From the beginning of time God commanded his people to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The psalmist David commends the duty of parents and grandparents when he said, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). By obeying God while in a sin-cursed world, these older men and women have developed proven character and have refined wisdom to share with others. Consider the influence Noah had from his grandfather Methuselah and the earlier generations going back to Adam, during which “time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). May the Lord raise up many older men and women to bear witness to his gracious work.
The Gospel Can Change a Family Tree
Toward the end of his life, the aged Apostle Paul left his trusted coworker Titus—his “true child in a common faith”—on the island of Crete (Titus 1:4–5). This island was notorious for its treachery, evil, indolence, and excess, as well as its ungodliness and worldly passions (verses 12–13 and 2:12). In other words, ancient Crete was just like our modern world: full of sinners in need of a Savior!
The gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives, and the Cretan society had the potential to break free from its renowned wickedness and become a shining light of righteousness. God does his work in part through the example, service, and teaching of Christians (2 Timothy 2:21–25). Men, women, boys, and girls of all ages can participate in the life-giving and life-changing ministry of the Word of God.
Men, women, boys, and girls of all ages can participate in the life-giving and life-changing ministry of the Word of God.
Older men and older women oftentimes become grandfathers and grandmothers. Paul gave specific instructions to this older generation regarding their specific roles in the home, church, and society:
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good . . . . (Titus 2:2–3)
Oh, that our homes, churches, and communities would be full of such older men and older women! Whether or not they have children or grandchildren of their own, these godly individuals serve as a fixed point of reference for the younger generations amid a godless world.
What are Older Men to Be?
The society of the first-century world recognized seven stages of life, from infancy to elderly.1 After the child-rearing years of adulthood and prior to becoming elderly, these individuals would be identified as older men and older women. What are these godly older men to be?
Older men are to judge matters with a clear head and with self-control. Contrary to the excesses of the worldly culture, older men should exercise restraint and moderation in all things. This would include temperance in relation to food and drink as well as other habits of consumption and practice.
Men of grandfatherly age should behave properly, with venerable decorum. Others will respect them for the sage counsel and noble character. Older men speak sensibly and nobly, acting in a serious yet joyful manner. Others will seek to emulate their reasonable perspectives and conduct.
The ability to control oneself ought to characterize all believers in Christ. Older men especially should manage themselves with sensibility, maturity, and restraint. Prudence and reason govern their lives and they capably discern what is proper according to the need of the moment.
4. Sound in Faith, Love, and Steadfastness
Older men demonstrate a healthy alignment of faith, love, and steadfastness. The completeness and wholesomeness of their lives reflects their relationships with God, with other people, and with circumstances.
- Toward God, these men exhibit faith—implicit trust in our heavenly Father in good times and bad times with regard to his character, words, and works.
- Toward other people, these men show love—selflessly serving others for their own good often at great sacrifice to themselves and with affection and compassion.
- Toward difficult circumstances, these men exhibit steadfastness—an endurance that bears up in hope under suffering and hard times.
These three cardinal Christian virtues of faith, steadfastness (or hope), and love should shine through all believers and especially older men.
What Are Older Women to be?
In the same manner as older men, older women should exhibit godly characteristics and conduct. God-honoring women—some of whom are also blessed to be mothers and grandmothers—exert tremendous influence for good.
1. Reverent in behavior
The observable behavior of an older woman radiates from her inner disposition. While a woman might become preoccupied with adorning her outer body, she should take greater care in “adorning . . . the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4; cf. 1 Timothy 5:5, 10).
2. Not Slanderers
The conversation of older women must be wholesome, gracious, and life-giving. They must speak true words intended to build up others, not to tear them down. Older women must not foolishly or wickedly reveal other people’s secrets (Proverbs 11:13). They should also avoid listening to those who would speak injuriously against others (20:19). When in doubt, older women should follow this counsel: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (10:19).
3. Not Slaves to Wine
Older men and women as well as elders, deacons, and truly all Christians are not to become drunk from wine. Lingering over wine through a lifestyle of leisure and gluttony should be avoided, as well as the intoxication and lack of self-control which attends this self-indulgence.
4. Teachers of Good
Older women must teach excellent content, pleasant to consider and desirable to put into practice. Their formal and informal teaching comes from personal experience rooted in the Word of God. The primary students of older women are younger women, whom they teach especially regarding character, industry, and responsibilities to their husbands and children if they have them (Titus 2:4–5; cf. 1 Timothy 5:14).
The Transforming Power of the Word of God
How do ordinary men and women become examples of godliness? Paul indicates a key component of this transformation in this command to Titus: “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Scripture provides the authoritative basis for our beliefs or creeds as well as our character and conduct. All of these godly traits and duties naturally flow from hearts preoccupied with and submissive to the “sound doctrine” of God’s word.
All of these godly traits and duties naturally flow from hearts preoccupied with and submissive to the “sound doctrine” of God’s word.
Is there any parent or grandparent who could claim to have perfectly displayed these things? Only God is perfect and he redeems people from the messes we create. Ever since the devastating sin of our father Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1–21), we have had to put our hope in God our Savior for ourselves and our loved ones. No one will boast in God’s presence (1 Corinthians 1:29), but all must be clothed in the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17–21). The older generation knows better than to have confidence in themselves and can instead model humility, penitence, confession, and reconciliation with those they have wronged. We must show grace toward one another and put our hope in God alone.
All Christians can grow through the steady diet of Scripture coupled with obedience (James 1:22–25). Such truth over time prepares God’s people to fulfill the good works he has prepared for them to do, including godly grandparenting. We must do our best before God and leave the results to him. May God grant our older men, women, grandfathers, and grandmothers to bless their families, churches, and communities with the magnificent grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!