The Bible and Treating the Elderly with respect

I read recently in a newspaper that instances of child abuse were rising in the United States, but instances of abuse of the elderly were rising twice as fast. This is one of the indications that treatment of the elderly needs to be an area of great concern to all of us.

There seems to be two views of age in today's society. The most prevalent view seems to be that of repulsion. Age is looked upon as an incurable disease. We fight against aging, we do not want to be reminded of what time can do to us. Thus, the aged elderly person is cast from society. They are made to feel useless, a burden to family, and often are cast off, avoided except on rare occasions of birthdays and Christmas morning. Another view is that age is beautiful. That age demands respect and dignity. That the elderly are giants of the forest, wise, full of experience, worthy of our praise and adoration. This is the view the Bible holds on age.

In Proverbs 23:22, Solomon exhorts his son to "harken to your Father who begot you and do not despise your mother when she is old." In the story of Job, we find that Elihu the younger of Job's friends waited until the older men had spoken to Job. He also treated his communication to Job with admiration and respect, since Job was his elder. In Exodus 20:12 we find the commandment - to honor your -father and mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you. In Mark 7:10-12, we find Jesus saying, "He who speaks evil of his father and mother, let him surely die." He goes on to say that the Pharisees had made void the law of God by their disgraceful treatment of the elderly.

I am reminded of Caleb, who at the age of 85 came to Joshua and took possession of that inheritance he had earned. Age demands an inheritance. Old age should be a time for ego integrity. The elderly have made their mark on life. They have performed well, and have confidence that their life was well spent in raising children, making the world a better place, and in training the next generation. They have a wealth of wisdom to share, experience to relate, expressions and advice on life to share. They await new experiences, and are getting prepared for the last experience of this life, and for a whole new world beyond death. They have earned our love and respect.

Nature herself teaches us that age demands dignity and honor. The older the redwoods, the more majestic. The older wines and cheeses are, the more they are praised and honored for taste. Should it not hold true that the older a man, the more he is to be appreciated by others. I am convinced that young people are missing one of the greatest opportunities available when they do not get to know the elderly and associate with them. All too soon these towering pillars of faith and wisdom will pass from our midst and the loss will be tremendous. In closing, let us remember 4 lessons that might make all the difference in the world on our view of the elderly.

First, age does not mean that someone is useless. I have been shamed by the failure of the young to use the talents of the elderly. I am inspired by their fighting spirit. In our efforts to destroy them we have tried to make them useless. They have fought back saying, "I exist. I have something to offer you if you will accept it." I have been amazed at the elderly people who have accepted challenges of work in the church and done fantastic work. Get to know your elderly in your neighborhood or family. You might be surprised by their wit, humor, and their ability to guide you.

Secondly, allow them to share with you their life. Some of the greatest lessons I learned about life, I learned from my grandfather. He was 86 and full of cancer, yet he taught me some lessons on living. He was full of humor, wisdom, and was a strong man of faith in God. His advice I will never forget. I am reminded of Timothy as he learned from the Apostle Paul, an old warrior instructing the new recruit. Had Timothy now allowed Paul to share his life with him, the church might have been hurt, even destroyed where Timothy was concerned.

Thirdly, age carries with it only one promise. That when we are old we will receive the respect, dignity and honor that is due us. That someone will care and want to return the love and care that was given so long ago to others. It is the Golden Rule in effect. They now want others to do unto them what they have done unto others.

Fourthly, remember - growing old is not a disease or a woe to humanity. It is our right. It is a privilege allowed by God. It is an opportunity to be useful and productive a little longer in the service of our family and of our God. Truly age is beautiful.

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