There is a worrying trend in today’s society, particularly centered on the Millennial & Generation Z groups. However, it’s not something new although perhaps more evident, once again, in the past few years. It’s been going on since the beginning and even the Bible addresses time and again. What is it? It’s actually respect.
No, I’m not talking about the clichéd phrase ‘Show me some respect!’ or even the view that we all deserve just a little respect. I am talking about a specific type of respect and one that God commands time and again in His Word.
There is something to be said for young children respecting their parents but that is perhaps a topic for another time as it is addressed multiple times in the Bible as well. However, history shows us time and again the value, in fact the necessity of respect for our elders. It is shocking, to me, how so many in this generation have so little respect for those who are a generation or two older than they are. In some cases, just having little or no respect doesn’t even fit the bill. A more accurate description can only be defined as utter hatred and an attitude that despises every view and value that the older generation holds and it breaks my heart when I hear it expressed. But the primary demand on Christian believers, when this occurs among the brethren, is a call to God’s Word.
Job 12:12 starts it off with a rhetorical question calling the young to stop and remember an age old truth. ‘Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?’ Somehow, many in this generation have decided that every evil that has befallen them is a direct result of the previous generation or two. They seem to depict themselves as having ‘arrived’ and the other generations as the root of all evil and the cause of the apparent and self-described problems that today’s culture now finds themselves. 1 Peter 5:5 tells those ‘who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”‘ The hatred of previous generations such as the Baby Boomers or Generation Y fits very well into the world-view that is so rabidly against those who have offended their pride by correcting their errors or telling them when they’re wrong. Previous generations fought against true slave labour and true unfit working conditions and built up the comparatively comfortable work structure we have today. This is the same structure that the young feel excused to rebel against, demanding less (or no) work in exchange for government subsidies, benefits, and unreasonable, skewed, and Godless policies to be accepted and even enforced, all the while prodded by cultural whispering to forget the Scriptures which condone work in exchange for food, respect for tried and tested values, learning from one’s elders, and even marriage and family. ‘Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.’ 1 Timothy 5:1-2
Many feel the seemingly archaic view of respecting the elderly and their wisdom simply is not important anymore, if it even applies, as many believe it does not. And they are affirmed in that belief by something the entitled millennial generation gorges on day in and day out. Today’s entertainment, media and social media, from every possible facet, depicts older people as idiots, traditional ‘stick on the muds’, or (worst of all) doddering religious fools! After all, the constant barrage of media shouting that society has progressed past religion and no longer needs a God must mean that it’s true, right? But this has also happened before. (Luke 19:14, Jeremiah 2, Proverbs 14:12, Judges 2:10) ‘Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the LORD.’ (Lev. 19:32) This charge is in the same sentence with fearing the Lord! Respect for the older and wiser is not just a suggestion in the Bible, but rather a command, and a very important one at that!
One of the direct reasons that this generation seems to hold tightly to their rebellious and headstrong foolishness that, until recently, was stereotypical only of teenagers, is society’s rush to feed the persecuted and rebellious mind-set. This gives cause for teenagers, who previously grew out of this rebellion when they found that society didn’t cater to their tantrums, to now feel vindicated in their rebellious, protesting attitudes and therefore never grows out of them. And this is, perhaps, a failing on the part of the previous generation who, many of which, succumbed to the new-thought sages of their era who discouraged traditional parenting grounded in principles taught in the Bible and replaced them in favour of allowing the child to do whatever they want without bounds and certainly never telling them that the ways in which they are trying to do things would not work. That, according to their advice, would quench their dreams and might damage them. Instead, ‘Just be yourself. Do what makes you feel good. Do it your way. You can do anything. Do what you feel to be right.’ Proverbs 12:15 describes a large percentage of millennials simply by defining the attitude that so many readily display. ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes’. But the second part of the passage contains the antidote, ‘a wise man listens to advice.’
And then we read the story in 1 Kings 12 where King Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the older and wiser and instead bounced ideas off of his peers and took their foolish advice. We only need to look at history to see where those pursuits ended up. The millennial generation trusts almost entirely in their own echo chambers. They refuse to listen to those outside of their own worldview and are therefore, fools. ‘Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.’ Prov. 28:26
And, because there are some who will swing the pendulum too far to the other side, this is what this article does not mean.
- -You must obey or defer to anyone who is older than you without question.
- -Choosing not to accept the advice of the elderly will send you to hell fire.
- -Everyone from the generations previous to the Millennials was in the auto-salvation club.
- -If you’re over 50, you’ve arrived and those young whipper-snappers had better realise it.
- -The old ways are inevitably the best.
- -Anything that wasn’t around or generally accepted in previous generations is inherently evil and must be shunned.
Naturally there are many older & unwise people in this world today and we know that, as always, God’s Word is our number one source of wisdom. But often, if we open our ears, we’ll find that a large amount of the well-intentioned older and wiser advice is sound wisdom carried over from an era where thorough instruction, often from the Word of God, was lived out and taught more universally than it is today. Older people have seen more things, done more, and learned more than us, as the younger and their advice is all too often sound and sobering if not even straight from the hearts of the redeemed, at times.
In closing, the Bible is the Word of God. He is our Lord. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ Prov. 1:7 ‘But I have wisdom!’ you may say. Is it the wisdom of God and His precepts? If not, it’s pure foolishness. ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.’ (1 Cor. 3:19) I encourage everyone to think twice before you rush to abandon God along with the respect for your elders, many of whom learned to have the respect for Him and His Word that He demands.