The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV).
Respect your elders: we’ve all learned this maxim. It’s Biblically based; this you can see for yourself. Yet it’s probably the best common sense advice we could learn apart from “Love the Lord your God.”
I’m in my early fifties now, so the realization that I have probably lived most of my life has finally hit my radar. Statistically speaking, I won’t be here fifty-two years from now. That realization is making me take stock of what older people have to offer. Not long ago I read that, when an old person dies, a library of priceless information dies with them; I believe I may have shared that not long ago.
Previously shared or not, it’s true. Just in life experiences, our world’s most valuable resource may just be those who have lived in it for a long time. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that we should respect them? Sure, there are may older folks who say and do things that aren’t worthy of respect; see “US government.” Yet the vast majority of older people have lived honorable lives, learned valuable lessons, seen and done things that the younger generations would be wise to learn while they still have these rugged senior citizens available.
Consider this: most churches are staffed by folks who have been around the block. The church councils, session boards, or committees are, in most cases, staffed by people with experience. More often than not, those people are senior citizens, mainly because they have the time and commitment to serve. Those are things many younger families usually don’t have in abundance. This is also true for election workers, members of the VFW and American Legion, the Ladies’ Auxilliary, the Rotary and Lions and Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus organizations.
If the (largely) elder people who staff these civic organizations that keep our communities running do so successfully, shouldn’t that mean that we should give them the respect they are due? That’s what Paul is saying. The people who step up to keep the church running by performing vital organization tasks are worthy of double respect, double honor. The people who work to keep civic organizations operating are worthy of respect, honor, and deference. Your grandparents, the old guy who won’t get out of the left lane, that woman with a walker: God asks us to respect them because gray hair is a crown of glory.
In a world focused on worshipping the ideas and actions of the young (especially in pop culture and politics), it’s good to remember Paul’s reminder that young people don’t grow older without usually becoming wiser.
For further reading: Proverbs 16:31, 1 Timothy 5:18.
Lord Jesus, thank You for older people, for people who have lived to become wiser. Show me ways today that I can honor them and their knowledge and experience.