There is a mix of pride and melancholy when a middle-aged man is shown a picture of himself in his high school yearbook.
He stands there with his hair graying and thinning, his midsection struggling against his belt, his back and muscles in a state of sorry atrophy. He looks at a twenty-five year old image of himself – thick hair, rippling muscles, trim and sinewy, without a wrinkle or sign of weakness. “The glory of young men is their strength, And the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Proverbs 20:29).
The middle-aged man is caught in the middle – no longer the image of youthful vitality, but not yet the scion of experienced splendor.
The glory of young men is their strength. The Bible’s wisdom literature instructs the young to use that vitality and optimism of youth while they can, “before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1); before the days come when weariness replaces energy and optimism is shrouded in dread.
The glory of young men is their strength, especially when physical vigor is matched by spiritual devotion. “I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one …. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one” (First John 2:13-14). Remembering our creator while we are yet young allows us to avoid so many pitfalls and enjoy a brighter life than we would if we plunged into our weaknesses. Strong young men can speak out and have influence where the previous generation is less likely to be heard, but only if they are consistent (First Timothy 4:12).
The splendor of old men is their gray head. Gray hair imperfectly indicates experience and wisdom; after all, there is no fool like an old fool. Splendid older men are “sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience” (Titus 2:2). Hair made gray by experience and age is nothing to conceal, nor should the younger person disdain his elders. “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32).
Each then has a supply of strength, something to contribute to the cause, something that the other stage of life is probably lacking. The young contributes vigor, energy and optimism, but lacks experience and wisdom. The old offers that sage insight, but requires the energy of the young to bring in the harvest. In the body of Christ, all the parts are knit together and function as an effective unit because of what each uniquely supplies to the effort (Ephesians 4:16).