It was designed as an alien greeting, but it expresses a deeply human desire. It’s a wish God desires to fulfill. What must we do to “live long and prosper”?
Live long and prosper.
That’s how Mr. Spock greeted others. What is now a ubiquitous phrase entered pop culture as a greeting from the alien Vulcan civilization in the original Star Trek series from the 1960s. It was accompanied by a Vulcan salute, “made by raising the hand with the palm facing out, extending the thumb, and parting the fingers between the middle and ring finger” (Live Long and Prosper Day website).
Origin of the Vulcan salute and greeting
The actual origin of the salute is interesting. Leonard Nimoy, who was cast as Mr. Spock in the television series, based the Vulcan salute on a gesture used in the priestly blessing he saw in his youth at an Orthodox synagogue.
The blessing itself is found in Numbers 6:23-27. God told Moses: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”’ So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
The wording “live long and prosper” is reminiscent of Deuteronomy 5:16 and 33.
It seems unlikely that Mr. Nimoy could have anticipated the viral nature of his salute and greeting. Yet the greeting has become a byword across cultures and generations.
Live long and prosper. It’s a succinct, noble goal—one that speaks to a yearning within each human to experience a fulfilling, abundant life.
And yet, too often, a fulfilling, rewarding life seems out of reach for many in today’s world. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light many economic, social and political fractures that crisscross the modern world. Civil unrest, violence and depression have impacted millions as the world balances precipitously on a razor’s edge of discontent and a future that, for many, appears hopeless.
Live long and prosper. Is this ideal even possible to achieve in the modern world? Is such an outcome offered to Christians? As we’ll see, this desired outcome, much like the basis for the quote itself, is rooted in a relationship with God.
Commandment for life and prosperity
The apostle Paul capitalized on this yearning when addressing younger Christians. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. This sounds remarkably akin to live long and prosper.
Paul, writing to the Christian community in Ephesus, quotes the Fifth Commandment as recorded in Deuteronomy 5:16. This commandment forecasts the benefits from obedience: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. Arranging one’s lifestyle and manner of thinking according to a godly standard, in this case showing honor to one’s parents, brings blessings and opportunities for a more abundant, rewarding life.
It is worth noting that the age of the children is not limited. God didn’t include an age limit in the Fifth Commandment. Instead, this key to abundant living applies to humanity as a whole. All of us are children—both in physical family relationships as well as in community relationships.
While the Fifth Commandment directly addresses one’s own parents, the principle of honoring and respecting others includes the entire human family.While the Fifth Commandment directly addresses one’s own parents, the principle of honoring and respecting others includes the entire human family (Leviticus 19:32; Zechariah 7:9-10; James 1:27).
In Ephesians 5 and 6 Paul addresses the dynamics of a Christian home. Those dynamics should align with principles embedded in Scripture. Wise King Solomon declared, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). The same applies to family life.
When children learn to honor their father and mother, they are primed to learn the keys to right living. Cooperating with and respecting authority brings automatic benefits, while disrespecting authority brings automatic penalties.
God’s way works
In highlighting the Fifth Commandment, Paul expounds on a foundational, spiritual principle. When human behavior and activity are governed or directed by the righteous laws of God, lives are enriched and living becomes more rewarding. God’s way of life works.
This general observation about human life is repeated in the Bible. There is a way of living that degrades and destroys; and there is a way of living that leads to a more rewarding, fulfilling existence.
Note this guidance: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry . . . But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:5, 8). These wrong behaviors and choices result in heartache, anguish and strife.
In contrast: “Therefore . . . put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15). These lifestyle choices facilitate joy, peace and harmony.
That abundant way of living is summarized within the 10 Commandments. For more detailed explanations of the 10 Commandments, see our free booklet God’s 10 Commandments: Still Relevant Today.
To be clear, Paul’s explanation of the Fifth Commandment should not be interpreted as a promise of unending physical health and wealth. There are tragic examples where lives have been cut short by illness, war and accidents. And, in a world currently operating at odds with many of the right principles, the righteous will face persecution at times. For more information, see our online article “Why Am I Suffering?”
A generational impact
The choice to live according to the guidance and boundaries offered by God is consequential. In Exodus 20, the Fifth Commandment is preserved this way: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (verse 12).
This implies more than merely extending one’s own individual blessings. Rather, incorporating the commandments into how one thinks and interacts with others can make a generational impact. The character of a family often is passed on. Right character, reflected in obedience and submission to God’s principles for living, establishes an ongoing legacy of blessings that may extend for generations.
Perhaps the most vivid example is that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God granted abundant blessings to Abraham and his descendants. Why? “Because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Genesis 26:5).
It was Abraham’s obedience, and the character it built, that brought such prominent blessings. Those blessings then extended to future generations of his family. To learn more about the generational benefits of obedience, see our online article “God’s Promises to Abraham.”
In light of this, parents have a special responsibility to instill hearts of obedience and honor into their children by bringing them up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This requires a focused effort to instruct, guide and exhort our children.
If you’re a parent who desires to teach your children about the right way to live, our “Encourage, Equip & Inspire” family resources can help. Take the time to examine what God says about family, and work to incorporate those ideas into your own family.
Long life and prosperity
Where, then, does all this lead?
The apostle Paul called his younger protégé Timothy “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2) and “a beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2). Paul reminded him, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Living in a manner consistent with the Bible leads to the life which is to come. That life is eternal. Talk about a long life!
Jesus was asked, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). It’s a valid question—one we might all ponder at times. Christ was quite plain in His response: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17). He was saying that obedience to God’s laws is a starting point. God’s way of living leads to long life and prosperity!
Live long and prosper. Is that something you want to strive toward?
As Jesus said, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” This means making the daily, disciplined decision to examine God’s Word for guidance on how to live and then taking active steps to implement that instruction in our daily choices. To help you get started, consider our free 11-lesson Bible Study Course.
God has a plan for you. It’s one that involves abundant living for eternity. Live long and prosper!