the kindness of the wealthy, is raised to enjoy the consolations of heaven. While Dives, who presumably had every choice available to him and the power to shape his lifestyle any way he wanted, is sent to suffer the torments of hell. Only then, suffering the painful consequences of hell itself does Dives begin to assess his “lifestyle.”
This is not a parable for the squeamish, or more pointedly for those who think how we live has no real consequences.
Dr. Demko’s quiz may predict when we are going to die, but that’s not really the point of his death calculator, is it? The point is to choose to live in the healthiest way possible — now, before you’re dead, and have no choices at all.
In Jesus’ parable, that’s precisely the point of Father Abraham’s sharp reply to the rich man. Dives had a lifetime to live in a way that honored Moses and the prophets, and he failed even to notice the poor dying man at his front gate.