I am learning so many things in my first few weeks as pastor of Mt. Haley Church of God. One of the most significant of these is a reality facing many people in our congregation (and in society in general): the need to care for our elderly parents, even after we ourselves have retired. While I was preparing for this Sunday’s sermon, I was struck by how directly the scriptures address this very issue.
One of the most helpful spiritual practices I’ve found is to set aside a block of time to read an entire book of the Bible. Have you ever done this? It can be a truly powerful experience, because it helps us get a sense of what the entire story is about. If we only read a verse here or a verse there, then we might miss the bigger picture.
This week, I read all of 1 Timothy, one of the so-called “Pastoral Epistles.” This is a letter from Paul to Timothy, his protégé, a young pastor whom Paul trained as his apprentice. The letter itself is just six chapters long. See if you can set aside half an hour to read this letter. Think you can do that? Go ahead – I’ll wait. :)
The passage that really stood out to me was 1 Timothy 5:3-4. Paul says that it is the children’s responsibility to care for their own family members, including their mother who has been widowed. The church should invest its time and resources in those widows who have no family members, but church members should care for their own relatives themselves. Why is this? Paul says, very simply, that “this is pleasing to God.”
What a marvelous thing, to please God with how we live our lives! Caring for aging parents who face a number of physical, mental, and emotional problems can be difficult and draining – especially when that care is given day after day, month after month, year after year. But all the while, we can take comfort in the truth that this care for those who are truly in need is pleasing to our Lord. If you are in this situation, be encouraged: the Lord sees your repayment to your parents and grandparents, and he approves of your sacrifice and service.
The same truth holds for people who aren’t in this situation. That’s because there are people in our church family (and broader community) who have no relatives to care for them as they age and require help. As Paul expresses in the rest of chapter 5, it is crucial for the church to step in and help those widows who are really alone. The call is for all of us to care for the elderly in our community: first, our families; second, those outside our families.
Take heart, keep up the good work, and continue “to put [your] religion into practice” by this blessed care for our parents.