New, new, new! Our society loves what is new. Relentlessly we upgrade to the new and junk the old—old clothes, old technology—even old people. Ironically, the most mature, experienced, knowledgeable, proven and perhaps most valuable people among us are those paid the least attention.
Much of the responsibility for righting this wrong lies with those who are younger. But some of it lies with you seniors.
God wants you to savor what should truly be your golden years. He wants your relevance to your family and your society to increase with age, and He reveals how in the Holy Bible.
To evoke honor among younger people, God obliges you to live honorably. You must not only accumulate years of experiences, but also develop sterling character through those experiences. Proverbs 16:31 states, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.”
Titus 2:2 gives this instruction: “Bid the older men be temperate [self-controlled], serious [venerable, honorable, honest], sensible, sound in faith [strong faith and moral conviction], in love [God’s love], and in steadfastness [cheerful endurance and patient continuance]” (Revised Standard Version). Examining definitions and examples of these words is a good personal Bible study for older men.
The passage continues: “Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited” (verses 3-5; rsv).
God commands that older women make themselves teachers of younger women. Older men ought to do the same for younger men. This cannot happen if the younger don’t listen, but neither can it happen if the older don’t teach!
Younger people need the experience and wisdom of their elders. This requires seniors to conduct themselves as godly examples and to be willing to take the lead in conversation to pass on the lessons God has taught them over the years. “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding” (Job 12:12; see also Job 32:7). Seniors, do you see yourself this way? Or do you think, I have nothing to teach. Even if you have been overlooked in the past, seek to align your thinking with God’s.
Your mission is to pass on years’ worth of experiences, biblical wisdom and godly maturity. Your mission is to help the next generation to avoid mistakes, to have a better life, and to transmit even more wisdom to the generation after them.
Don’t feel resigned to life on the sidelines. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated. Don’t think that because you are unfamiliar with some gadget or style, your life experiences are irrelevant. Work to become more comfortable and confident speaking to and even seeking out the young parents, the college students, the teens. Ask them questions. Learn what challenges they face. Get them talking. And when the opportunity arises, offer some encouragement and advice, based on the Bible and how it has applied in your life. New dogs need to learn some old tricks.
Pray that God will open the door for these kinds of exchanges. And even if a conversation is awkward at first, don’t give up! Remember that if the young people around you neglect contact with you, their lives will be poorer for it.
“A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22). Perhaps the greatest inheritance you can give your children and grandchildren is your experience, your wisdom, your life.
For this purpose, keep your mind fresh. Never stop learning. Your vision may dim, putting one foot in front of the other may get harder, but God expects you to continue to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually right up until you draw your last breath. Herbert W. Armstrong did the best work of his life from ages 86 to 93, even as his health grew frail. Interestingly, in his final years, he focused a lot on youth: He launched several programs for children and teens, including a youth magazine. Without a determination to squeeze all he could out of his physical frame, his body surely would have failed much earlier.
“One of the most important lessons we all must learn is to live the present and not the past,” the Good News of June-July 1979 advised. “Perhaps the greatest service older people can render younger ones is to show them by their own example and positive attitude that one can be happy at any age.”
How you start your life is not as important as how you finish it (Ecclesiastes 7:1). God is judging you according to how you use your life today. You can’t change the past. But you can change the present by aligning your thoughts and attitudes with God’s.
Show those around you, of all ages, a life lesson with your words and your example. Your smile, your questions, your answers, your encouragement, your laughter can change people’s lives, perhaps now more than ever. And with your example in mind for years to come, the next generation will be able to do the same for those who come after.