“Wisdom of Living (8): Gray is Beautiful”           By Pastor Yau

Proverbs 20:29                                                   November 7, 2004

 

INTRODUCTION:  While there are things in the American culture trigger my curiosity, the custom of giving black balloons and birthday cakes with words like “OVER THE HILL” to people who reach age 40 is one of those things I find it hard to understand or appreciate. These 40-year-olds are deemed as people who are going downhill in their lives, future and usefulness. No wonder some people call America the paradise for the young, battlefield for the middle-age and gravesite for the old.  But the Bible has much to say in contrary to the American culture on being old.

       In the Scripture reference quoted above, King Solomon gave a more balance and wise statement on people who are in different stages of life. He said, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.”  He had given merits to both groups unique to their respective stage of life. Since there are people of all age groups in every church, a more balanced and biblically based outlook on older people is vitally important not just to maintain unity but to encourage involvement and service of all age groups for the furtherance of the Kingdom of the Lord.

 

TEACHINGS ON AGE IN THE BIBLE: 

1)   LIFE IN DIFFERENT STAGES: People in different age groups have their unique contribution: the young is in their physical strength while the older in their life experience and both deserve their glory or respect. To despise people base on their age is against the teaching of the Bible. We should respect the unique contribution of people on all life stages.

2)   GROWING OLDER AND WISER: Most of the giants in the Bible went through their youthful days with bad choices and faulty actions.  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David and Solomon in the O.T. as well as Peter and Paul in the N.T. all went through their years of maturity. No one will reach his highest usefulness without going through the cycle of aging.

3)   HONORING THE ELDERLY: The Bible has so much to teach us in honoring our parents, definitely older; listen to our fathers, also older; to obey our fathers and mothers who are older; and to respect the elderly. There are more than a dozen references in the Bible that encourage the younger to respect and listen to the older.

 

PRACTICAL CYCLE OF LIFE: 

1)   IT IS GOD’S DESIGN: We all will agree that God could have created man without the aging process if He so chose to but He didn’t. In His infinite wisdom, God installed in man the process of aging with all the beauty and problems of it. God did not intend for men to live in the world forever because there is another place for him, the heavenly abode, with Him.  God allows men to live through the stages of life: infancy, adolescent, youth, young adults, middle age and mature years, with all the different experience and glamour of life. No one can imagine God would like men to be babies all their lives.

2)   LIFE IS LIKE MOUNTAIN CLIMBING: the higher you arrive, the more you see. That is what we call “experience”, and there is nothing else could replace that. When Paul, the Apostle, refused to allow John Mark to be in his second missionary journey, he looked at Mark’s failure in the first journey and he was rightly. But when Paul was in his older years, he called Mark “profitable” to him. (2 Tim. 4:11) You can’t see life at its broader spectrum without growing older.

3)   LIFE IS A JOURNEY: you start somewhere without the guarantee of a smooth ride. But you persist, continue, struggle and getting ahead until you reach the destination God has designated for you. In the process, you conquer obstacles, cross rivers of danger, struggle through deserts of heart-breaking and passing mountains. You see people reach their older age in keeping their faith, their marriage, their commitment and many others achievements. They have gone through all the ups and downs to reach the stage you see them today. As Paul described his journey in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He did not reach all these without sacrifices, determination and commitment.

 

HOW SHOULD WE TREAT THE ELDERLY?

1)   We should respect the elderly: their experience, wisdom and achievements. Without the former generation, there will be no next generation. It doesn’t matter how much you may have in education or position in your career, we need to respect those who have lived more years than we have. This is about attitude.

2)   We also need to be humble to seek their advice. They have gone through many of the paths we have yet to travel. By listening to them, we may save some setback, avoid some pitfalls or failures. It was his arrogance and disrespect to the advice of the elders, King Rehoboam, son of the wise king, Solomon, he lost 3/4 of his kingdom and brought in endless years of internal fights among the Israelites.

3)   Meeting the needs of the elderly: materially, emotionally and spiritually. God has created families and societies for the benefit of raising the young and caring the old. It is the duty and honor of the younger to meet the needs of the older. (1 Tim. 5:8) This is part the love we share in our own family and concentric circles. We also need to lead our older generation, especially our own parents, to salvation.

 

CONCLUSION:   We all grow older everyday. It is a blessing from the Lord who allows us to go through the different stages of life. Let us begin a legacy of respect and cherish the elderly among us. Treat them with honor and love. By the way, Abraham was 75 when God called him to leave his home for the “Promised Land.” A life in God’s will is never “over the hill.”