“Gray hair is a crown of glory. It is attained by a life of righteousness.”Proverbs 16:31:
In the ancient Middle Eastern culture of three thousand years ago, this saying would have had a much different connotation than we might see today. In fact, reading through the proverbs of Solomon, one might easily skip over this simple statement as being a quaint observation from the past.
In today’s society, we look less upon advanced age as the reward of a righteous life, and more of an expected right for all. We see little connection between the ethical quality of the life lived, and the duration of that life. Everything now is about advanced medical opportunities and mindful health practices. Whether a person is good or bad is rarely considered a factor in the role of longevity.
In the ancient world, growing older was considered a sign of blessing and honor. Generally speaking, the role of elders in society was viewed as being filled with gravity and wisdom. Elders in villages were looked upon as repositories of wisdom and guidance for the community. We see this was even a recommended practice among their early believing communities, as elders were to be appointed to lead the spiritual life of the congregations of Messiah.
To attain an advanced age was to have lived a life of right choices, and therefore worthy of respect. In our day, we see echoes of this mentality when individuals who live to be 100 years or older are interviewed as to what their “secret” is for having lived so long. If for no other reason than this, I would enjoy living to that advanced age only for the opportunity to share that a life of obedience and righteousness to the God of the universe provides wisdom for happiness and longevity.
Proverbs 9:10-11: “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.
The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied. The years of your life will be increased.”
Matthew Poole in his commentary has this interesting observation regarding the white hair of the aged:
“…[it is] a great honour and ornament, as it is a singular blessing of God, a token of great experience and prudence, as it comes nearest to God, who is called the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9.”
To be ancient of days is to be considered having qualities of wisdom approaching those of God. The white hair of age is not something to be dyed and colored to mimic the vibrancy of youth, but is to be a visible representation and celebration of longevity and honored living.
Of course, as with any general rule or maxim, there are always exceptions. Sometimes the wicked people continue on, while lives of integrity are cut short. This leveling truth was also revealed by Solomon:
Ecclesiastes 9:11 Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them.
While time and chance have a role to play within the wisdom of God, I think it can easily be demonstrated that, on the whole, short or long, a life of integrity and wisdom is its own reward. But for the aged among us who have genuinely lived lives of integrity, we should seek to provide the appreciation and respect they deserve.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.