We use the expression, accurately enough, when we talk of a successful operation, a graft or a bypass or even a stent, after what could have been a fatal heart-attack. We use it metaphorically to talk about restored machines or furniture or toys. But we think more of the word “life” than of the word “lease”.
Sometimes we lease cars, we lease property, we rent – by preference or necessity – rather than purchase such goods. By definition a lease has a time-limit. We have no right to the use of the object in question once that drop-dead date has arrived. The epithet is particularly apt when we apply it to the lease we have on life, from the moment a lucky spermatozoïde penetrates an ovum. The life that results may have a short, even very short, lease on life through natural or induced abortion, or a long lease – like the one I, at the age of 76 – for the time being – continue to enjoy. But is a lease with a limit, not just a “Use before” or “Best before” date, as on a can of meat, fruit or vegetables, but a literal “drop-dead” date. Once we arrive at that date, at that limit, we cease to exist.
It is curious, to say the least, that a God would be disposed to set such limits on life. It is already intriguing that evolution should have done so. But that a supposedly intelligent, omniscient, omnipotent, divinely good Person would do so, defies imagination. What on earth would be the point or the justification ? I suppose the question is as silly as the answers non-atheists give to the question.
Whether such an Intelligent Designer or dumb evolution set the limit, we are given not only a mere lease on life but a lease where the limit is not announced, let alone agreed, in advance. Imagine renting a car or an appartment when the owner retains the right to reclaim his property any time he likes. I suppose some would be grateful for the privilege of the right to use the object for as long as the whim of the owner so permits. But we would feel more secure if we had the certitude of enjoying the right to use for a determined, known and agreed length of time. Life is not like that. When our time is up, it’s over. I find it incredible that a God would be so cruel, so fickle, so indiscriminate as to allow some a longer, sometimes much longer, lease than others. I can much more easily accept the fact that whether by accident or misuse or malfunction or wear and tear or exhaustion, the lease we had on life simply expires. Surely a good God would not give life to His children and then, often when they least expect it, take it away from them. Believers have, to understate the fact, created a very curious God.