Jehovah Tenderly Cares for His Elderly Servants
“God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—HEB. 6:10.
1, 2. (a) Seeing a white-haired person might remind you of what? (b) How does Jehovah view older Christians?
WHEN you see elderly ones in the congregation who have white hair, are you reminded of an account in the Bible book of Daniel? In a vision that He gave to Daniel, Jehovah God portrayed himself as having white hair. Daniel wrote: “I kept on beholding until there were thrones placed and the Ancient of Days sat down. His clothing was white just like snow, and the hair of his head was like clean wool.”—Dan. 7:9.
2 In its natural state, wool often has a warm white color. Thus, white hair and the title “Ancient of Days” call attention to God’s great age and wisdom, both of which merit our deepest respect. How, then, does the Ancient of Days, Jehovah, view faithful older men and women? God’s Word says that “gray-headedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Prov. 16:31) Yes, if a faithful Christian has come to have gray or white hair, such a mature appearance is beautiful in God’s sight. Do you share Jehovah’s view of your older brothers and sisters?
Why So Precious?
3. Why are older fellow believers so precious to us?
3 Among such beloved older servants of God are members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, current and former traveling overseers, zealous pioneers, and mature Kingdom publishers—brothers and sisters who serve faithfully in our congregations. You may know some who have zealously preached the good news for decades and whose good examples have helped to motivate younger ones and mold their lives. Some older fellow believers have carried heavy loads of responsibility and have endured persecution for the sake of the good news. Jehovah and “the faithful and discreet slave” deeply appreciate all their past and present contributions to the Kingdom work.—Matt. 24:45.
4. Why should we respect elderly Christians and pray for them?
4 Such faithful seniors merit the gratitude and respect of other servants of Jehovah God. In fact, God’s Law given through Moses links consideration and respect for the elderly with the fear of Jehovah. (Lev. 19:32) We should regularly pray for these faithful ones and thank God for their labors of love. The apostle Paul prayed for his dear coworkers, young and old.—Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3.
5. How can we benefit from associating with older worshippers of Jehovah?
5 Furthermore, all in the congregation can benefit from associating with older Christians. Through study, observation, and experience, faithful older worshippers of Jehovah have accumulated priceless knowledge. They have learned to exercise patience and show empathy, and passing on what they have learned to the next generation brings them great joy and satisfaction. (Ps. 71:18) Younger ones, be wise and draw on this source of knowledge as you would draw up water from a deep well.—Prov. 20:5.
6. How can you show older ones that you truly value them?
6 Do you let older ones know that you cherish them as Jehovah cherishes them? One way you can do so is by telling them how much you love them for their faithfulness and how you value their opinions. Moreover, by acting on what you learn from them, you demonstrate that your respect for them is sincere. Many elderly Christians can recall the wise advice they received from faithful older ones and how acting on it has benefited them throughout their lives.*
Show Tender Regard in Practical Ways
7. To whom does Jehovah give the primary responsibility to care for older ones?
7 God gives the families of older ones the primary responsibility to provide for them. (Read 1 Timothy 5:4, 8.) Jehovah is pleased when families fulfill their obligation toward elderly relatives and thus show that they care about older ones as he himself does. God supports these families and blesses them for their efforts and for all their sacrifices.*
8. Why should congregations show their concern for aging Christians?
8 Similarly, Jehovah is pleased when local congregations assist faithful older ones who are in need but have no believing or willing family members to care for them. (1 Tim. 5:3, 5, 9, 10) Congregations thereby show that they have ‘fellow feeling, brotherly affection, and tender compassion’ for the elderly. (1 Pet. 3:8) Their concern for older congregation members is well-illustrated by Paul when he points out that if one member of the human body suffers, “all the other members suffer with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26) Taking practical, compassionate action in behalf of older ones demonstrates the principle behind Paul’s counsel: “Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.”—Gal. 6:2.
9. What burdens can advanced age impose on a person?
9 What burdens do older ones bear? Many tire easily. They may feel that doing even basic things—going to the doctor, doing paperwork, cleaning the house, preparing food—is beyond their capacity. Since appetite and thirst often diminish with age, they may think that they do not need to eat or drink as much as they really should. It can be similar with spiritual nourishment. Aging eyes and ears may make reading and listening to spiritual programs difficult, and just getting ready to go to Christian meetings may be exhausting. What, then, can others do for such older ones?
How You Can Help
10. What can elders do to make sure that older ones receive practical help?
10 In many congregations, the elderly are being cared for in an exemplary manner. Loving brothers and sisters help them with shopping, cooking, and cleaning. They help the elderly to study, to get ready for meetings, and to remain regular in the ministry. Younger Witnesses accompany them and provide transportation. If older ones are unable to leave home, they are tied in to meetings by telephone or recordings are made for them. Whenever possible, elders make sure that practical arrangements are implemented in order to meet the needs of older ones in the congregation.*
11. Relate how one family helped an older brother.
11 Individual Christians too can extend hospitality and display generosity. After the wife of one older brother died, he could no longer afford to pay the rent without her pension. He and his wife had studied the Bible with a family—father, mother, and two teenage daughters—who had a large house. They gave him two rooms to live in. For 15 years, they shared meals, laughter, and brotherly affection. The younger ones gained much from his faith and wealth of experience, and he benefited from joyful association. This elderly brother lived with them until he died at age 89. The family still thank God for the many blessings they received through their association with him. They have not ‘lost their reward’ for having helped a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ.—Matt. 10:42.*
12. What can you do to show your tender regard for brothers and sisters of advanced age?
12 You may not be in a position to assist an elderly brother or sister in the way this family did, but you may be able to help older ones to get to meetings and out in the field ministry. You can also invite them to your home and include them when you go on outings. You can visit them, especially when they are sick or confined. Moreover, you can and should always treat them as mature adults. As long as they are mentally able, older Christians should be included in all decision-making that affects them. Even those who have lost much of their mental ability can sense whether their dignity is being respected.
Jehovah Will Not Forget Your Work
13. Why is showing consideration for the feelings of elderly Christians important?
13 Showing consideration for the feelings of older ones is essential. It is not unusual for the elderly to be deeply grieved by their inability to accomplish all that they were able to when they were younger and healthier. For instance, a sister who served Jehovah actively for some 50 years and who had been a regular pioneer developed a debilitating illness and could attend meetings only with great difficulty. When she compared her former ministry with her present limitations, she began to cry. Lowering her head, she said through her tears, “I’m not doing anything anymore.”
14. What encouragement can older servants of Jehovah draw from the psalms?
14 If you are an older person, have you had such painful feelings? Or are there times when you feel that Jehovah may have abandoned you? The psalmist may have had similar feelings in his later years, for he petitioned Jehovah: “Do not throw me away in the time of old age; just when my power is failing, do not leave me. . . . Even until old age and gray-headedness, O God, do not leave me.” (Ps. 71:9, 18) Of course, Jehovah was not about to abandon the composer of that psalm, and He will not abandon you. In another psalm, David expressed his confidence in God’s support. (Read Psalm 68:19.) Rest assured that if you are a faithful elderly Christian, Jehovah is with you and will continue to sustain you day by day.
15. What can help older ones to maintain a positive outlook?
15 All that you aging Witnesses of Jehovah have done and are now doing for God’s glory is never far from his mind. “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name,” says the Bible. (Heb. 6:10) Therefore, resist adopting a negative viewpoint, wrongly thinking that because of advanced age, you are no longer useful to Jehovah. Endeavor to replace depressing, pessimistic thoughts with positive ones. Rejoice over your blessings and your hope for the future! We have “a future and a hope”—the best possible—and these are guaranteed by our Creator. (Jer. 29:11, 12; Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 6:19) Reflect on your hope, work to stay young in heart and mind, and never underestimate the value of your presence in the congregation!*
16. Why did one older brother think that he should stop serving as an elder, but how did the body of elders encourage him?
16 Consider Johan, who at 80 years of age cares full-time for his faithful, now invalid, wife, Sannie.* Sisters take turns staying with Sannie so that Johan can go to meetings and in the ministry. Recently, however, Johan felt that he was near the breaking point emotionally and began thinking that he should no longer serve as a congregation elder. “What’s the point of my being an elder?” he asked as tears welled up in his eyes. “I no longer perform any useful function in the congregation.” His fellow elders assured him that his experience and judgment were invaluable. They urged him to continue serving as an elder, even if his participation was limited. Greatly encouraged, Johan continues to serve as an elder, to the blessing of the congregation.
Jehovah Really Cares
17. What assurances does the Bible give elderly Christians?
17 The Scriptures make it clear that older ones can continue to prosper spiritually despite the problems accompanying old age. The psalmist declared: “Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah . . . will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness, fat and fresh they will continue to be.” (Ps. 92:13, 14) The apostle Paul, who may have been dealing with a physical affliction, ‘did not give up, even if the man he was on the outside was wasting away.’—Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
18. Why do older fellow believers and their caregivers need the help of others?
18 Many modern-day examples prove that older ones can “keep on thriving.” But the challenges of illness and old age can be daunting, even for those who have caring and committed family members to help them. Caregivers too may become worn-out. The congregation has the privilege and responsibility to put their love into action in behalf of older ones and those who care for them. (Gal. 6:10) Such help shows that we are not, in effect, telling such ones to go and “keep warm and well fed” without assisting them in practical ways.—Jas. 2:15-17.
19. Why can faithful elderly Christians view the future with confidence?
19 Advancing age may change a Christian’s activities somewhat, but time does not diminish Jehovah’s love for his loyal older servants. On the contrary, all of these faithful Christians are precious in his eyes, and he will never leave them. (Ps. 37:28; Isa. 46:4) Jehovah will sustain and guide them throughout old age.—Ps. 48:14.
In some lands, this may include helping older ones to avail themselves of government assistance. See the article “God Cares for the Elderly,” in the June 1, 2006, issue of The Watchtower.
Names have been changed.
How Would You Answer?
• Why do you consider faithful elderly Christians to be precious?
• How can we show tender regard for aging fellow worshippers?
• What can help older servants of Jehovah to have a positive outlook?
[Pictures on page 18]
Members of the congregation have high regard for elderly ones