Today's proverb gives us some valued information about both young men and old men. This is not a proverb that compares them against each other. It gives us the best view of what is wonderful about them - and what they should strive for in their youthful zeal - as well as their older, wiser days.
There are some great words used here to describe the younger man and his pursuit in the things of God - and in life in general. Note that God's wisdom tells us there is a "glory of young men." When you are younger in years you seek after the glory of something. This is not meant to be a negative statement - as if the younger man is usurping the glory of God. They just have an appetite for glory. The best way to describe this is that they yearn for rewards in life. If you place a goal with a reward that grants glory for something - young men will pursue it with great passion. These are the years when trophies, plaques, awards, and bonuses mean the most. Put a goal in front of these young men - and they will be greatly motivated to reach it. This is why the movement to make everyone equal at a young age is not good for our children. The whole, "we don't keep score" and "everyone is a winner" is not a realistic view of life. Granted we don't want competition to become an all-consuming desire to where morals and character don't seem to matter any longer - but the fact of life is that there is going to be competition. There are going to be winners and losers chosen in almost every area of life. Solomon warns that this can become vanity - when competition becomes the only thing that matters - but at the same time God's Word exhorts us to run the race "so as to win." Only one person gets the prize (or one team) but a wise parent encourages his children to excell at what they do - even if all they have to measure their success is their own previous performance.
We read here that the young man's glory is his strength. Young men want to be strong in some way. Some choose physical strength - others mental prowess. Whatever way they choose, they love being seen as strong in something. There is a wisdom that takes this desire and channels it in ways that are very constructive. Encourage your young men to find something they enjoy - or an area in which they can excell. Put goals and lofty aspirations before them in this - and then encourage the daylights out of them as they strive toward it. Let me give you a small example of this. Too often we do not challenge our young men - and this is a detriment that cripples them later in life. We are so given to the fear that they will have their self-image damaged - that we do not see that it already is because as young men they are not being challenged to do great things. One summer I took the high school guys I work with and challenged them to read the New Testament once a month - and memorize 8-10 verses a week. They were to do this in June, July, and August. Some might be concerned that I was "setting them up to fail" and that their poor little self worth would be damaged as a result. But that was not the case. They rose to the task with youthful vigor and strength! They loved it - and as a result were blown away at what God did in their hearts as they strove for something challenging. They each felt their strength as they were challenged to do something that was a huge challenge. They would come in week by week having met the challenge - or needing to step up and do what needed to be done to meet it. These young men gloried in the strength to do something hard for God.
What about old men? What is it that motivates and moves them. Note first that the word glory is removed and the word honor is inserted. Older men desire honor - but once again let me state that they do not desire God's honor in an ungodly way. Their desire is for others to realize that they have lived a godly, honorable life - and due to this should be respected and honored for their years of labor and wisdom. The proverb says that older men are honored due to their grey hair. Grey hair is achieved by . . . getting older It means that you've lived for a while. We joke that grey hair comes because of walking through the difficulties and challenges of life. That may not be as much of a joke as we think. Grey hair means you are no longer a young man plowing through life's difficulties. It means you've walked through them - and honestly - know ways that are wiser and better. Grey hair comes with battle scars and with proven character in the difficult trials that life throws your way. Grey hair means you've been around for a while - you've been knocked down a lot - but it also means that you've gotten back up and continued in the way a little better and a little wiser. There is a phrase older men know - you learn to work smarter, not just harder. This comes from wisdom - and it is a reason to be honored. Honor comes when people listen to you. They listen, not because you love to talk and because you have a thousand stories you repeat again and again. They listen because you are wise and becasue you truly have something to say. They listen because you not only know the road - but you know the good short-cuts. You know the the short-cuts that work - and those that will result in disasters. You also know that some things are only learned over time - and that there are no short-cuts to them. They also listen because you've walked with God for years - have survived the pitfalls and ambushes of life - and have come out a godly man.
There is a lack of wisdom that unwisely pits younger men against older men. It devalues one or the other while trying to make the case that one is more important than the other. The truth - and wisdom tells us that both are needed. The military needs strong young men who can fight - yet it also relies on older, seasoned men to strategize the best ways to fight and defend the land. Business needs young, strong men who can work hard and cover a lot of things - yet it also relies on older, wiser men to navigate the dangerous paths that can often destroy a business. Both are needed - if they understand their roles and don't succumb to jealousy. Blessed is the business, organization, and nation who grasps this - who values the strength of young men and the grey hair of older ones. They will receive the best of both ends of the age spectrum - and will prepare the next generation of older men to do the same. The fact is this - the younger men of today are becoming the older men of tomorrow. Oh that we will learn to value the contributions of both - and will find ourselves continuously training the next group of older men who will lead and appreciate the younger.