Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 30, 1968

The Hoary Head


Robert H. Farish

"Young people" have been featured for many years now. Their problems have been analyzed, defined. and frequently magnified out of proper proportion. The "youth rebellion'' has been and continues to be discussed, lamented, justified, condemned and advertized. Selfish and greedy people, with almost unbelievable disregard for humanity and the interests of society have used the youth rebellion for political and commercial advantages. Youthful lusts as well as the healthy desires of youth have been used extensively in merchandising and vote getting. It is a popular pastime to lambast the older generation, charging the ills of the younger generation to the stupidity, greed, hate, injustice, hypocrisy, indifference and wickedness in general of the old folk. We hold no brief for the mistakes and unrighteousness of past generations and are fully aware of the fact and intensity of pressure of "youthful lusts." However, our scorn for unrighteousness in old people should not blunt our hatred of and opposition to evil among young people; neither should we allow our awareness of the dangers of youthful lusts to crowd out concern for the spiritual problems of the hoary heads. Christians need a greater awareness of the problems of growing old gracefully in order to give the attention and consideration to those who are old. We have a duty toward the hoary head as well as to the fair headed youth. The hoary heads have a very real and significant place to fill in society. The Creator never intended the hoary head to be a target for the irresponsible abuse of either politicians, preachers or anyone else. For the benefit of those who refuse to trust anybody over the age of twenty five, consider this: what if every one over twenty five years of age were suddenly removed from the earth. There would not be an old person remaining to turn to for comfort in distress, encouragement when despair is trying to take over and council in making decisions. It would be helpful if it were realized that no corner on hypocrisy is held by the older generation. The truth that two wrongs never made a right needs to be dusted off and applied.

Society's responsibility to the hoary head is assigned in the Bible. More is involved in society's responsibility to the aged than simply providing for the physical needs. God said "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head and honor the face of the old man, and thou shalt fear God; I am Jehovah" (Lev. 19:32). Here is one of God's "thou shalts" which has been largely disregarded. Hoary means gray headedness, a usual mark of age. The Old Testament required actions which reflected respect and genuine concern for the old people. Discourtesy and indifference to the aged is a demonstration of disregard for the need of men and the will of God.

Gray hair is not per se a crown of glory, it is only a crown of glory when it is found in the way of righteousness. The wise man wrote, "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." (Prov. 16:31) The tragedy of the hoary head is not in the advanced years implied but in not being found in the way of righteousness. How encouraging to know that "the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, and that it is possible for all whether young or old to be found in the way of righteousness. The favor of God can be enjoyed by all ages. The hoary head found in the way of righteousness is a crown of glory in the sight of God and all men who count. Too many qualify only in the color of their hair due to their inordinate concern for the favor of the world. The way of righteousness has not been sought by the majority either of these who have arrived at old age or those who are still in the early stages of the journey. Many who earlier started in the way of righteousness have wandered away from it. What is to be done? It is not enough to merely describe and deplore the situation; if there are corrective measures that can be taken by old people as well as young they need to be learned and used. Here is what God said about it: "Thus saith Jehovah, stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." (Jer. 6:16). These corrective actions are expressed by the Lord Jesus Christ in these words; "But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33). This action of seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness is assigned to all age groups. There never comes a time in this life when one can properly retire from the activities involved in seeking God's reign in our lives in order to enjoy the righteousness or justification of God. Neither are we ever too old to begin, or having begun and strayed, of returning to this imperative course of action.

The aged are to be taught — "But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine: that the aged men to temperate, grave, sober-minded, sound in faith, in love, in patience: that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers, nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good that they may train the young women — " (Titus 2:1-4). The implication is clear, the conclusion inescapable — the aged are capable of being taught. The idea, that the aged are not capable of significant change for the better, that growth is no longer possible for them, has done inestimable harm to society... the hoary head is not to be taken as evidence of the growth potential having vanished. The instructions, to teach the aged, prove that the aged can learn and therefore are capable of growth — they have the responsibility to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Why speak things which befit sound doctrine to the aged if they are beyond the point of personally profiting by the teaching? Soul culture is within the reach of every age group; it should be begun early but is not out of range for the old. The basic requirement is the will or determination to do the will of the Father.

Unfortunate indeed are the young people who have deprived themselves of the company of the hoary heads found in the way of righteousness. The example of those who have developed faith, courage, patience, unselfishness and that poise that belongs to those who are firmly anchored with hope is sorely needed in our day. Restlessness, insecurity, frustration, anxiety, fear, confusion are all symptoms of a hope deficiency. Many who are adrift, unable to find anything to tie to, would be unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, had they been privileged to observe examples of the "crown of glory." Serenity can exist only in the security of hope which is sure and steadfast and which enters into that which is within the veil.

Those who have youth should rejoice in their youth, this can be accomplished by "Fleeing youthful lusts, and follow(ing) after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (II Tim. 2:22) The dearth of men qualified for God's purposes is due to the mass pursuit of youthful lusts. The flight has been away from righteousness, faith, love, peace and purity of heart. Unsanctified vessels — vessels unprepared for good works, are the only kind to expect to find in such an exodus from sobriety, righteousness and godliness. But all who follow the Holy Spirit's plan for youth will grow old gracefully. Their prospects will be a hoary head as a crown of glory, and not merely a hoary head which serves only as a sign of approaching dissolution.

The aged men is temperate, grave, sober-minded, sound in faith, in love, in patience, is equipped to meet the problems that are peculiarly the problems of age. These things to be taught to the aged men, if learned by them, will secure their own souls and keep up the line of communication with all those of honest and good hearts whether they be under twenty five or over. Intemperance, silliness, insincerity, instability, hate, unsteadfastness, etc. mar the personality and condemn the soul. Unfortunately many young people observing such in some, yes even many, gray heads, have come to identify and equate the gray head with these characters. This prevents the youth so afflicted from receiving communications from maturity which they so sorely need.

The aged woman who is respectful, who finds better things to talk about than the spiritual failures of her associates, who is temperate and who is concerned with teaching the young women what is good, will be sought by the sort of people whose company she can enjoy. She will not be a "lonely old woman."

The fear of being supplanted and cast aside or shelved causes some aging people to give expression to sentiments that may be interpreted as stemming from jealousy. This neutralizes the force of the influence that should belong to them by reason of the good they have already accomplished. It needs to be realized that the hoary head found in the way of righteousness is indispensable. This living in the past, by constantly making comparison of past personal actions and accomplishments with the present actions and accomplishments of the younger set, is an ever present problem of the hoary head. Conscious attention needs to be given to avoid slipping into this constant threat to the influence of the aged. The wisdom of the hoary head is now and always will be needed to temper the zeal and guide the course of youth. Dignity, poise, courage, confidence of hope, honesty, kindness, courtesy and just plain old decency need to be constantly displayed that others seeing genuine fruits of the gospel will be unable, with any degree of honesty, to identify the serenity of the hoary head as complacency. Let those of hoary heads arise in the strength of their faith and maturity in righteousness and demonstrate the superiority of righteousness, "show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into this marvelous light — " (I Peter 2:9)

-An old man going a lone highway Came at the evening cold and gray

To a chasm vast and wide and steep With waters rolling cold and deep

The old man crossed in the twilight dim For that sullen stream had no fear for him

But he turned when safe on the other side And built a bridge to span that tide.

Old man, said a fellow traveler near, Why do you waste your strength building here

Your journey will end with the ending day And you ne'er again will pass this way.

The builder lifted his old gray head Friend in the path I've come he said

There followeth after me today A youth whose feet must pass this way

This chasm that has been as nought to me To that youth may a pitfall be

Friend, I am building this bridge for him.

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