09.06.16

Remembering the Elderly (Pt. 1)

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from Kristie Anyabwile’s chapter in Women on Life, edited by our sister and friend Trillia Newbell. 

In today’s culture of idolizing youthfulness, casting off tradition and shunning authority, the value and beauty and honor of old age seems to have all but vanished. Elder care and retirement home construction is big business. The physical distance between parents and grandparents seems as wide as the Gulf. Older people are literally being relegated to the back of the church, to neither be seen nor heard.

Church attendance was already thin when the senior choir sang on fourth Sundays. Now, there is no senior choir, only praise teams and worship bands. Bible studies often preclude older members because they either don’t drive, or avoid driving in the evenings when these studies take place. Youth pastors, for example, focus on the needs of children and their families, but very few churches have ministries specifically charged with caring for the needs of senior members and their families.

Most would agree that caring for the soul is a primary responsibility of a pastor and that mutual care and concern is a primary responsibility of church members toward one another. In many of our church covenants, we agree to “exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other.” We promise to rejoice in each other’s happiness and to bear one another’s burdens and sorrows. How often, when we recite these covenantal promises, do we consider our senior saints? How might we exercise this care and what should we be watching out for in our older saints’ lives?

Here are five ways the Scriptures demonstrate the Lord’s blessings toward our senior saints and what we might learn from these blessings in order to be a blessing to them.

  1. HONOR

Our primary responsibility toward our seniors is to honor them. Many of us are told from young childhood that we should honor our elders. We read in : 32, “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.” Commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry says,

Those whom God has honored with the common blessing of long life, we ought to honor with the distinguishing expressions of civility; and those who in age are wise and good are worthy of double honor. More respect is owing to such old men than merely to rise up before them; their credit and comfort must be carefully consulted, their experience and observations improved, and their counsels asked and hearkened to.1

What a way to honor our senior saints: consulting them for advice, improving upon their experiences so that we take the good and learn from their mistakes, and by listening to and accepting their counsel. Not only would we honor them through this, but we would be much better off ourselves.

In our previous church, my small group would sponsor senior luncheons, casual times of fellowship over a meal with our senior members. We would prepare home-cooked meals, provide a small gift to each of them such as a small potted plant, devotional book or ornament. Sometimes we had special musical selections by students or by our church choir. Mostly though, it was a time to honor our senior members and to share in fellowship with them. We sought to demonstrate our esteem of them, to let them know tangibly that we hadn’t forgotten them. We identified senior members as those who were at least 60 years of age.

One year, we invited a man who was a few years shy of 60 and had a good laugh with him about his being too young to be at the “senior luncheon.” His gray hair, leadership in the church and longtime service in the community had us fooled. None of us would ever have imagined that of all the folk present at the luncheon that year, he would be the one entering glory before our next gathering.

As I reflect back, what a sobering privilege it was to have honored this man, even before old age. We were reminded of Spurgeon’s words, “Time is short, and it behooves each one to be working for his Lord, that when he is called home he may leave behind him something for the generations following.” This man was not what we would call old, but he lived a very full and fruitful life. He worked hard, married well, raised two fine boys, devoted his life to Christ and the service of the church, dedicated much time to preserving preserving the history and culture of his people and much more. His legacy of service placed him among the elders of the land and it was a gift from the Lord to have honored him along with our senior saints.

  1. WISDOM

In , we read “wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding” (: 12-13). Interestingly, in these verses, we are told that with old age comes wisdom and understanding. There is something to be said about older saints who are viewing the breadth and depth of their life experiences through the lens of the gospel. They are seeing life through a larger lens.

Almost any decent photographer will tell you that the key to taking great photos is using the correct lens for the type of pictures you are taking. I read recently that photographers would rather shoot with a decent camera and a great lens rather than a great camera with a substandard lens. When choosing a lens, you must consider something called the focal length. The bigger this number, the greater focus on details. The lower the number is, the more you see but not in great detail.

When a believer is younger, they tend to focus on the big picture—there’s a lower focal length for this person. Life is about “get all you can, can all you get, and sit on your can.” We don’t want to get bogged down with too many details. Older persons realize that real life is in the details—they bring a larger focal length with greater detail and clarity. The details of our identity in Christ cause us to zoom in on our lives and examine ways in which we live in light of our identity and ways in which we have broadened our view so as to blur our ability to see clearly where we might need to apply better wisdom to our life situations.

Older saints see that decision you’re making now and can zoom in to point out flaws in your process, holes in your thinking, stumbling blocks you had not considered because you want to get that promotion or man at any cost. You want to take shortcuts now that will cost your family in the future.

How many times have I heard my grandma say, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you”? I’d respond in that youthful, exasperated tone “Why not?” She’d then proceed to tell me about all the potential pitfalls that could result from my actions. Of course, I didn’t believe her and didn’t think she knew what she was talking about. But sure enough, she was right. Washing a red shirt with white laundry will turn the entire load pink. Running from a dog will get you chased and bitten. The wisdom of the aged is wisdom indeed, and we would be wise ourselves if we learned to heed their wisdom and counsel.

  1. HOPE

Of all people, our elderly should be the most hopeful of all.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. . . . But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come (: 9, 14-18).

David confidently prays that the Lord would preserve him in his old age. He recognizes that his physical strength is waning and that he will need strength outside of himself to continue running his race with perseverance. His confident hope in the Lord ushers forth unending praise and testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness in keeping him. Where does this hope come from? He remembers the past faithfulness of the Lord from his childhood, which fuels his trust in God for his future. Until his dying day, he will proclaim the goodness of the Lord, giving hope to the generations to come.

Hope from ages past engenders hope for the future. In the church especially, we should look to those who have been through times of testing, trial and temptation and have come through those times hopeful in the Lord and recipients of his faithfulness. We should follow their example but remember that we do not finally look to elder saints or anyone else for identity and hope and wisdom. We look to Christ alone, knowing our hope is found in him.

C’mon back for Part II


  1. Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible. The Bible Study App at Olive Tree, version 6.0. Retrieved from www.olivetree.com/ bible-study-apps back

19:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.

“When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from his people.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

19 “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the Lord, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.

23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the Lord your God.

26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. 30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.

32 “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.

33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord.” (ESV)

12:1 Then Job answered and said:

“No doubt you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you.
But I have understanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know such things as these?
I am a laughingstock to my friends;
I, who called to God and he answered me,
a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock.
In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune;
it is ready for those whose feet slip.
The tents of robbers are at peace,
and those who provoke God are secure,
who bring their god in their hand.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.
11 Does not the ear test words
as the palate tastes food?
12 Wisdom is with the aged,
and understanding in length of days.

13 “With God are wisdom and might;
he has counsel and understanding.
14 If he tears down, none can rebuild;
if he shuts a man in, none can open.
15 If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.
16 With him are strength and sound wisdom;
the deceived and the deceiver are his.
17 He leads counselors away stripped,
and judges he makes fools.
18 He looses the bonds of kings
and binds a waistcloth on their hips.
19 He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows the mighty.
20 He deprives of speech those who are trusted
and takes away the discernment of the elders.
21 He pours contempt on princes
and loosens the belt of the strong.
22 He uncovers the deeps out of darkness
and brings deep darkness to light.
23 He makes nations great, and he destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth
and makes them wander in a pathless waste.
25 They grope in the dark without light,
and he makes them stagger like a drunken man. (ESV)

12:1 Then Job answered and said:

“No doubt you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you.
But I have understanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know such things as these?
I am a laughingstock to my friends;
I, who called to God and he answered me,
a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock.
In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune;
it is ready for those whose feet slip.
The tents of robbers are at peace,
and those who provoke God are secure,
who bring their god in their hand.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.
11 Does not the ear test words
as the palate tastes food?
12 Wisdom is with the aged,
and understanding in length of days.

13 “With God are wisdom and might;
he has counsel and understanding.
14 If he tears down, none can rebuild;
if he shuts a man in, none can open.
15 If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.
16 With him are strength and sound wisdom;
the deceived and the deceiver are his.
17 He leads counselors away stripped,
and judges he makes fools.
18 He looses the bonds of kings
and binds a waistcloth on their hips.
19 He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows the mighty.
20 He deprives of speech those who are trusted
and takes away the discernment of the elders.
21 He pours contempt on princes
and loosens the belt of the strong.
22 He uncovers the deeps out of darkness
and brings deep darkness to light.
23 He makes nations great, and he destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth
and makes them wander in a pathless waste.
25 They grope in the dark without light,
and he makes them stagger like a drunken man. (ESV)

71:1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.

I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10 For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
11 and say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.”

12 O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13 May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
14 But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21 You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.

22 I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24 And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt. (ESV)

Kristie Anyabwile
Kristie Anyabwile is the wife of Thabiti, who serves as a Church Planting Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church; he hopes to plant in Anacostia (Washington DC). She is the joyful mother of two daughters and one son.

C’mon Up!

  • Patrice Wedderburn

    amen and amen! So thankful for the older saints at ARC.

    • Kristie Anyabwile

      Amen. They are a treasure, truly the Lord’s gift to us!

  • Kristie Anyabwile

    Yes! Amen. They are a treasure, truly the Lord’s gift to us!