Dare to care the Elderly ones
Caring the senior citizens is one of the major social issues of the modern society. Many countries enacted legislations to safeguard their rights. Social scientists formulate many models for the welfare of the senior citizens. Old age homes are increasing day by day. In one of the southern states in India, a new innovative idea as been developed to care for the elderly ones: ‘day care centre for the senior citizens’. It was received with great enthusiasm and gave a lease of life to the elderly ones. Even though the market forces and globalization have been involved, the recent trend of celebrating ‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Mothers Day’ are encouraging positive steps to this end.
Old age is scare; health slowly slides, mind frequently fails. In the book of Ecclesiasts, Solomon portrays the process of growing old, in a poetic style of supreme beauty and universal appeal. Hands shiver, legs lose the strength, eyes fade, ears fail, senses ceases, sleep slips, fear grips; finally “ The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God, who gave it”. Hence, Solomon advices the youth, to use profitably the most productive years for the service of our Creator God (Eccl.12: 1).
Psalms 71 is the prayer of an old man. “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth ……………Let me never be put to confusion” (Ps. 71:1, 9). He has full confidence, he found God as his ‘resort’, ‘rock’ and ‘fortress’. He understands the purpose of his long life. This is what he says, “O God forsake me not until I have shown thy strength unto this generation and thy power to everyone that is to come”. (Ps. 71:18). Old age should not scare the saints because of our saviour’s promise; “even to your old age, I am he; and even to gray hairs will I carry you. I have made and I will bear” (Isa. 46:4).
As Christians we ought to know what the scripture teaches on this major social issue.
Even from the time of institution; Church of Christ was very sensitive to this social issue. Early Church initiated “Widow’s welfare scheme” and appointed seven Spirit filled men to care them. (Acts. 6:1-6). Paul gave guidelines to Timothy for a similar project. “Honour widows that are widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:3). Those who have children and nephews should not cause a burden to the local church. None should misuse such generosity of the Church. It is the children’s responsibility to take care of their elderly parents (1 Tim. 5:4). Churches of India should initiate similar welfare projects to meet the mental, physical and spiritual need of elderly saints.
Commandment of God
God made a provision of this need in the Ten Commandments. Paul exhorts and reminds the blessings of keeping this commandment. “Children obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right” (Eph.6:1). Here Paul suggests four reasons to obey the parents. 1. We are “in the Lord”, so, it is obligatory for believers to obey the parents. 2. Obeying our parents is a right thing; none can accuse us doing wrong. 3. Moreover, it is the Lord’s commandment. 4. Finally, this act of obedience will bring blessings in our life. “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:3). Here both “quantity and “quality” life is promised.
This commandment should not be limited in a narrow sense, by applying only to small children. It should be taken in a broader sense of honouring any elderly ones including our parents. We should honour our parents as long as they are alive.
Honour them by standing up
There are many ways of honouring the older ones. “Thou shall rise up before the hoary head and honour the face of the old man and fear they God; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:33). We ought to teach our children these things. Solomon has this training as a child. His mother came to meet him after the coronation, with a request. “Bathsheba…… went unto King Solomon and the King rose up to meet her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set on his right hand” (1 Kings 2:19). He set a beautiful example. Many a times youngsters fail to offer seat to elderly ones. We should teach them.
“Whoso curseth his father or his mother his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness” (Prov. 20:20). According to the Mosaic law one who curses his parents are meted with Capital punishment. “And he that curseth his father, or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9). One who does that will be deprived of divine blessings and even an honourable burial. “The eye that mocketh at his father and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out and the young eagles shall eat it,” that means no proper burial (Prov. 30:17).
Children are more prone to despise and curse their parents at the old age. “Hearken unto thy father that begot thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old” (Prov. 23:22). It is a heartbreaking experience for the parents if their children fail to guide them and help them at their old age. “There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up” (Isa. 51:18). A mother needs some one to guide her and hold her hands at the old age; children who fail to do, despise her.
Provide material needs
The word “honour” in the scriptures not only refers to ones mental assent but also material assistance. Paul exhorts Timothy to give “double honour” to elders who labour in the word; “double hounour” includes material assistance. In Proverb 3:9 we read “Honour the Lord with thy substance”. So honour your parents includes meeting their material needs.
Lord Jesus Christ rebuked Pharisees for not taking care of their parents. They encouraged people to give financial assistance to the various temple services than caring parents. Jesus Christ taught them that, spiritual services at the cost of caring the parents are not acceptable before God. By following man made traditions they violated the commandments of God. (Matt. 15:4; Mk. 7:11-13).
It is the duty of children to care parents. When we were children they provided all our needs, according to their ability. By taking care of parents at their old age, we repay them for what they have done to us. Timothy received this instruction from Paul; “learn….. to requite (repay) parents; for that is good and acceptable before God” (1 Tim. 5:4).Our good services to parents are acceptable before God. If parents are financially sound at least we can give then some gifts at special occasions like birthdays, wedding anniversary etc. They love to have it.
Visit and pray for them
Loneliness is the agonizing experience of old age. A feeling of “not wanted”. Visits of children and grand children can give them renewed strength.
Joseph with his two sons visited Jacob at his sick bed. Jacob was told, the arrival of Joseph, “Israel strengthened himself and sat upon the bed” (Gen. 48:1-2). A man at his death bed when heard the arrival of his son and grand children got strength to sit upon the bed. Our visits strengthen elderly parents; even can cure their sickness.
The author had a great love for grand parents. This was ingrained in my heart by my parents. In my childhood they insisted me to pray for them. Even now there is not a single day I missed to pray for my parents. Our presence, prayer and touch all have an impact for their well being.
Jesus Christ our role model
Jesus Christ is our role model in all the areas of our life. Even from His childhood, obeyed parents and gave due honour to them (Lk. 2:50-52). On the cross, in the midst of excruciating pain he remembered His mother’s welfare. He never desired to shun himself from responsibility. He called His beloved disciple John and entrusted His mother under His care (Jn. 19:26-27). By this time Mary was above 50 years of age. None can say, “I am in the midst of extreme sufferings that I cannot care for my parents”. We have no excuse for not seeking the welfare of our parents.
Bible gives much importance to burial. Many of the Kings of Israel did not get a honourable burial because of their misdeeds. Person who gets a respectable burial is considered as a blessed man. (2 Chr. 32:33; 26:23; 24:16, 25).
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives were all honoured at their burial. Roman authorities decided to give a mean criminal’s burial to Christ, but heaven intervened and gave Him a royal burial (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:57-60; Jn. 19:38-41).
It is children’s duty to give a honourable burial to parents. It is said about Abraham, “his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah” (Gen. 25:9). “Isaac died being old and full of age; his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” Gen. 35:29). When Jacob died, “Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and kissed him.” Then it is mentioned “his sons carried him into the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah”. (Gen.46:4; 50:1, 13). All the patriarchs were honoured at the time of their burial.
Solomon narrates a story of an unfortunate man. “If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he”. (Eccl. 6:3 cp. Jer. 22:19).
Today, we are young: tomorrow we may have to pass through the same experience of our parents. Our children are watching carefully how we honour our parents.
On that day Jack, a small boy was watching everything carefully. It was first time in his life he saw death. His grand pa is no more. He was sick for quiet long time. But it happened suddenly in the night. In the morning household realized that grand pa is no more. Near and dear ones came. Many offered wreaths and expressed condolence. By evening silence crept in. Jack slowly entered into grand pa’s room. He saw a plate kept at the corner, in which grand pa use to have his food. He washed, wiped and about to pack it carefully. Suddenly his Dad noticed what Jack was doing. He asked “Jack what are you doing”. Jack calmly but firmly replied “I am packing grand pa’s plate”. “Why do you need it” Daddy asked. “Daddy it’s for you, when you get old; can use it”.
Whatever we do to our parents in the same manner our children will repay it; probably more. Jacob deceived his father Isaac by covering himself with the skin of the goats. But his own children deceived him with the blood of the goat. They went one step ahead. They dipped Joseph’s coat of many colours in the blood and brought it before Jacob. (Gen.27:9; Gen.37:31). “Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure; pressed down, and shaken together, and running over shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye measure it shall be measured to you again”. (Lk. 6:38).