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Archive for Saturday, November 9, 2013

Faith Forum: What does the Bible say about helping the elderly?

November 9, 2013

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Deep compassion means quality living

Kent Winters-Hazelton, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway:

As he awaited death on the cross on Good Friday, Jesus said to one of his disciples, “Here is your mother”. (John 19) Recognizing the vulnerable condition facing the elderly in that society, there can be no doubt that Jesus wanted to make sure his mother was cared for after he was gone. Moreover, in making provisions for his mother, he reflected the strong theme of concern within his religious tradition for those who were elderly.

Existing without the benefits of our modern social care provisions, social security, Medicare and the new affordable health care act, the elderly in the biblical era were at the mercy of family – if they had any – or the generosity of strangers. Throughout the Jewish and Christian scriptures we find a deep compassion for and a clarion call to care for those who were neglected and cast aside in society. Among those who most often fell into that state were elderly widows. A woman’s position in society was directly linked to husband. Once she was widowed, she had no legal status and could not inherit any property or money from their husband’s estate.

Thus, we find more than 200 verses in the Bible where the people were told to take care of the widows among them. For example, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed. Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1) (There doesn’t seem to be an equal representation among widowers, perhaps because the life expectancy among males was short). The biblical message seems to be that the quality and character of society is reflected in how it cares for the elderly. It should be so in our society as well.

— Send email to Kent Winters-Hazelton at fpcpastor@sunflower.com.

Respect and care for our elders

Mitch Todd, associate pastor, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vermont St.:

The Bible contains within its pages a profound respect, and responsibility, for the elderly. From the very beginnings of the church, special attention was given to how Christians might care for their elders. “Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters—with absolute purity.” This verse comes from the 5th chapter of Timothy, which contains an extended discussion of care for the elderly in the early Christian church.

This isn’t some innovation that came after Jesus, however. Care for the widow plays a major role in our Old Testament (Jewish) traditions, too. Deuteronomy repeatedly clarifies societal rules for caring for the “alien, the orphan, and the widow”, for these were the ones in greatest financial insecurity.

Indeed, the 5th commandment given by God, via Moses, was to “Honor your father and mother”. This has been interpreted by many as not only the honor that is due one’s family, but for all who are older.

It is left for us to understand what honoring our elderly looks like today, but certainly Jesus’ example of food, clothing, shelter, healing, and visitation make for a solid foundation for us to build upon!

— Send email to Mitch Todd at mitch@fumclawrence.org.


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