A father and mother paced the floors the night of their teenage son’s first date. The boy had just gotten his driver’s license that day and had celebrated by taking his girlfriend to the movies. He was supposed to be home by 11:00, but it was now 10:50 and the parents were worried that something was wrong.
Suddenly the phone rang and the father answered it. It was the local hospital calling with news. “Sir,” said the nurse on the line, “there’s been a car accident.” The father responded, “I figured it.” The nurse laughed and said, “Oh, it’s not so bad. No one was really hurt, just shaken up a bit. But I do have someone here who wants to talk to you.” The father said, “Okay, put him on.”
To the father’s surprise, though, the next voice he heard was that of his aged father rather than his teenage son. The elderly man said, “Sorry to call you so late, son, but I figured you’d want to know that your mother and I will be spending the night at the hospital.” Just then the father saw the headlights of his son’s car pull safely into the driveway. That’s when he looked at his wife and say, “Honey, we’ve been worrying about the wrong generation.”
The Bible provides no shortage of stories in which older men and women play important roles. Sometimes these elderly characters display exemplary character and conduct, but other times they don’t. At the end of the day, though, the Bible’s most detailed passage on the subject of how elderly folks should act is found in Titus 2:1-5. That’s why I’m going to use those verses as my text for a little two-post series. With this first post I’ll cover the description of the godly, elderly man. On that subject, the apostle Paul writes to Titus and says:
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience… (Titus 2:1-2, N.K.J.V.)
Okay, so what does a godly, elderly gentleman look like? Well, first of all, he is to be “sober.” While this word usually gets applied to drinking alcoholic beverages — and it certainly should be — in this context it actually refers to all areas of life. Other translations go with “temperate” or “self-controlled.” Paul is saying that the older man shouldn’t get out of hand with anything he does, whether it be drinking or anything else.
Second, the godly, elderly gentleman should be “reverent.” Other translations render the Greek here as “serious,” “dignified,” or “worthy of respect.” The point is that the elderly man shouldn’t be a clown. He should carry himself with a high degree of dignity. He should be respected and his opinion should be valued by others. After all, an old man has a lifetime of wisdom to convey on a wide variety of subjects if he’s in the right mindset to do it.
Third, the godly, elderly gentleman should be “temperate.” This word closely parallels that first word “sober.” Other translations translate it “sensible,” “prudent,” or “self controlled.” Isn’t it interesting that Paul keeps hammering on the idea that old men shouldn’t allow themselves to run amuck and get out of control? Perhaps Paul is trying to combat the mentality, “I’m old and retired now and I’m going to live it up and start acting like a kid again. I’ve been responsible all my life, but now I don’t care anymore.”
Fourth, the godly, elderly gentleman should be “sound in faith.” The word “sound” carries with it the idea of being healthy. The point is that the elderly man’s faith in the Lord should be healthy and vibrant. It should have a stability about it that allows it to stand strong during life’s storms. And make no mistake, storms do come to elderly men. For example, a man might have to bury his wife of many years. Then again, he himself might have to endure a serious medical crisis, perhaps a fatal one. Such situations, and many others, call for one to be “sound (healthy) in faith.”
Fifth, the godly, elderly gentleman should be sound “in love.” This quality stands in stark contrast to the stereotypical old man who is irritable, cranky, unpleasant to be around, and just downright mean. You know, I’m talking about the old codger who stands in his yard, waves his cane threateningly at passersby, and screams, “STAY OFF MY LAWN.” What a difference an elderly man can make in the lives of his family and in the lives of others by simply majoring in love instead of crankiness.
Sixth and lastly, the godly, elderly gentleman should be sound “in patience.” The Greek word that is used here is hupomone, and it’s a word that has different shades of meaning. Patience is definitely one of those shades, but other shades are persistence, perseverance, or endurance. This explains why some translations translate the passage as “in perseverance” or “in endurance.” By using this word Paul is saying that the aged man should stay his course with the Lord despite whatever trials and troubles come. The guy shouldn’t be someone who quits quickly or can be stopped easily. The last thing in the world the old fellow is supposed to do is take his bed and wait to die.
Thus concludes the passage’s description of the godly, elderly gentleman. Needless to say, the best way for any man to meet the requirements of the description is for him to be a Christian who loves Jesus with all his heart and sets himself to serving Jesus with his dying breath. In my next post we’ll see what the passage has to offer for a description of the godly, elderly woman. So, until then……