CRF Talk: 10 Reasons Why College Students Should Spend Time with the Elderly
1. You don’t have better things to do. College students are selfish and lazy. “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” (Pr. 26:16) Young people are characteristically self-assured, conceited, proud, and the biblical name for this is “sluggard.” Wisdom and greatness are tied together and they come through serving and loving (Mt. 23:11).
2. Because you have lots of energy and time. “The glory of young men is their strength.” (Pr. 20:29) Embracing the glory that God bestows upon “youth” means proving your freedom in sacrificial ways like spending time in ways you don’t *have* to.
3. This is one way to get wisdom. The “simple” – ie. the immature, the young – need to get wisdom. Reading Proverbs is the beginning of wisdom, and it is the words of a father to a son (Pr. 1:1, 1:8, and 8:5). But the glory of old men is their gray hair (ie. their wisdom) (Pr. 20:29). The young should seek wisdom from the old. Spending time with the elderly is the pursuit of wisdom.
4. It teaches us to fear the Lord. “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). Taking time to talk to them, sing with them, pray for them, know them, love them, and serve them are all ways of honoring the “face of an old man.” This passage ties honoring the elderly to fearing God. Our honor of the old is a measurement of our fear of God, our determination that the Lord is God.
5. It’s obedience to the fifth commandment. Obviously your own grandparents/great-grandparents is a good place to start. This is an extension of the fifth commandment to honor your father and mother. Likewise, other friends of your father: “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend…” (Pr. 27:10)
6. It teaches us how to be the Church. The elderly are your parents and you are their children. “So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Lk. 18:29-30) While the family is a real institution, it is relativized to the Church, the household of faith, the family of God. Every baptism is the proclamation that the Church is your family. And if true and undefiled religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress and many of the elderly have been abandoned and are effectively orphans and widows, then we are called to be family to them.
7. It fulfills the promises of God and enacts the Kingdom of God. Spending time with the elderly is a way of fulfilling the promises of God to turn the hearts of the children to the hearts of their fathers (Mal. 4:6). This is a way to proclaim the Kingdom of God in word and deed. Jesus is come, and the generations are being gathered together and reconciled. This includes our own parents and grandparents but must expand to include all that we come in contact with.
8. It reminds you of where you’re going (Eccl. 12:1ff). It teaches humility and sobriety. “Better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart o the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Eccl. 7:2-4). Spending time with the elderly discourages vanity. We can’t be that proud of our bodies and accomplishments when we remember what we’ll look like in 50-60 years. It also teaches us deep thankfulness for the health and strength we enjoy now.
9. It teaches you to hate sin. Growing old is part of the curse of sin, and seeing it in front you is one of the best educations. Hating sin in the deformed body of an old woman in front of you teaches you to hate sin in your heart, in your words, in your thoughts and actions. Hearing about a life that was poorly lived, full of regret, is a severe warning to us to repent of sin now and to live at peace with all men as far as it depends upon us.
10. It teaches us to long for the resurrection and consummation of all things. As postmillennialists and reformed, we might be rightly criticized for not longing for the final return of Christ. Sin and hell, sickness and death should be good motivators for evangelism and mercy ministry. Likewise, if the resurrection and the life to come really are as grand as the Scriptures promise, we should want to hasten them. The sooner the better, and we have to recognize our place in that program.