As I have gotten older – I turned 50 last year – I realized something that has been gradually progressing and increasing: the presence of gray hairs. At this stage, my hair is what they term salt and pepper, and thankfully right now there is more pepper than salt. But even though pepper is winning, salt is doing its best to try to catch up.
Surprisingly, or maybe not, the Bible speaks about gray hair. Obviously gray hair is a sign of getting older, but when you consider what the Bible says about gray hair you will see that it represents more than that.
What Does the Bible Say about Gray Hair?
I want to point your attention to three Scriptures that talk about gray hair. They each bring a different perspective as to what gray hair represents.
Gray hair is a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you”
Anyone who has lived a while and walked with God can testify to his faithfulness. Living longer just means you have had more opportunities for God to prove and demonstrate his faithfulness to you. Let the gray hairs be a reminder of how many times God has honored his word in your life. He has promised to be faithful, and he has lived up to his promise.
Gray hair is a picture of a life well lived.
“Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained in the way of righteousness”
Though we have no guarantees of living a long life on this side of eternity, there are many who have chosen to live in righteousness. Their commitment to Christ has been rewarded with years of life on this earth to give glory and honor to God. For these people, the gray hair represents a life well lived.
Gray hair is a sign of wisdom.
“The glory of young men is their strength,
gray hair the splendor of the old”
There is an interesting transformation that happens as we grow older. We may become physically weaker, but at the same time we become wiser (or at least we should). As we age, the gray hairs represent the wisdom we have gathered over the years. This means while we may not be able to do what we used to do physically; we can still be just as productive because we have more wisdom.
How Does Scripture Address the Elderly?
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).
The Bible is clear that we should show respect for the elderly. There is much we can learn from those who are older and who have walked with God for a long time. Many elderly people have legacies of God’s faithfulness and have lived lives of righteousness that we can glean from. We need to see them as indispensable treasures, not antiques we put on the shelf. Part of the responsibility of the elderly in the body of Christ is to pass on what they have learned. We need to value that and make room for it in our lives and in our churches.
Who Were Some Significant People in the Bible Who Were Old?
The Bible says God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) so this also means God is no respecter of ages. In God’s economy there really is no such thing as retirement. This means that regardless of how old you are, God still wants to use you. We find examples of God using people in the Bible who were advanced in years. For example:
– God called Abraham when he was 75 years old, and he had a son at 100.
– God allowed Abraham’s wife Sarah to give birth at 90 years old.
– God called Moses when he was 80 years old to go and deliver his people from Egypt.
I do want to direct your attention to one of the most inspiring stories of God using someone who was older. That person was Caleb. Caleb and Joshua were the only two spies who came back with an encouraging report letting the Israelites know they can take Jericho. Because of his courage, God made him a promise (you can read about it in Number 13-14). Forty-five years later he came to claim the promise. These words are so exciting I will let you read them straight from the Bible.
“So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said” (Joshua 14:9-12).
Caleb was eighty-five years old and was still as alive and vigorous as he was forty years earlier. He was vibrant and still motivated to run after and get everything God had promised him. I am not eighty-five, but this encourages me.
If you are more advanced in years, and your head is full of gray hair, let this be a reminder to you that if there is breath in your lungs, God is not done with you yet; he still has purpose for you.
How Should Christians Treat the Elderly?
Let me share with you three simple ways Christians should treat the elderly. By the way, this applies whether they are believers or not.
1. With respect – As I said before, we should cherish those who are older while they are still here. Let’s respect their lives and seek to learn and listen from what they have done and where they have been. Chances are they may have faced some of the challenges you are facing now, so the wisdom you can get from their life experiences may be invaluable.
2. With patience – It is no secret that as the gray hairs increase, sometimes things don’t work as fast as they used to. For this reason, we need to have patience with those who are elderly. They may not be able to get it done as quickly as you can, but give them room to do what they need to do in the timeframe they need. This will require patience.
3. With love – This should be a no-brainer because we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Elderly people are your neighbors too. This means we should look out for them. Recognize as people age, their circle of friends and family begins to shrink because people pass on, so your demonstration of love may be as simple as spending time with them. Regardless of how it plays out, when you see elderly people as valuable, loving them will not be difficult.