Do You Treasure Elderly Fellow Believers?
WHEN the people of ancient Israel were in a covenant relationship with God, they were commanded: “Before gray hair you should rise up, and you must show consideration for the person of an old man, and you must be in fear of your God.” (Leviticus 19:32) Thus, respect for the aged was a sacred duty, linked to being in subjection to God. Although Christians today are no longer under the Mosaic Law, it reminds us that Jehovah views the elderly who serve him as valuable and precious. (Proverbs 16:31; Hebrews 7:18) Do we reflect Jehovah’s view? Do we treasure our elderly Christian brothers and sisters?
He Treasured His Older Friend
One Bible account that highlights the showing of respect for older ones is found in the book of Second Kings. It contains a description of how the prophet Elijah was succeeded by the younger prophet Elisha. Consider what took place on Elijah’s last day as a prophet in the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel.
That day, the elderly prophet was directed by Jehovah to travel from Gilgal to Bethel, from Bethel to Jericho, and from Jericho to the Jordan River. (2 Kings 2:1, 2, 4, 6) During that trip of nearly 30 miles [50 km], Elijah three times urged Elisha to stop following him. However, just as young Ruth centuries earlier had firmly refused to leave Naomi, so Elisha refused to leave the older prophet. (Ruth 1:16, 17) Elisha stated three times: “As Jehovah is living and as your soul is living, I will not leave you.” (2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6) At that point, Elisha had already assisted Elijah for some six years. Yet, he desired to serve with Elijah as long as possible. In fact, the account adds: “It came about that as they were walking along, speaking as they walked, why, look! . . . Elijah went ascending.” (Verse 11) Elijah and Elisha were conversing until the very last moment of Elijah’s ministry in Israel. The younger prophet apparently was eager to absorb as many words of instruction and encouragement as possible from the older, more experienced prophet. Clearly, he treasured his older friend.
‘As Fathers and Mothers’
It is not hard to see why Elisha loved the older prophet as a friend—even as a spiritual father. (2 Kings 2:12) Just before Elijah’s assignment in Israel ended, he said to Elisha: “Ask what I should do for you before I am taken from you.” (Verse 9) So to the very end, Elijah showed concern for the spiritual welfare of his successor and for the continuation of God’s work.
Today, it is heartwarming to note the same fatherly and motherly concern in our older Christian brothers and sisters as they freely share their knowledge and wisdom with younger ones. For instance, longtime volunteers serving at the branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses willingly help new members of the Bethel family to acquire the skills they need to perform their service. Likewise, traveling overseers and their wives who have been visiting congregations for many years happily share their wealth of experience with those who are being trained to serve as traveling ministers. Moreover, in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe, there are older brothers and sisters who have been serving Jehovah faithfully for decades and who gladly share their practical wisdom and experience with newer members of the congregation.—Proverbs 2:7; Philippians 3:17; Titus 2:3-5.
The heartfelt concern shown by these dear older Christians makes the showing of respect to such older ones truly a pleasure. Therefore, we want to imitate Elisha’s example in deeply appreciating elderly fellow believers. As the apostle Paul reminds us, let us continue to treat “an older man . . . as a father” and “older women as mothers.” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2) By doing so, we greatly contribute to the proper functioning and progress of the Christian congregation throughout the world.
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Elisha desired to serve with Elijah as long as possible
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Younger ones greatly benefit from elderly Christians