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The honor of old men
Proverbs 20:29 Young and old alike should be more respectful of each other’s relative strengths
“The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.”
Proverbs 20:29 NASB1995
Yesterday was my 66th birthday, so this proverb is my consolation after reaching another age milestone. While I used to have long, black hair that might have rivaled Samson’s, I’m now mostly bald, and what hair I still have is gray. What I’ve lost in hair, I’ve made up in honor (today’s verse) and righteousness (Proverbs 16:31), which I’d say is a pretty good tradeoff. Of course, it would have been nice to be 66 years old and have a head of hair like that smiling gentleman in today’s picture!
Proverbs 20 is all about “life and conduct”. There are a number of statements about wisdom, some about accurate weights and measure (and not cheating people), and others about wickedness.
This particular verse points out God’s wonderful design of human development. Most young men and women possess wonderful physical strength, agility, and endurance, and it is wise for the young to participate in tasks that fit this glorious time of their lives. A perfect example of this is in sports — it is rare to see an athlete continue to excel as he or she ages.
Older people may lack the physical attributes of the young, but can make up for it in wisdom — signified by a gray head. British Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner said in his commentary on this proverb:
“A proverb to lift the reader above the unfruitful attitudes of envy, impatience and contempt which the old and the young may adopt towards each other. Each age has its appointed excellence, to be respected and enjoyed in its time.”1
That statement is contrary to the ages-old attitude of the young, who often look down on “senior citizens” as being weak and feeble-minded, and of the old, who see those hardy young people as having no common sense. Rather than being envious, impatient, and contemptuous towards each other, we should respect the relative strengths of both age groups.
19th Century theologian Charles Bridges saw a use for both the young and old to work together for the benefit of humankind:
“Let youth and old age both beware of defacing their glory. Each takes the precedence in some things and gives way in others. Let them not, therefore, envy or despise each other’s prerogatives. The world, the state, and the church needs them both, the strength of youth for energy and the maturity of the old for wisdom.”2
Sure, I might not be able to run a 5K race anymore (although I can still walk that distance easily), and I need help lifting heavy objects, but I’m OK with that. God gave me and others of my age our time to shine with strength in years gone by, and now we’re basking in the wisdom obtained from years of hard lessons.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Lord, I thank You each day for the priceless gift of life and for the wisdom I gain from studying Your Word. Please place opportunities in my way to use the wisdom accumulated over a long life to tell others of Your eternal love for Your creation. In Jesus’ holy name I pray, AMEN.
Kidner, Derek "Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary" (Kidner Classic Commentaries) (Nottingham, England: InterVarsity Press, 1964)
Bridges, Charles "Proverbs" (The Crossway Classic Commentaries) (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2001 edition of 1846 original)