10/25/2009

The Sins of Old Age

What are the particular sins of old age ..and how can they be resisted?

So, what do you think?

keith drury

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great article (as usual). As a pastor in a holiness denomination I am personally struggling with the constant fascination with strategies for growth, 'thinking outside the box', and other methods that I think are shallowing and trite. It seems to lead to theologial sloppiness and some poor decision making. I'm wondering what the future holds.

Chap said...

Really appreciated this article. You captured a great balance of the real struggles and temptations of aging without unnecessarily vilifying anybody or the church.

Pastoring a church with young adults and aging seniors is almost impossible because of the sharp contrast of needs. It seems like one group or the other must put the others needs above their own in order to work or find in one another a higher calling. Making comparison to racial integration and integrating differing age groups in church is accurate.

Gary Collier said...

Thanks for this. I pastor a rebirth church - a fresh start 10 years after the 1st one died in the same town - that is now 3 years old. Our strongest age groups are middle-age and older folks. A few younger couples and singles and a few teens and kids - yet those are our future if we are to stay alive. I tend to focus on how we can grow in those areas, naturally. This article makes me sit back and reconsider how I minister to the older folks, the faithful saints, among us.

John Mark said...

I have watched my mother lose her youth, her husband and her church (the last due to a series of unfortunate circumstances) and have been surprised at how a devout believer such as I always understood her to be could have struggles with the kinds of feelings you described in this brilliantly insightful piece.
It reminds me of Pilgrim's Progress: The journey is not over 'til it's over, and we face challenges to the very end of our days.

vanilla said...

After a couple days thought, we decided to respond to your "sermon" on ten besetting sins of old age. Spouse and I were lounging in our sitting room when this article came across the interwebby thing. I undertook to read it aloud as she listened. By the time we got to the penultimate paragraph, we were both in tears, and I had to take a short break to recover control of my voice so we could finish.

1. The first sin you call to our attention is "selfishness." We believe that marshalling ones resources through frugal living so as not to become a burden on our children or on society is not only intelligent, it is the ultimate selflessness.
2. Feeling worthless. It is unfortunate and shortsighted that we have come to define ourselves by what we do, for our occupation is not who we are. Yet we value this so highly that we come to think of ourselves as our vocation. This is the sin. Others who lay a guilt trip on those retirees who are "less productive" than they once were may be the ones who are in "sin," not the aged person who can no longer function as he once did.
3. Stinginess. A mere facet of sin #1 above. This is the first of two "sins" listed that are split off from another, perhaps to make a round "ten" in the final list.
4. Giving up. So handing off a service opportunity to a neophyte allowing him an opportunity is a "sin." Again, the sin may lie at the door of those who are critical or lack understanding. And it is true that a thirty-minute job now takes half day.
5. Morbidity. Is it "morbid" to check the obits to see if I am still alive? Moreover, one does need to know what families are in need of prayer, support and comfort. And yeah, we are all gonna die; says so in the Bible. How sinful is it to recognize and accept this fact?
6. Feeling abandoned. You're washed up alone on a desert island. Might you feel abandoned? Should you feel like you are having a party and everyone you love is surrounding you and encouraging you? The sin would not be to recognize the loneliness, but to believe no one else matters.
7. Bitterness. Yes, sinful. But how many times do we forgive the pastor mentioned here for his thoughtless unconcern for the lame old sheep? Oh, yeah. Seventy times seven.
8. Despair. Sinful. Living with regrets is not the Christian way. I am forgiven. I have no regrets. This does not mean I lived a perfect life. It means my sins are forgiven.
9. Doubt. Without doubt there is no exercise of faith. Our belief is not based on the seen, but on the unseen. "I believe; help mine unbelief."
10. Losing faith. This seems to be the unacceptable end game fo number nine. This, indeed, would be the greatest loss of all.

In many societies throughout history the aged have been revered, their counsel sought and their woes addressed by loving persons surrounding them. By defining ourselves by what we do, by seeking mammon and the amassing of things, by essentially redefining familial relationships, we have brought on ourselves the set of circumstances which set older citizens aside and make them invisible, if not undesirable. Yes, the church needs to reassess its mission in this regard. Yes we need to have compassion for persons of all ages. And temperaments. Perhaps it is true that we cannot "like" everyone, yet Christ's command to Love still stands.

Oh, yes. My bias. We are both well into our eighth decade of life, retired and "used to be someone." No. We are elderly, true, but we are children of the King! Not merely trying to rationalize away the potential to sin for the elderly. Satan never gives up, and in fact fights just as hard as we near the end of days as he does at earlier life stages.

We very much appreciate your insightful sermons and articles.

Justin J. said...

As the Boomer generation gets older, I know you will be seeing ministries focused on seniors becomg more and more popular and more adapted to a much more active generation.

That being said, some of the main influences for change at Schuyler Ave are well into their 80s and have always had a heart for the lost.

Anonymous said...

My current ministry is as a hospice chaplain. Your summary seems pretty accurate to what I see in many of the elderly patients we work with. One of the most prescribed types of medications seems to be anti-depressants. Much of my work is simple companionship. They may appreciate the Scripture and the prayer, but for some, they love to see me for cribbage or rummy.
Jim Schenck

Anonymous said...

Yes, sin does have a new definition! It is whatever a pastor says or wants it to be, not what God said! Yes Vanilla, I too am learning that the hard way!

There is a law in the Word of God that says, what comes around goes around. Wonder how many millstones we will see in eternity!

Seniors have not been the only ones accused unrighteously of such sins, veterans, victims, politicals, etc. We all see though our own slanted eyes what we want to see and call it good/God!

It is no wonder that God can no longer do anything in America or this world! Why do you need God when you have a pastor who knows it all!

Dave Ward said...

Interesting post for lots of reasons. As someone who regularly counts himself 'old' I cannot agree with the above comments about 'millstones' or 'know it alls' or even chime in with those who doubt the sinfulness of some of your sins. I think, tell me if I am wrong, that this is a bit of future-focused soul searching rather than a rant against anyone else.

At least that was the way I read it. If these didn't ring true as present or future personal temptations I don't imagine Keith would have included them in the list.

So, in defense of morbidity as a sin... yes we are going to die, but should we dwell on it? Sure we can check on others needs, but is that the real reason? Morbidity means fascination with death or even obsession. It is by definition an 'unhealthy curiosity or fascination with death.'

I think this was a beautifully vulnerable post... and I was deeply moved. Thanks Coach. As always, thanks.

Dave Ward said...

Quick correction, the "as someone who regularly counts himself as old" was in reference to KD not to me... unless I am around teens. ;)

Keith Drury said...

Thanks for the excellent comments here... Dave Ward is right--this is my own pondering of the subject over the last year since reading Jeremy Taylor's book. That, along with the extended research and interviews have occurred over the last year and a half. The text was the basis for a Sunday night sermon at College Wesleyan Church here in Marion this past spring.

Will said...

In my experience as a pastor of a predominantly older congregation that these are temptations for everyone- not sins everyone falls into. Vanilla, I think your comment shows that you have likely avoided most of these sins and responded in healthy ways. Your responses each show what a more healthy response to each of these temptations would be. However, I have seen others who do not, in fact, respond in healthy ways. I've seen people who don't have any family and live alone and hoard their wealth for no good reason at all. In addition, I had a conversation with someone just this past week who told me that almost every night, she goes to bed terrified that she won't wake up in the morning. This lady has a relationship with Jesus and has been in church for ages, but the sin of doubt set in, and morbidity was a result. It wasn't the occasional "checking of the pulse"- it was living in constant fear of death, rather than trusting God that it would happen when it happened.

As you noted, anonymous before Dave Ward, these ideas- this morbidity and doubt are not sins in and of themselves- nowhere in the Bible does it say it's a sin to think about death a lot. However, I think it is not a stretch in the slightest to say that they are the result of sinful attitudes. My sermon this week is on the passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, "who, by worrying, can add a single hour to their life?" The idea he is trying to get across is that if we allow ourselves to be filled with worry, it can get between ourselves and God- and is therefore a sin. I don't think Keith's declaration that each of these is a sin is not a stretch at all. (or at least has sin as a potential root, for as Vanilla pointed out not all of them are always exactly what Keith is describing)

Keith Drury said...

WILL... thanks..notice that the newer version online now uses "temptations" rather than "sins" (thanks to Vanilla ;-)

vanilla said...

I like your revision. And I appreciate your ten suggestions for facing the temptations you outlined!

Bitty said...

Another factor is loneliness.
Who do you have to keep you accountable when you daily face loneliness? Who do you have to challenge your perspective when the most time you spend talking to someone is the aide in the nursing home or the activity director?

I think a lot of these temptations take root in loneliness. The big thing I saw when I worked in a nursing home was the raw grief of the residents. Grief at losing their independence. Grief at losing spouses. Grief at losing their (also "old") children. Grief for decisions they'd made earlier in their lives. Grief at losing their best friends.

Lonely grief is where a lot of these temptations take root.

Practically, in local church ministry, I believe one of the best things pastors can pursue is multigenerational ministry.

Match recently relocated families with "adoptive" grandparents.

Recruit senior citizens to rotate volunteering with the youth group. (I know one brave soul who, in her seventies, went spelunking with the high schoolers. I mean, in a cave, in the mud.)

INVEST MONEY in ministries for senior citizens. And by that I mean staff. Churches inherently tell our elders that their worth is diminished by almost exclusively hiring youth pastors as their first choice of a staff addition. Usually you only see pastors to the elderly on megachurch staffs (and, of course, being a pastor of a church of 30 usually is, inherently, being a senior citizen minister). What average-sized churches call "pastor of visitation" is usually a retired pastor. (I wonder if the old folks ever feel like they're getting leftovers???) And people who work in "shut-in" ministries are predominantly senior citizens themselves.

Just my thoughts.

But I wonder what it would look like for a church to have a deathbed ministry?

How would that change holy dying challenges?

How would that change The Church?