Bearing Fruit in Old Age
“THE righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: . . . They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and green: to show that Jehovah is upright.” While those words have particular application to those ‘planted as cedars in the house of Jehovah,’ the “little flock,” they undoubtedly enunciate a principle that applies to all Jehovah’s faithful servants, including the other sheep being gathered to the Right Shepherd today.—Ps. 92:12, 14, 15, AS.
Among the faithful servants of Jehovah in times past of whom those words were true was Moses, whose active service to Jehovah began when he was eighty years old. Then for forty years he was used by Jehovah to bring honor to his name and miraculously to deliver, guide, instruct, protect and provide for God’s people, and we are told that at the age of 120 years, when he rehearsed Jehovah’s righteous acts and his requirements for his people before the Israelites on the plains of Moab, “his eye had not grown dim and his vital strength had not fled.” (Deut. 34:7, NW) Yes, in a most literal sense the psalmist’s words proved true in Moses’ case. That Moses was indeed “old” at the age of eighty is apparent from the words of his psalm: “The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore.”—Ps. 90:10, RS.
The poet-king David was another who kept bearing fruit in his old age, supervising the gathering of material for the temple, working out its details of construction and its extensive and elaborate form of worship, and singing Jehovah’s praise and giving instructions to his people. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Truly Jehovah’s goodness and loving-kindness did follow David all the days of his life.—Ps. 37:25, AS.
Bearing fruit in old age was true also of Daniel. He, no doubt, was in his nineties when he fearlessly stood before Belshazzar and his wanton revelers and interpreted the ominous handwriting on the wall; and when, later, he defied the law of the Medes and the Persians to worship his God Jehovah and was delivered from the den of lions, at about which time he also wrote the book bearing his name.
Nor are such examples of fruit-bearing in old age limited to the Hebrew Scripture record. Does not Luke tell us about the faithful priest Zechariah, who in his old age was blessed not only with a son, John the Baptist, but also with the gift of prophecy? And what about the apostle Paul? Although “an aged man” and a prisoner, did he not keep on writing letter after letter, eight of them, of instructions to his brothers on the outside, at the same time making use of every opportunity to preach by word of mouth, thereby proving that the Word of God was not bound, making his last contribution to the Christian Greek Scripture canon, 2 Timothy, just shortly before his death?—Philem. 9, NW; Luke 1:5-7; Acts 28:31; 2 Tim. 4:6.
And what an example the apostle John left for us! He must have been in his nineties when, banished to the isle of Patmos because of his faithful witnessing, he was privileged to see and to record the stupendous apocalyptic vision; still later writing, under inspiration, three letters and his account of the life of Christ. No question about Jehovah’s goodness’ continuing with these faithful servants, and their bearing fruit in old age, is there?
KEEP ON GROWING
This matter of bearing fruit in old age might be said to be of more pertinency to Jehovah’s servants today than for those in times past, because more of them proportionately live to reach old age. Thus today in the United States there are twice as many persons, in proportion to the population, living to be 65 years as there were fifty years ago. Incidentally, let it here be noted that in spite of man’s vaunted “scientific progress,” Moses’ words, uttered some 3,500 years ago, about man’s life span as being generally 70 to 80 years are still true. In fact, according to Encyclopædia Britannica, the expectation for life at the age of 68 for Egyptians living at the time of Christ was longer than is that of modern man of the same age.
To acquire the right mental attitude toward the matter of aging it is well to remember that it is in fact an expression of God’s mercy. Adam, by reason of his transgression, merited instant death, but God mercifully let Adam die gradually, over a period of some nine centuries. Now according to those who make a study of the aging process our bodies keep growing until the age of thirty and then the various organ systems, heart, kidneys, etc., begin to function ever less and less efficiently until death ensues. It is as though, until the age of thirty, we take in more than we give out, and after that, for the next forty years (nearly seventy years being the average life span in such lands as the United States) we give out more than we take in. And while heredity may be the most important single factor in determining our individual life span, we can increase our individual potential by exercising self-control in work, in food and drink and in pleasures.
It is also encouraging to note that although we stop growing physically at the age of thirty there is no age limit to mental and emotional growth, no reason why we should not continue to keep on growing in these respects indefinitely. In fact, we are soberly told that “the ‘old’ person is the fellow who doesn’t have anything to look forward to.” And certainly, Jehovah’s servants, more than any others in the earth today, have much to look forward to, being right on the threshold of the new world.
Obviously, then, to keep young in spite of our years we must keep on growing mentally and emotionally, yes, keep growing spiritually. How? By taking in accurate knowledge; by renewing our minds by means of the truths contained in God’s Word and the understanding of them as revealed through God’s channel; by associating with others who are thus keeping young, not overlooking those also young in years, at congregational meetings and at various assemblies; and by endeavoring to put into practice the things we keep learning.
BEARING FRUIT IN OLD AGE
It is only by keeping on growing thus that we can keep on bearing fruit in spite of our years. And remember, there is more than one kind of fruit. There is “the fruitage of the spirit [namely] love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” We may not compare favorably with those young in years as regards physical beauty of form and feature, but a possession of the fruitage of the spirit does make us appear beautiful in the sight of Jehovah and in the eyes of all those having his spirit.—Gal. 5:22, NW; Prov. 31:30.
And we can also bear the Kingdom fruits of the Christian ministry in spite of advancing years. At one of the Society’s “Bethel homes” some fifteen brothers, between the ages of 70 and 88, serve day in and day out, from morning till night alongside their younger brothers. Not contenting themselves with that, these go out evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings to preach on the streets, in the homes and from house to house. One of these, whose crippled feet permit little walking and no climbing of stairs, watches obituary columns for addresses of bereaved ones to whom he sends a letter of comfort together with a booklet containing a message of like import. At hand is also a report of a sister well along in years, who, although blind and bedridden, bears much Kingdom fruit by means of the telephone.
Nor need we feel sorry for ourselves because we cannot bear as much fruit as we once did. If our time and strength are limited because of old age, let us remember the lesson of the widow’s mite. It is the motive, the heart appreciation, the sincerity that goes with the giving that counts; so let us give cheerfully, for God loves a cheerful giver. He judges each one by what he has, and not by what he does not have; and He, and not another, judges.—Luke 21:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:12; 9:7.
And rather than begrudging youth its more active and more prominent role in Kingdom preaching, let us give it a helping hand and full co-operation, drawing freely on our Scriptural knowledge accumulated over the years and our tested integrity because of having weathered many storms. If we have truly profited by our years of experience we shall not envy but rather rejoice in our younger brothers’ exaltation.
And finally, should we reach the point or time when it seems we can do nothing at all, we can still bear fruit by maintaining integrity, by keeping loyal and faithful at heart to our great Benefactor and thus have the privilege of making his heart glad. (Prov. 27:11) We can fill our minds with memories of past Kingdom joys, we can rejoice in the present prosperity of the New World society, even though our part in it is small, and we can look forward to boundless and endless blessings in the new world so near at hand. And though never having neglected prayer, we can gain much comfort, strength and joy from more frequent communion with our heavenly Father, remembering also that “a righteous man’s supplication when it is at work has much force.”—Jas. 5:16, NW.
Yes, in spite of our years, we can keep on growing, we can keep on bearing fruit. Truly, “the hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.”—Prov. 16:31.
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power of the faint; and to him that hath no might he increaseth strength. . . . they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.—Isaiah 40:28, 29, 31, AS.