By Carl McMurray
The writer of Ecclesiastes is believed by many (including myself) to have been written by Solomon in his later years, after he learned the mistakes of following after one’s own desires. The picture he paints in chapter 12, of that time of life after youth is gone, is certainly not a pleasant one. He speaks of “evil days” with no delight. He speaks of the time when eye grows dim, shoulders stoop, and hands that were once strong, now tremble. He writes of the time when the sweet sounds of this life will go unheard and rest will fly away at any noise. As the head turns white, things which would have been unworthy of consideration in younger years now become fearful, that which seemed most captivating earlier, now is uninteresting. One is drawing near to his eternal home. Is the picture accurate? Certainly! But the Bible teaches that there is more to old age than losing one’s youth.
Proverbs 20:28 is written by the same author. Here Solomon says, “The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair.” Again in 16:31, “a gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.”
The Scriptures point out that age (a gray head) should be a time of great honor and glory. Age should be a crown, that when observed by others signifies that the wearer is worthy of respect and honor. Notice that I said, however, age should be a crown. The harsh words, fault finding, and bitterness we often find in this age group give ample credence to Solomon’s words, “I have no delight in them.” There is no crown to being elderly for many. Rather than a “crown,” why is age such a “burden” to be borne by many?
I believe the answer is found partially in the aforementioned Scriptures. The gray head becomes a crown when it is found in the way of righteousness!
When one spends his life gratifying self, then loses the love for those gratifications in later years, that one is left with nothing. No container is so empty as one’s own soul. Again, when one spends his days in fault-finding and criticism, he should not be surprised to come to the end of life without friend or comforter. To have friends, one must be friendly. Sadly, many show little concern and consideration for others for the major portion of their lives, then cannot understand why no one comes running during their time of need. Then there is the older brother or sister that always seems to have an opinion on every matter, but no one ever seems to listen to them. Is it possible that they cannot see that their opinions are usually critical and other people quickly tire of being put on the defensive?
It doesn’t have to be this way, however. As the Scriptures point out, age can be a crown of glory to be worn with respect. The key, however, is that the one must walk in the way of righteousness. The one who lives for himself will grow old by himself while the one who lives for God is part of a great family.
If one walks in the way of righteousness he will spend his life in growth (1 Pet. 3:18). When he speaks, his words will carry the experience and the wisdom of years. He will be listened to because he will have tasted the power of God in his life and can testify to the effectual working of that power in the lives of Christians. This is quite different from the attitude of one who has spent his years pointing out the weaknesses and dwelling on the mistakes of others. When these people speak, others will listen because they will be expecting to hear something which is insightful, helpful, or encouraging. Even correction from an “honorable” gray head is easier to accept and act upon.
One who walks in righteousness will have given of him-self sacrificially down through the years, and while expecting nothing in return, will often find a multitude of children in the faith who would desire to repay them in some way by assisting them in their later years. There will be love given back to those who give love … “pressed down, shaken together, running over, it will pour into your lap” (Luke 6:38). “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
One who walks in righteousness will be putting sin to death, as much as is possible, in their own lives. As they go through their lives, attitudes and weaknesses of younger years are defeated and put aside one by one as they draw closer to being conformed to the image of God’s Son. These gray heads will be looked to as examples and role models by younger Christians. They will be asked for their advice in dealing with various problems and temptations of this world. And once again, they will be listened to because of what others are able to see in their lives.
Proverbs 22:28 tells us, “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set.” The point once again is one of respect, for what has been done in the past by wise and respected heads. Lines drawn in the past have often been drawn for good reason and should be respected. This does not make them infallible, but great care should be given before one still “wet behind the ears” is allowed to tear down tried and proven boundaries. The actions and efforts then, as well as the men themselves, are worthy of glory, honor, and respect. But once more, this is simply because they followed proper standards and did the things which were right and proper and good.
Simply getting old carries no inherent honor. That happens to fool and sinner alike. But growing older under the direction of God’s spirit, through his revealed word, can lead one to a place in life where his age is truly a crown of glory. And that crown of glory is just a taste of the crown of life which is to come to all who walk in righteousness.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 14 p. 23-24
July 17, 1997