“When I’m 64” became a hit when it was included on the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album released by The Beatles in 1967. What many do not know is that the song was written by band member Paul McCartney when he was 14 years old. In his lyrics he envisions life 50 years in the future. The famous refrain is, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”
The Great Commission and Great Commandment give purpose to life. God commissions us to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). At the heart of this commission is the Good News that calls us into a growing, personal relationship with God. As a Christian, one will never “age out” of discipleship. In the best-selling book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life,” my former Midwestern Seminary colleague Dr. Don Whitney includes Bible Intake, Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Serving, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence & Solitude, Journaling, Learning and Perseverance as marks of biblical discipleship. Through partnerships with MBC churches, NAMB and WMU, Baptist Homes & Healthcare seeks to ensure biblical discipleship is part of each residents’ care-plan.
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia might raise the question, “Will you still need me?” Once again, we must turn to Scripture. The Great Commandment instructs us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” When we love those whose physical or cognitive capacities are diminished, we are fulfilling God’s command to love unconditionally – the same way Christ demonstrated His love towards us.
The idea that someone can be deemed unneeded or unworthy of necessities (“Will you still feed me?”) is at the heart of the growing eugenics movement. Another misguided movement that rejects the sanctity of life is ironically billed as “Dying with Dignity”, “Right to Die” or PAS, an acronym for Physician Assisted Suicide. Those who promote euthanasia to avoid pain discard Scripture that speaks of suffering as having a divine purpose (Romans 5:3-4).
Centuries prior to the refrain by young Paul McCartney, another songwriter pleaded, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Psalm 71:9). Unlike McCartney, the songwriter underwent a change of perspective as he reflected upon God’s plan:
“You caused me to experience many troubles and misfortunes, but you will revive me again. You will bring me up again, even from the depths of the earth. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. Therefore, I will praise you with a harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing to you with a lyre, Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you because you have redeemed me. Therefore, my tongue will proclaim your righteousness all day long, for those who intend to harm me will be disgraced and confounded” (Psalm 71:20-24)