“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and
revere your God. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:32 NIV
“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of
righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31 NIV (see also 20:29)
Dear Church Family,
A video game advertisement popped up on my iPhone for a game that challenged you mentally. The higher your score, the “younger” it proclaimed your brain to be. That is an example of “ageism”—devaluing the aged. Why, I wondered, is your brain “younger” if it is smarter?
Now, I’m not a big fan of making everything an “ism,” but I do believe our society has devalued the wisdom of our senior citizens. For those of you who are not familiar with “Okay, Boomer,” it’s a recent expression used to refer dismissively to the opinions of those of the “Baby Boomer” generation. Essentially, it says, “you go on thinking like that, old person.”
So where does the self-assuredness of youth come from? Well, I’ve got a couple of ideas. First, there’s the emphasis on progress in modern culture. For some time, we’ve valued the new and innovative over the tried and true. Newer is advertised as better, more advanced. Likewise, younger people have “fresh ideas”; they know how to “think outside of the box.”
I also think we need to be honest enough to affirm that recent history—say the past hundred years or so—might have something to do with this attitude. The twentieth century was the bloodiest in human history. Much of that bloodshed has been laid at the feet of old values. Consequently, we’ve raised a generation that sees “tradition” as a prison from which to escape.
The Bible offers plenty of examples of old fools, and this letter is not saying the old always know more than the young. Young ideas can be a refreshing resource for solving age-old problems. I think, however, that we’re also seeing in society that the wholesale abandonment of traditions often just creates a new set of problems. The thing that is foremost in my mind right now is the dissolution of the nuclear family, which has been both cause and effect of tremendous suffering and chaos in society.
Although the Bible knows that all ages can act foolishly, there is a general veneration and respect paid to the elderly. From honoring fathers and mothers, to rising in the presence of the aged (Leviticus 19:2), to the wisdom of experience (Proverbs), the Bible is a source of wisdom itself that points us to another source of wisdom among our elderly citizens. Don’t forget to avail yourself of that resource.
Now get off my lawn!