You are Expendable…

...so die historic

In the most recent Mad Max movie, one war boy blurts out a memorable quote: “If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die historic on the fury road!” (Nux. Mad Max: Fury Road. 2015, Warner Brothers). His confrontation with mortality (he was sick, and thus in need of a blood transfusion from Max) reminded him that we all die eventually, and he wanted to do something “historic” along the way.

I was reminded of this quote while listening to Elisabeth Elliot’s talk on “Expendability for God” at http://discipleshiplibrary.com/. This missionary and prolific author, whose husband Jim Elliot died as a missionary in Ecuador, recently passed away on June 15, making her thesis strangely timely. She argues that Christians are expendable. This is a doctrine of the New Testament, she claimed, referencing Romans 12:1-2 (“offer your bodies as a living sacrifice”) as well as the experience of losing her husband on the mission field (along with 4 other men) in 1956.

How sad it is, she remarked, that men today do not view their lives as expendable. Rather, men are now very selfish, being mostly engaged in the pursuit of personal happiness.

I agree. Even the secular psychologist Roy Baumeister has written about just how expendable men are in his book “Is there anything good about men? How cultures flourish by exploiting men.”[1] He argues that men’s lives are worth less than those of women because they are so much less likely to reproduce. In the scope of human history, he estimates that women had twice the reproductive success of men, for a variety of reasons. This is one reason we (at least historically) send men to war, encourage women and children to abandon a sinking ship first, and reserve hazardous occupations (e.g., explorer) for men. We needed to protect the comparatively more valuable women for the survival of the tribe, nation, and species.  He argues that this underlies many gender differences in psychology, such as men’s risk taking and single-minded devotion to a pursuit. The successful ancestral man was willing to risk it all on a dangerous adventure if the potential reward was enough wealth and fame to attract a mate.

Whether or not you agree with Baumeister’s admittedly provocative thesis, it is strangely consistent with Elliot’s argument that we (Christians) should view our lives as expendable. We all die, so it’s more important to consider what you might accomplish with the time you have than to struggle to make it as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, in America men can get enough food, drink, sex, and entertainment without expending much energy that a thick fog of lethargy suffocates many men. I say “suffocates” because Neil Postman has said that the electronic age is killing our culture in his book Amusing ourselves to death.[2] And he wrote in the 80’s, before the revolution in video gaming! If you look around the church, you’ll see that congregations average 60% female. If you consider missionaries, about 2/3 are married, 1/3 are single women, and a tiny slice are single men.

Maybe we should start reminding young men that they are expendable. Not expendable as in “worthless,” but rather expendable like Paul, who said his life was being poured out as a drink offering (Philippians 2:17, 2 Timothy 4:6). He must have been reflecting on the words of Jesus, who said his blood was being poured out for his disciples (Luke 22:20). We should also pour out our lives toward some worthy end, recognizing that since we’re all gonna die, we should die having done something historic on the road to eternity.[3]

[1] Baumeister, R. F. (2010). Is there anything good about men?: how cultures flourish by exploiting men. Oxford University Press.

[2] Postman, N. (1985, 2006). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. Penguin.

[3] Matthew 7:13-14

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