The Book of Life

The Social Security Administration has your number. Or you’d better hope they do. If they zap it you’re in for a nightmare ride that may include termination of benefits, loss of health insurance, cancellation of credit/debit cards, and even denial of access to your bank account.

Just ask Laura Brooks of Spotsylvania, Virginia. Social Security stopped direct-depositing Laura’s funds, and her checks started bouncing. The bank told her that her account had been frozen because she was dead, and that she was locked out unless she could prove that she was alive.

It took two months for Social Security wizards to “revive” her. They resumed her payments, but didn’t refund those she missed while she was dead. They also shorted her deposits because they lost her file, which took two years to rebuild.

Judy Rivers, of Jasper, Alabama, found herself chin-deep in the same mess. Her banker refused to rent her a safety deposit box or renew her credit card—because she was dead. “Well, the good news,” Judy chirped, “is that since I’m dead I can stop making payments to the bank on my car loan.” She said he didn’t go for that.

Laura and Judy are just two among thousands of very-much-alive people in the Social Security graveyard. They’re killing off over a thousand people every month whose hearts are still beating—a whopping 36,657 in the last three years. Administration spokesman Mark Hinkle says the errors are usually caused by human error when flawed data is entered into the computer system. Appealing the deletion can take over a year. In fact, some victims of this digital death have spent as long as 18 years resuscitating their credit lives.

But give the Social Security folks this—they’re on top of it when it comes to names. With a single mouse-click they can spit out the most popular girls’ and boys’ names from a hundred years ago. Here are the top five from 1913 …

Girls: Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth.
Boys: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph.

The top five a hundred years later are …

Girls: Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Avia.
Boys: Jacob, Mason, William, Jayden, Noah.

I need to get out more; I don’t even know anyone named Isabella, Avia, or Jayden.

You can go to the Social Security website and find out if you’re wearing one of the most-popular monikers for your birth year. Should it bother you if you’re not? Nah.

But there’s one place you want to be sure your name appears: The Book of Life. Paul tips his hat to his “fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3). And Hebrews salutes believers of all ages whose names are in that book (Hebrews 12:23).

Jesus’ Advance Team of six dozen men made headlines performing miracles and traipsing among snakes and scorpions unharmed. They were exuberant: “even the demons submit to us,” they reported. “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you,” Jesus responded, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Getting your name in the Capernaum Gazette doesn’t amount to much, but getting it in The Book of Life sure does.

You got a promotion; ran a marathon; wrote a book; won a case; aced an election; discovered a cure for cancer. Good for you! That’ll spice up a résumé and make for impressive obituary copy. But it’s limited to a tiny time slice of 70 or 80 years and ain’t worth a saucer of cheese grits if your name isn’t in The Book of Life. But get your name in that book and you’ll just be getting started when you’ve clicked off a billion years.

In Revelation 20 John saw a ghastly end for anyone whose “name was not found written in the book of life.” Those who will experience joy forever, he said, are “those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

You can’t download a copy of The Book of Life from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because there’s only one copy, and it’s in heaven’s keeping. No one can tamper with it. It’s free from error; you don’t need to worry about someone tapping the delete key and snuffing your name.

You can’t buy your way into that book, but it cost a lot to get you there: blood; death. That’s why it’s called “the book of life of the Lamb slain” (Revelation 13:8).