The Rewards of Honoring Elderly Parents
GENUINE worshipers of God respect, honor, and care for their elderly parents because they love them. It is part of their worship. The Bible states: “Let [children or grandchildren] learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.” (1 Timothy 5:4) Whether we are young or old, it is fitting that we offer “due compensation” to our parents and grandparents. In this way we show appreciation for their love, their hard work, and their caring for us over so many years. Why, we owe our very life to our parents!
Notice that paying due compensation to parents and grandparents is “acceptable in God’s sight.” It is linked to our “godly devotion.” Thus, by carrying out this counsel, we are rewarded, knowing that we are doing what is pleasing to God. That brings us joy.
There is joy in giving to others, especially when we give to those who have generously given to us. (Acts 20:35) What a reward there is, then, in acting in harmony with the Bible principle: “Give your father and your mother cause for delight, let her who bore you rejoice”!—Proverbs 23:25, The New English Bible.
How can we render due compensation to our parents and grandparents? In three ways: materially, emotionally, and spiritually. Each brings its rewards.
Those who serve God know that it is important to provide materially for close family members. The apostle Paul admonished: “If anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”—1 Timothy 5:8.
Tunji and Joy live in West Africa. Though hard-pressed financially, they invited Joy’s elderly parents to move in with them. The father was ill and eventually died. Tunji reflects: “When Papa died, Mama hugged my wife and said: ‘You did all that was humanly possible. In no way should you feel any guilt for Papa’s death.’ Though we miss Papa, we know we bought the best medicine for him and always tried to make him feel wanted and needed; we did our best to meet our God-given responsibility. That satisfaction is there.”
Of course, not everyone is in a position to help others materially. Said a man who lives in Nigeria: “If a man cannot fend for himself, how then can he fend for another person?” In many lands the situation may even worsen in the years to come. According to a United Nations forecast, soon half the population of sub-Saharan Africa will be living in absolute poverty.
If you find yourself in poor economic circumstances, you may take comfort from the true story of a needy widow. When Jesus was on earth, he observed a widow make a small donation to the temple treasury. She gave only “two small coins of very little value.” Still, knowing her situation, Jesus said: “I tell you truthfully, This widow, although poor, dropped in more than they all did. For all these dropped in gifts out of their surplus, but this woman out of her want dropped in all the means of living she had.”—Luke 21:1-4.
Similarly, if we do our best in caring for our parents or grandparents materially, though it may be little, Jehovah observes and appreciates that. He does not expect us to do beyond what we are able to do. Probably our parents or grandparents will feel likewise.
Providing for our parents and grandparents involves more than simply caring for their material needs. All of us have emotional needs. Everyone, including older ones, has a desire to be loved, to feel needed and wanted, and to be a valued member of the family.
Mary, who lives in Kenya, has cared for her elderly mother-in-law for three years. Mary says: “Apart from providing for her material needs, we always talk with her. Mother is not able to do much around the house, but we talk and have become close friends. Sometimes we talk about God, sometimes about the people back home. Although she is over 90 years old, her memory is very good. She remembers and talks about life when she was a little girl, in the days before 1914.”
Mary continues: “It is not easy to care for an old person, but having her with us has brought rich rewards. We have peace and harmony in the family. My giving to her has stimulated a spirit of giving in others in the family. My husband has more respect for me. And if Mother hears anyone speak harshly to me, she quickly speaks up to defend me. No one can say a sharp word to me with her around!”
Just as material and emotional giving brings rewards to the one who gives, so it is with spiritual matters. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in Rome: “I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm; or, rather, that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”—Romans 1:11, 12.
In the same way, when it comes to giving spiritually to elderly ones who serve God, encouragement is often mutual. Osondu, who lives in Nigeria, relates: “What interests me most about my grandparents is the opportunity they give me to get a glimpse of the past. My grandfather, with his eyes beaming, will tell about the territory he worked as a full-time minister in the ’50’s and ’60’s. He compares the present congregational structure with how it was when he became a Witness. These experiences help me in my service as a pioneer.”
Others in the Christian congregation can also help in giving to older ones. Tunji, mentioned earlier, explained what happened in his congregation: “A young pioneer brother who was assigned to give a public talk brought the outline to Papa so that they could prepare it together. The Watchtower Study conductor came and said to Papa: ‘You are experienced. What can you say to help me improve.’ Papa was able to give that elder some sound advice. The brothers mentioned Papa’s name in congregation prayers several times. All of this made him feel wanted.”
Fine Conduct Draws People to God
Sometimes, as we show honor and love to our parents and grandparents, we draw people to God. The apostle Peter wrote: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God.”—1 Peter 2:12.
Andrew, a Christian elder in West Africa, traveled 60 miles [95 km] twice a week to care for his sick father, who was not a believer. He relates: “When I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, my father was strongly opposed. But when he observed how I was taking care of him while he was sick, he kept urging my younger brothers and sisters, ‘You have to join your brother’s religion!’ That stirred them, and now my father’s nine children are all Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Honoring and caring for our elderly parents can be a challenge, especially in hard economic times. But as Christians strive to do this, they reap many rewards. Above all, they experience the joy of giving, along with the satisfaction of knowing that they are pleasing Jehovah God, who is himself the “Father of all persons.”—Ephesians 4:6.
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Godly Advice for Those Who Receive Care and for Those Who Give It
Be Encouraging: “Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding.”—Romans 15:2.
Be Steadfast: “Let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:9.
Be Humble: ‘Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind consider that the others are superior to you.’—Philippians 2:3.
Be a Doer of Good: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:24.
Be Reasonable: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.”—Philippians 4:5.
Be Compassionate: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another.”—Ephesians 4:32.
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Younger elders can benefit from the experience of older ones