Why our churches need more gray hair

In Titus 2:2, Paul writes to Titus about the older men in his congregation:

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” –Titus 2:2

These older men are not to be confused with those who hold the office of elder (cf. 1:5). The “older men” are those who literally have advanced age. Paul says that these men must have several exemplary characteristics.

“Sober-minded” translates a term that means “very moderate in the drinking of an alcoholic beverage” (BDAG). Its figurative extension here means “be free fr. every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkenness’, fr. excess, passion, rashness, confusion” (BDAG). It is a call to be “restrained in conduct, self-controlled, level-headed” (BDAG).

“Dignified” means “worthy of respect/honor, noble, dignified, serious” (BDAG). The dignified person is so self-possessed and in control of his temper and fears that he elicits admiration from those who know him.

“Self-controlled” indicates someone who is “thoughtful, self-controlled” (BDAG). In Aristotle’s ethics, the term indicates “avoidance of extremes and careful consideration for responsible action” (Aristot., EN 3, 15; BDAG). For Aristotle, the “self-controlled” person “is intent on the what, the how, and the when of doing what should be done.”

“Sound” means to be “healthy” or free from sickness. The figurative extension of that meaning here is “correct” or free from error. So “sound” in faith, love, and endurance means that older men have to believe in the right way, love in the right way, and endure in the right way.

In sum, Paul says that older men must be those who do not panic in the face of a challenge. They do not get angry when provoked. They do not fear in the face of a threat. The older men are to be as solid as an oak. They are to be the kind of men to whom people look when something is broken and no one knows how to fix it. They are the kind of men who are sought out for their wisdom and ability to speak truth into very difficult situations.

They are exemplary in faith and in love for wife and children and church and neighbor. They face trials with perseverance and courage. They are the kind of men that you want your son to grow up and be like.

Churches desperately need their older men to exemplify being sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Churches need an army of laymen who believe well, love well, and suffer well. And churches need them because these older men are the pace-setters for the rest of the church. It is not an accident that Paul begins with the older men. He begins with them because he intends for the old guys to be leading out in these things in the church and in their homes.

Proverbs 20:29 says that “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” This verse means that young men are not noted for their great and profound wisdom into life. The main contribution of young men is their ability to serve others with their physical strength and vigor. That means that the young men ought to be trying to out-serve one another in ways that involve their physical ability. When someone needs help moving, they show up. When there is a workday at the church, the young men need to be there with their able-bodied eagerness.

But as the years accumulate strength diminishes. And as strength diminishes, guess what begins to accumulate? Experience and wisdom. And gray hair represents the accumulation of wisdom and sensibleness about life and about what needs to be done. And this is an old man’s splendor and contribution to his neighbor. And it is supposed to be his contribution to the body of Christ. The church needs her older men to be what God has called them to be. They should live life in such a way that evokes admiration and respect. They do not need to be great orators. They do not need to write books on theology. They simply need to be godly. They need to be able to pour themselves out to their family and others who need their steadiness and wisdom.

The world’s point of view on the relationship between gray hair and wisdom is upside down. The world absolutely idolizes youth. So much so, that the order of the day is to suppress the appearance of age—to try to stay and look as young as you can for as long as you can because the essence of the good life is for those who are youthful, vigorous, and beautiful. And the world caters to the tastes and opinions of the young because they are the most coveted consumer demographic.

The world puts the old people on the shelf and the young people on the podium. But it really should be the other way around. Every believer should aspire to the crown of splendor—to the honor that is due to those who have learned to live well and faithfully to what God has called them. So this word to the old, therefore, is a word to all of us.

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