Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Respect Your Elders

In previous posts I addressed parents, children, single parents, and youth.  I have neglected a very important part of God's family, that being the elderly.  Today I want to correct that negligence and see what God has to say about our senior brothers and sisters. The Word has some very specific references to the elderly and how we should relate to them.  Our study today will focus on 1 Timothy.
Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.   1 Timothy 5:1 NKJV
First of all, we are to treat older men and women not as brothers and sisters, but as fathers and mothers.  We are not to rebuke a senior member of our church as we would any other person, but we would correct them as through they were our fathers and mothers.  The Bible says to honor our mothers and our fathers and so we must honor our senior brothers and sisters.  What this means is that if we do see a need to correct an elder member, it should be done with the same respect and deference that we would our own parents. 
Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.  1 Timothy 5:3-4 NKJV
We are also to care for widows who are really widows.  Paul shares here that a true widow is one with no family to care for her.  The primary responsibility of caring for widows falls to the children and grandchildren.  It is their responsibility before God to care for their parents and grandparents who can no longer care for themselves.  If they fail in their responsibilities, their parents and grandparents will suffer and they will stand before God to give an account of their failure. 
Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless.  1 Timothy 5:5-7 NKJV
Paul now shares the special ministry and responsibility God has for a true widow. The true widow is left alone and therefore must trust in God.  She trusts in God and God provides for her through the church.  The church provides for her and she in turn is part of a special ministry of prayer and supplication.  What an amazing picture of the body of Christ working together.  What a special ministry God has for these elder women.  They have that close intimate relationship with God as she is called to come before God night and day in prayer and supplication.  If you are, like me, one who believes that there is something special about a praying grandmother, you are correct.  There is something special as God shares through Paul right here.  Elder women have a very special place in the body of Christ, and we need to honor that.

On the other hand, Paul addresses those women who choose not this special ministry and who choose to live for themselves.  She is called dead while she still lives.  I do not believe this has anything to do with her salvation, but in terms of her usefulness.  She is dead in that is has no use or purpose.  The body of Christ feeds her as part of their ministry in caring for a true widow, she is takes that sustenance and uses it for her own pleasure.  She is a parasite on the body of Christ and is dead in terms of any usefulness to God or the Body of Christ.  She thinks she is living, but she is not.
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8 NKJV
Paul now revisits the responsibility of children and grandchildren caring for their related elderly.  Remember this is the Word of God, and so if you have an elderly parent or grandparent and fair to provide for them, God calls your behavior worse than that of an unbeliever.  God will chasten you in this life and you will be held to account when you stand before Christ. 
Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. 1 Timothy 5:9-10 NKJV
Here we have the requirements to be part of that special ministry of prayer that God has for elder women.  First of all, she must be over 60 years old.  Younger women still have other roles they can fill in the body and Paul now shares those ministries for younger women wishing to become part of this special calling.  She must have been the wife of one man.  She must be reported for good works, that is she has a reputation for being a woman of God.  She must have brought up children proving her faithfulness in that very important ministry.  And she must have performed good works, of which Paul gives the examples of lodging strangers, ministering to the saints, ministering to the sick, and followed the good works laid out for her.

It may seem like this ministry has very high standards, and that is for very good reason.  Remember the church is supporting these women.  These women were essentially employees of the church, receiving their livelihood by being in constant prayer for the church.  It was a very important post as prayer is essential for us.  It is how we communicate with God and lay our needs before Him and seek His will and favor in our ministry.  Sin hinders the efficacy of prayer and so these women had to prove themselves faithful in order to have such an important role in the body.
But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan.  1 Timothy 5:11-15 NKJV
Younger widows (under 60 specifically) are called to seek to remarry and not be a part of this ministry.  This is because younger widows still have that urge to be married and so committing the remainder of their lives to that special ministry of prayer would be a struggle.  This urge to be married not satisfied can lead to temptation and sin.  The urge to marry not satisfied can lead a woman to compromise her faith in her desperation rather than trust God to lead her through that desire or find her the right man to marry.  It is this urge to remarry that disqualifies them from this special ministry reserved only for widows past a marrying age and who have proven their faithfulness throughout their lives.  It may seem like a strict qualification, but that shows just how important this ministry is to God.
If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.  1 Timothy 5:16 NKJV
Again Paul revisits the importance of caring for your own family.  In this case Paul gives the reason for that responsibility.  That reason is so that the church can really focus on providing for the true widows.  Not caring for widows in your own family burdens the church and takes resources God has ordained for the true widows.  By not caring for widows in your family, you are taking from true widows and stealing from God.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages."  1 Timothy 5:17-18 NKJV
Now Paul turns is attention to elder men.  First of all, those elders who teach and lead are to be counted worthy of double honor.  We are to esteem our elder teachers and leaders above and beyond the younger ones.  They have labored for the Lord for many years, proving their faithfulness and so they deserve our respect and honor for that.  True, those men do not labor for the praise of men, but that honor we give them respects their faithfulness to God and encourages them as they tread on.  He is worthy of that honor and we should show it. 
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.  1 Timothy 5:19 NKJV
An elder Christian who has proven his faithfulness also requires a higher standard when accused of sin.  For an elder Christian, that accusation must be from 2 or 3 witnesses and not just an accusation by one man or woman. 

There is something special about our elder brothers and sisters.  Most of us have warm memories of grandparents who poured out their love for their children and grandchildren.  I myself have that same memory regarding the grandparents I knew.  We love to hear their stories and respect their wisdom earned through their life experience.  If they are in the Lord, that wisdom is all the more respected as they have battled many of the same things we face today in our lives and their wisdom of getting through is a godsend for us still struggling.  We must respect our elders.  We must cherish them for the gift of God that they are whether it is a praying grandmother or a grandfather who has walked with the Lord for more years than we have been alive.  Cherish her prayers and soak up his wisdom as they are with us for a time before the Lord calls them home.  If you are an elderly man or woman, take heart that God is far from done with you.  God has given each of you important ministries and wants to use you as a blessing to many.  Cherish that gift of ministry God has given you. 

We live in a world where respecting one's elders is becoming more and more a thing of the past.  Our elderly are often placed in homes and visited once a week if they are lucky.  We do not revere our elderly the way we are called to.  We need to get back to where God has called us to be instead of throwing away that precious gift God has given us.  We also often argue with our elders still acting as children thinking we know best.  That is not the calling God has given us.  They are to be respected and honored and even when we disagree and even if we know they are wrong, we must remember what God has commanded.  Respect your elders living for God.  Respect them because God Himself has said they earned it. 
'You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.  Leviticus 19:32 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. How blessed we are to have grandparents who fill these roles that God has given them! Good word, good reminder!!