One of the things that the Bible is abundantly clear about is that with age there should come wisdom. Job wrote, “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” (Job 12:12, NASB) This quote helps us to discern one of the things God would have us to do with the years of life that He gives us. He grants us days and years so that we might walk with Him through them. As we do this, we should be growing closer to Him – and understanding His heart and thoughts toward the things we encounter. This will yield to us wisdom – His wisdom – as we walk through this life. Note, according to Job – wisdom is with aged men. The word for wisdom here refers to the knowledge we gain of God’s ways, God’s Word, and God’s heart. Wisdom is little more than seeing things God’s way – viewing all of life as God would view it.
Job says more about what we gain as we age. There is a wonderful practical side to the wisdom that the aged man has and offers to others. Job says that with long life is understanding. The Hebrew word for understanding is “tabuwn” and it has the idea of being skillful. The wise man not only has wise sayings to pass along. He also has the ability to take that wisdom and put it to practical use as he walks through life. Oh the blessings of knowing an older man who not only views life from God’s perspective, but he also knows how to walk through the days of his life practically using this wisdom to make decisions. The understanding this man has allows him to discern the difference between two choices he has before him. That kind of discernment comes only one of two ways – either with the seasoning of age – or by one who even at a young age greatly values the study and practice of the Word in his life.
In Psalm 119:99-100 David said, “I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. (Psalm 119:99-100, NASB) The only time we see wisdom of the younger surpassing that of older men is when a young men takes time to meditate on the Word for the purpose of obeying it. That is a source of great wisdom.
Part of God’s purpose of having people age – and leaving older people on this earth is that they would pass wisdom down to the younger ones who will be here long after they are gone. One of the things we’ve watched in the last 100 years is a gradual despising of the elderly in our society. Our culture exalts being “with the times” rather than understanding them. The unfortunate result has been that young fools have become our leaders. We do not properly appreciate the older people in our world. This has even seen its damage in the church – where we seldom see the older men and women making the commitment to teach and disciple the younger ones. They think they have little to offer to them – and that they would probably be rejected. Thus we have a clash of age groups – and a dearth of wisdom being passed on to the next generation.
Part of this problem though, needs to be laid at the feet of an older generation more interested in passing on traditions than in walking younger people through Scripture. Jesus spoke of those who valued their traditions more than the Scriptures (in fact they valued them instead of the Scriptures). This is not seen as wisdom, but the height of foolishness. I will dare to make a very bold statement at this point. The church will be wonderfully blessed when the older generations (and I consider myself now among them) realize that rather than retire from church work, as they get older, they mentor the next generation as they turn over leadership to them. I call this the, “I’ve done my time” syndrome. This is where the older generation feels they’ve served long enough – and rather than mentor the next generation – they walk away from leadership. The job of mentoring and passing along wisdom is not easy. I’ve attempted it with varying degrees of success and failure over the last 10 -15 years. What I've learned over the years is that the young people I work with are not looking for someone who is perfect - but someone who will love them, teach them, answer their questions, and be real with them about the journey of life. A proper theology of aging includes the older generation of the church taking up the responsibility for mentoring the next generations so that they walk in wisdom, avoiding the foolish mistakes of the past.