How Wisdom Affects Causes of Death and Death Rates


How Wisdom Affects Causes of Death and Death Rates

Richard Hollerman

We know that God alone knows the condition of our body and when we will die of natural causes. He is our Maker and has both given us life and takes life away. As humans, we cannot fathom God’s plans for our life.  As James reminds us, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

If we have God’s wisdom, we can do certain things and refrain from doing other things that have a bearing on certain causes of death and death rates. In other words, although God knows beforehand when we will die and He holds us in His hands, we can have wisdom to do certain things that will either cause death, hasten death, or slow the progression of death. Our physical and health decisions, therefore, are figured into God’s own knowledge of our earthly life. Of course, 100 percent of people will die, but we have some effect of how or why we die.

Obviously, there are dozens of causes of death, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed the major reasons for death in the United States (for 2013). These are general categories but they do give us a view of the various kinds of death that people experience. And surprisingly, many of these deaths may be influenced by our own health practices. Let’s notice these leading causes of death and ask if there is anything that you and I can do to affect the outcome for ourselves.

        1.    Heart Disease (611,105). This is the leading causes of death, accounting for nearly 24 percent of all deaths. Those of us who have studied issues of health know that if we eat a healthy plant-based diet, low in fat and cholesterol and sodium, and if we engage in vigorous regular physical activity and exercise (and do this all of our life, beginning at a young age), we can largely prevent heart disease from overtaking us.


        2.    Cancer (584,881). This is the second greatest cause of death, accounting for nearly 23 percent of deaths. There are so many causes of cancer that it is difficult to make definite statements here, but we do know that some cancer (such as colon, prostate, breast, and others) can be prevented or decreased with a low-fat diet, exercise, and maintaining a low weight. The greatest cause of death (lung cancer) is largely preventable if we practice self-control and renounce all forms of tobacco use.


       3.    Lower respiratory disease (149,205). While some of this may be preventable (such as emphysema from smoking), we do know that others (such as asthma) is a difficult physical malady that affects many people.


        4.    Unintentional injuries (130,557). This would include such causes as car crashes, falls, and other accidents. Some may be preventable while others may not be. Those who make a practice of life-long exercise are less likely to fall and break bones than others who have remained sedentary. But we can’t prevent a drunk driver from killing us!


        5.    Stroke (128,978). This fifth leading cause of death is largely (but not totally) preventable. If one eats a low-fat, mostly plant-based, diet and engages in vigorous daily exercise, the vascular system will be healthier and stroke will be less likely.


       6.    Alzheimer’s disease (84,767). We all know that this disease is quite mysterious and we are not absolutely sure of its cause. However, eating well and exercising are known to have a positive effect on the body that may prevent this disastrous condition.


        7.    Diabetes. Many and perhaps most of diabetes cases are preventable through a natural, healthy diet and regular strenuous exercise. We can’t presume to say that all cases are preventable (especially Type 1 or childhood onset diabetes), but probably most cases wouldn’t exist if we take prudent measures to preserve our health.


        8.    Influenza and pneumonia (57,000). Some of this would be preventable and some may not be, but building up good natural resistance through a healthy lifestyle does contribute to better health that may help to protect against these conditions.


        9.    Kidney disease. Some but not all of this problem is also related to our lifestyle. If we prevent diabetes, we will prevent many problems with disease of the kidneys.


        10. Suicide (41,149). This cause of death may be prevented through the practice of good Biblical problem-solving means and committing one’s life to God. Such sins as suicide may be overcome through Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and the powerful indwelling work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.

Statistics show us the average number of years that a person may expect to live. An American woman generally will live to 81.2 years of age and an American man will live to 76.4 years of age.  If a woman or man has lived to age 65, the woman may live to age 85.5 years and the man may live to age 83. This is in harmony with the 70 to 80 years of Psalm 90:10. But some may live longer (depending on one’s genetics and lifestyle)—to age 90, 95, 100, or longer.

Will you or I live to be 100 years of age? The United Nations estimates that in 2012 there were 316,600 centenarians in the world. Longevity is something that can be influenced by what we do and don’t do, but it is also influenced by factors beyond us. Ultimately, it is God who determines how long we will live. People are living longer. According to the ONS, a third of babies born in 2013 are expected to live to be 100 in the UK ( wiki/Centenarian).

What about the United States? In 2010, America (which has the highest number of centenarians on earth) had 53,364 centenarians (those age 100 or older). This would be 17.3 people per 100,000 people in the country. At this same time, 82.2 percent of those 100 years old or older were women. Japan is second regarding the number of centenarians, with about 51,376 people in 2012. This country also has the highest rate of centenarians, at 34.85 per 100,000 people. Some have suggested that by 2015, there could be between 272,000 and one million people in Japan who have reached the 100 year mark.  It is interesting and significant to realize that traditionally, the Japanese have eaten mostly a plant-based diet that is low fat in nature. (Ibid.)

We realize that physical death has been with us since Adam sinned in the Garden (Genesis 3). We also know that death and all of its associated physical distress will continue until God brings the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1-2). Scripture offers this welcome prospect: “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (v. 4). Paul looked forward to his own release from bodily distress. He said that Christ “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21).

Until Christ does return to transform our lowly physical bodies and give us resurrected, glorified bodies like Christ (cf. 1 John 3:1-3), let’s do all we can to preserve our health. We may be 20 or 40 or 80, thus we may have already damaged our body through poor eating habits (eating junk foods, high-fat foods, etc.), through a sedentary lifestyle (not being physically active), and through an imprudent lifestyle. But we can do something and we can’t go back to a previous time of our life. We can only begin where we are and go on with greater wisdom in the future.

If we are responsible for our own physical disabilities and illness, we need to repent of our sins.  Millions of Americans need to humble themselves before God and admit their selfish nutritional and exercise choices. While God doesn’t promise us a perfect, renewed body in this life, we can be cleansed of our “physical” sins and go on from here with His blessing.

If we can do nothing more, at least we can begin to rid ourselves of the harmful junk foods, desserts, fried foods, etc., that we’ve been addicted to. We can begin to be more physically active. Even walking around the block once, twice, or ten times can be a start, dependent on our physical condition. But it is a start. (But we don’t want to lay blame on a person whose physical degeneration is no fault of their own.)

God, in His mercy, will honor every little bit we try to do to keep our body healthy. In reality, our body belongs to the Lord Himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), thus we have a great responsibility to treat His “property” with respect and responsibility.

(Statistics are taken from an article, “Deaths from Cancer, Heart Disease Decline,” found in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 1, 2015.)



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