Paul gives the young preacher, Timothy, instruction as to how the Church should help the elderly. I don’t think it would be a bad idea for the Church in 2018 to take a second look at what God says through Paul.
The first thing I noticed is that Paul tells us family should take care of family first. He talks specifically about widows, and if that’s as far as we want to take it, I still think there is something important for us to consider.
If a widow has children, those kids need to step up. It’s not the church’s responsibility to make sure her bills are paid, and her lawn gets mowed. It’s not the church’s responsibility to keep in touch with her, or to be sure she gets to her doctor’s appointment. Her children have the responsibility – and I would add the privilege – of making sure Mom is ok.
Shouldn’t the same be said for widowers? Or anyone who finds themselves alone and needy? I believe Paul is telling family to care of family. But I personally see so many adult children turn their backs on their parents for any number of reasons. I’m sorry, but I don’t see God telling us to take care of our parents if we think they deserve it, or only if they are nice to us. Children have a responsibility to their aging parents, like it or not, convenient or not.
A side note: if you are blessed to have an elderly parent in your life, I envy you. My mom died in 1996, and what I wouldn’t give to hear her voice, to sit with her, or to have her in my home. “Oh,” you might say, “You have no idea how hard that is.” And you would be right. I don’t. I’d still like to try.
And while I’m at it, may I say if you can’t care for your elderly parent with joy and enthusiasm, then let someone else do it. I know you are worried about your inheritance if you get a room for them in the local nursing home. But that money isn’t yours. Your parent earned it. Shame on you for making their life and yours miserable for a few bucks.
The other thing I see here in Paul’s letters to Timothy is the attitude we need to adopt toward the elderly. Treat them with respect, Paul says. “Exhort him.”
Do you see our modern churches doing that? Or have we pushed them aside in favor of an attempt to attract millennials into our services? We certainly don’t want them to see too many grey hairs, do we?
We are such a throw-away society. Let’s not throw away those dear ones in our midst who aren’t as young as they used to be, but who are loved by God and still have purpose in this life as long as God gives them breath.
Young people, middle aged folk, reach out to that parent or grandparent this Christmas. Make sure they are ok. Fill their kitchens with the smell of baking cookies, or decorate a tree in their nursing home room.
And Church, if an elderly person in your fellowship has children who are neglectful, you be the one who reaches out to them. Not to help that disobedient child, but to bless that widow, widower, or single person with a head full of grey hair, and who is as valuable in God’s kingdom as you are.