WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT AGING
Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, "Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?"
"Outstanding," Fred replied. "They taught us all the latest psychological techniques: visualization, association. It was great."
"Wow! What was the name of the clinic?"
Fred went blank. He thought and thought but couldn't remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, "What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?"
"You mean a rose?"
"Yes, that's it!" He turned to his wife, "Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?"
All of us are going to get old, if we live long enough. We happen to live in a time when the number of older people is increasing. The average life expectancy in the United States has risen from the late 40s 100 years ago, to the early 80s today. Women still live an average of five years longer than men.
The present concept of aging needs to be changed. Our society seems to say to retired people, “You have done your part, now you can rest. Your days of usefulness or over.” And with that, business sets those over 65 on the shelf. And what is worse, the golden ager places himself on the shelf also. The same idea has pervaded the church. The golden agers say, “Let the younger ones do it. I have served my time.” So therefore, all of their years of experience and their years of knowledge and their years of usefulness have ceased.”
This is contrary to the Biblical view of aging. The Bible does not look upon a person as being useless when he or she reaches a certain age. The Bible says that every person is of great value and especially those who have lived a long time. The Bible has several things to say about aging.
OLD AGE SHOULD BE RESPECTED
In the Book of Proverbs 23:22 we read, “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” The Bible is saying that there is something about the character of old age that demands our respect. First, for parenthood. Children are to respect the ones who gave them life, teaching, and provision for their needs. There is no greater contribution that one can make other than that of parenthood. This should be remembered when the parents grow to old age.
The second suggestion of this verse is that old age should be respected because of accumulated wisdom. “Listen to your father.” The young should listen to the old. They have traveled farther down the road. They have walked into the jaws of adversity and wrestled with the big issues of life. They have seen and experienced far more than those who are younger. Life is so designed that wisdom only comes in the accumulation of years. And it seems tragic that when a person dies that he cannot impart his wisdom to someone else. The only way to get it is the hard way. There should be respect for one who has through the years of experience accumulated wisdom.
This verse also suggests that there should be respect for the needs of the older person. “And do not despise your mother when she is old.” Every age has its needs, but needs are no more acute than the needs of the older person. And perhaps there are no greater adjustments than the adjustments that come in retirement. Now new things need to be found to keep one busy. The older person has to cope with illness, disability, and has adjustment to the loss of loved ones. A widow must learn to cope with loneliness, but she also needs to know how to get her car repaired, her checkbook balanced, and her water heater replaced.
The widower will have to adjust to long hours of solitude. But he will also need to know how to mend his torn shirts, cook his meals, and do his laundry. Although few elderly persons fear dying, most do show an understandable anxiety. Most are more fearful of the idleness and uselessness in old age than they are of death itself. Not only do the young need to respect old age, it needs to be respected by the golden ager himself. The attitude with which one enters any phase of life is important. But especially it is important the way that one looks at his or her latter years. “It`s not how old you are, it`s how you are old.” ― Jules Renard
The Bible also indicates that
OLD AGE SHOULD BE SECURE
In Psalm 37:25 we read, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread.” Our text today, Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age, I shall be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I shall carry you; and I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.”
These verses indicate that an individual in old age should be secure as a person. Of course, the special benefits that come to the believer are as available in old age as they were earlier in life. The Christian is the one who can look at old age victoriously and be a conqueror. He can look upon his development into a whole person with greater sensitivity and insight than he could earlier in life. It is in Christ that we realize who we are.
The Scriptures also indicate that old age should be a time secure in provisions. This is a time when the necessities of life become acute. Going to the grocery store can be a real chore. The preparing of meals can be a difficult procedure. Making the Social Security check and other resources last an entire month takes good management. We are told that a retired person needs at least two other sources of income such as a retirement plan and savings. These have to begin early in life.
I conducted a service in a retirement home and spoke on the 23rd Psalm. Following the service, I walked through the home and talked to those who could not come to the main meeting. As I walked into one room a dear lady sitting in a wheelchair held out her hand and said, “Come and talk to me. I heard the singing and I listened to your message. I want to testify that the Lord is my Shepherd and He is taking care of me.” I noticed that she was blind. All the possessions she had in the world were right there in the corner of that room in which she lived and yet she trusted in His provision for food, shelter, and daily companionship to make her hours filled with His presence.
The Bible also indicates that old age should be a time when we are secure in purpose. When does a person grow old? A person grows old when he or she ceases to have a purpose – and that can be at any age. Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, “People grow old from deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkled your skin, but to give up interests rankles the soul. When the wires are all blown down and your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism and then, and only then have you grown old.”
We justify our existence not by adding years to our lives, but adding life to our years. Michelangelo painted the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel lying on his back on a scaffold when he was almost 90. Paderewski played the piano superbly in concerts when he was 79. At 88, John Wesley preached every day. Tennyson was 83 when he wrote, “Crossing The Bar.” Booth Tarkington wrote 16 novels after he was 60 and some of them when he was almost totally blind. Benjamin Franklin went to France in the service of his country when he was 78 and wrote his autobiography when he was over 80.
Thomas Dreyer says, “The reason so many retired men die is because they stop doing everything they do not want to do. When they do that they also stop growing. Growth is the result of assuming obligations and responsibilities. Retirement is too often a state of slow decay and death. The minds of too many retired men become a stagnant pool.” The person who has a purpose is secure. The person who loses his purpose dies slowly. “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” ― John Barrymore
The Bible also indicates
OLD AGE CAN BE FRUITFUL
In Psalm 92:12-15 we read, “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
This Scripture tells us several things about old age being fruitful. It says that the seed of devotion planted in youth will flourish in old age. The believer is compared to a tree like a cedar in Lebanon. In youth, the tree is tender and somewhat unstable. But the more it grows the deeper its roots go. The taller it grows, the larger and firmer and more stable it is. The larger the tree, the more stable it is to withstand the winds of adversity. The psalmist is saying that God’s people are like a tree even in old age. It is a blessed sight to see a person who has learned to walk with the Lord in his or her youth and to observe that the golden years are filled with a deep, rich, abiding fellowship with Him. These are the people who know how to live. These are the ones who know how to adjust to their ever-changing future.
Another thing that this passage says is that spiritual growth knows no season. Our greatest needs that we give attention to are physical. But we are basically spiritual beings and our greatest needs our spiritual. The one who has borne the fruit of the Holy Spirit lives life in balance. Dr. Carl Stoltz in his book “Making the Most of the Rest of Life” says that adulthood is divided into four periods: First, Adjustment – 25 to 35 years; Achievement – 35 to 55 years; Conservation – 55 to 65 years. Conservation means the preparation for the latter years. And Retirement – 65 and up.
The attitude with which one approaches retirement is vital to his productiveness in retirement. With the lifespans getting longer and longer, the retirement age is being pushed back to 70. But many will keep on working, not because they must, but because they want to. It will be possible for some to have two or three careers in a lifetime.
The person who dwells in the past grows old before his time. But the one who lives for the future remains forever young. A study was made of 400 famous people who were statesmen, painters, warriors, poets, and writers. 35% said that their greatest achievements came between the years 60 and 70. 23% said they achieved the most between 70 and 80. 8% said they were over 80. In other words, 66% of the world’s greatest work has been done by people past 60.
This passage says a third thing about being fruitful. The best witness will be the one who has walked the longest with the Lord. The maturity and richness of years spent in fellowship with the Lord are the greatest preparation for retirement that a person can have. These should be the years when eternal things are much more precious. In reality, it can only be so when there is a steady advancement, a continual growth in grace and building toward a crescendo in the latter years. Old age can be fruitful.
Robert Browning summed it up well in saying, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in His hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” PRAISE BE TO THE LORD!