Summary: In a culture which values its elderly less and less, God calls us as the church to treat the elderly like family and like a fortune.
When I was a teenager, I thought people in their 50’s were really old. Now, that I’ve recently celebrated my 52nd birthday, I’m not so sure, especially since I’m around so many people here who are still going strong in their 70’s and 80’s. They don’t seem so old any more.
So how do you know when you’re getting old? Well, here’s what some “old people” had to say.
You know you’re getting old when…
• Almost everything hurts, and what doesn't hurt doesn't work.
• It feels like the morning after the night before, and you haven't been anywhere.
• All the names in your little black book end in M.D.
• You look forward to a dull evening at home.
• You turn out the lights for economic, not romantic reasons.
• Your knees buckle and your belt won't.
• You sink your teeth into a steak and they stay there.
• You try to straighten the wrinkles in your socks and find you aren't wearing any.
• And you know that little gray-haired lady that helps you across the street? She’s your wife. (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, p. 25)
Do any of you feel old yet? The fact is ALL of us are getting old. People over 65 years of age already make up 13.5% of the population in the state of Wisconsin and over 22% of the population right here in Door County. And when the 77 million baby boomers start reaching retirement in the next two or three years, those numbers are going to swell even more all across America.
This has profound implications for our country and for the church in particular. With 3 workers per retiree today, Social Security is already severely strained. But very soon, by the year 2035, the ratio will be 2 workers per retiree, according to the 2010 Social Security Trustees Report (Page 10). Then it will be completely unsustainable in its current form.
On top of that, with nationalized health care on the way, bureaucrats in Washington DC will have no choice but to limit health care to the elderly simply because it will be too expensive to care for so many. Their lives will be considered not having sufficient quality to save, and many will be left to die.
There is already a push in our society for physician assisted suicide where a person’s so-called “right to die” is quickly becoming their “duty to die” so they don’t become a burden to their families and to society. More and more, the life of an elderly person is considered cheap and not worth saving, but Christ calls the church to a different attitude.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (NIV)
The church is a family. And as such, we must treat everyone in the church as family – the older men as fathers, the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, & the younger women as sisters.
Specifically, God says exhort them (vs.1). Now that word is rich in meaning, and is translated in various ways in our New Testaments. Sometimes it is translated “encourage,” at other times, “exhort,” “help,” or “comfort.” The word literally means, “come along side and help.”
And it’s the same word used of our Lord throughout the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 1, God the Father is the one who “comforts us in all our troubles” (vs.4). He comes along side us to help us make it through times of sorrow. In 1 John 2, God the Son is our “advocate.” He’s comes along side to help us plead our case before the Father when we sin. & In John 14 and 16, God the Holy Spirit is called “the Counselor,” “the Comforter” or “the Helper,” depending on which translation you use. He is the one who is called along side to help us since Jesus has ascended into heaven. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – all three – are right there beside us to help us every single day.
And God wants us to come along side of each other to comfort when one is hurting, to defend each other, and to help in practical ways. This is especially true of the elderly in our midst. We must…
TREAT THEM LIKE FAMILY.
Our society more and more wants to put them away, but God wants us to come along side and help them just like we would our own mothers and fathers.