Neither Tired, Nor Retired
(Message given to a small group of retired professionals on 4 June 2015 in Trichy, Tamil Nadu)
Retirement could be seen as a new beginning or a hopless end. There are people who see that as an inevitable end and become sad and sullen after retirement. Former Prime Minister Vajpayee once said: “We are neither tired, nor retired.” The Bible has several instances and incidents in which old people are considered important and impact lives of people in significant ways. Jacob is a classic example. “Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.” (Genesis 47:7-10)
Joseph takes his father Jacob to the presence of Pharaoh, the Emperor of the super power of that ancient time. The interesting conversation brings three important aspects of the life of Jacob. 130 years old Jacob considers himself as a sojourner or a pilgrim. We are not Permanent Residents of this world. God has sent us into this world for a period of time, for a purpose. Having sojourner mentality helps a person to see life in God’s perspective and align it with God’s purpose. Second, Jacob also mentions about his suffering. In the imperfect world, suffering is part and parcel of everyday life. All who live on this planet earth have to experience one or the other suffering. Third, Jacob had the spiritual confidence, courage and guts to bless the Pharaoh. Only a greater person blesses the smaller person. Here Jacob is greater, even though he is a refugee Old people, Senior citizens, Elders could be a blessing to many people. Here is a list of blessings old people could bring:
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalms 92: 12-15) The righteous people who grow old continue to be full of sap and green. They continue to bear fruit in the old age too. They bear fruit, because they are planted in the house of the Lord. Their fruitfulness demonstrates the God is upright, rock and no unrighteousness in him. Even in the old age, Christians could bring fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8), fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23), fruit of lips – worship (Hebrews 13:15) and fruit of leading people to Lord Jesus Christ.
2) Agents of reconciliation
Onesimus runs away from Philemon to end his life of slavery. He thought he would become anonymous in the city of Rome. But God caught him, that he meets Paul and becomes a disciple of Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wants Onesimus to go back to his master, seek forgiveness and be reconciled. Paul writes a beautiful letter to Philemon. In that, he uses his ‘old age’ as a privilege or a tool to coax Philemon to accept his runaway slave as a brother in the Lord. “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” (Philemon 1:8-10) While many people think ‘old age’ as disadvantage, Paul thinks his ‘old age’ as an advantage or beneficial factor to get pardon for a runaway slave. There are plenty of circumstances, where ‘old age’ is an honour, privilege and certainly an advantage.
3) Spiritual insights
Joseph and Mary takes Lord Jesus as the infant to Jerusalem temple to fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses. On that occasion, two old people meet this family. First was Simeon, a righteous and devout man. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel or the Messiah. The Spirit of God was upon him and knew that he would see the Messiah. (Luke 2: 25) He is relieved that now, he could die as the prophecy and promise to Israel was fulfilled. In Jerusalem, and in Israel there were numerous people, several Levites, Pharisees, Sadducees and few priests. There were young prophets too. However, God chose a old man Simeon to reveal and confirm his plan. In fact, young people were side-lined and an old man was chosen. Second, there was 84 year old Anna. (Luke 2: 36-38) Again God chose a old woman and not a young woman for this role. God has strategic roles for old people to fulfill in His Kingdom.
4) Mentoring emerging generations
Eli was a high priest. In the biblical account, he is seen as a father who could not discipline his sons who were notorious and leading a sinful life. However, God used Eli to assure Hannah and later Hannah brings Samuel and leaves him in the temple to serve the Lord. God is His Sovereign wisdom chose Eli as a mentor of small boy Samuel. (I Samuel 3:1-10) As a small boy, Samuel did not know how to listen to the Lord, Eli taught him. Samuel becomes a great prophet and also initiates kingship in the nation of Israel. Senior people like Eli could mentor children and young people. That is an awesome and rewarding ministry.
5) Providing needs
When David had to flee from Jerusalem because of the treachery of Absalom his son, there was an old man Barzillai who provided the King with food and other needs. “Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim, and he went on with the king to the Jordan, to escort him over the Jordan. Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. He had provided the king with food while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man.” (II Samuel 19: 31-32) When the uprising was defeated, David began his journey back to Jerusalem. David invited Barzillai to come along with him to Jerusalem. Barzillai politely refused, but sent his son to serve David. In a very critical moment in the life of David, God used the eighty years old Barzillai to provide the needs of David. It was not just food or physical needs, Barzillai provided the moral and spiritual support David desperately needed. Old people could provide moral, emotional, and spiritual support to people of God who are experiencing low moments in their lives.
6) Prayer and intercession
Samuel was a great leader in Israel. As the children of Israel desired, God granted them a king. Samuel installs Saul as the king and wants to move out of public life. However, the people wanted Samuel to continue to pray for them and the new system of kingdom. Samuel says: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” (I Samuel 12:23) Though Samuel withdrew from his role as a leader, he continues to minister through prayer and intercession. Samuel says that his primary responsibility is to pray for the people of God, or else he would sin against God. Prayer and intercession are great privileges God has bestowed upon his people. Prayer is a strategic ministry in which people who withdraw from public work or ministry could be quietly engaged in.
In a globalized consumerist world, old people are considered to be disposable people. They are rejected by families, institutions, and even the society. Nevertheless, God sees them as his instruments for blessing humanity. Old people should be gladly available to be channels of His divine blessings to the hurting people of the world.