By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“Wisdom is more valuable than jewels; Wisdom offers you long life; Wisdom can make your life pleasant and lead you safely through it.” — Proverbs 3:15-18
Month of the Elderly
I planned to write reflections on the elderly last month, but this was overtaken by other pressing concerns. Since October has been designated as the month of the elderly, I would not like to let it pass without having written something on this matter. Of course, this does not mean that we only remember the elderly in October. Genuine concern for them should be shown everyday. It should be done not only by giving discounts in terms of transportation and medical care. But more importantly by restoring the kind of respect and recognition traditionally accorded to them by our society.
It is important to note that traditionally the elderly are consulted whenever decisions are made affecting one¡¦s life, family or society. Traditionally, the advice of the elderly are seriously considered whenever major decisions in life are made simply because of the assumption that they have already been there, and they already know better how life should be.
But today, due to the influence of Western culture we sometimes measure the importance of people in terms of their material value, how much they contribute to society. Since the elderly could no longer work and add more income to the family, we thought that they are no longer important, that they are no longer needed in society. We already look at them as a burden and liability. And so, we try to isolate them from society like that in the West, and put them in retirement homes, instead of integrating them in society and make them advisers for the younger generations.
Elderly in the Bible
In the Biblical times, the elderly were given great importance, respect, and honor. As a matter of fact, respect for the elderly is included in God¡¦s Ten Commandments given to Moses (Cf. Ex. 20; Dt. 5). Exodus 20:12 says, ¡§Respect your father and mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you.¡¨ This commandment is not meant for children. Rather, this is actually meant for grown ups who should respect, honor, and take care of their elderly parents.
Members of the council of elders in towns and villages in Ancient Israel were the eldest male in the family, clan or tribe. They would govern the community and would make decisions for and in behalf of the community. The elderly were accorded great honor and respect, and had to be consulted in making decisions in life, because they were considered to be repositories of wisdom.
Meaning of Wisdom
What, then, is wisdom?
Wisdom is a lesson in life that we learn through observations in nature or through experiences in history that would lead us to a good life, instead of destruction and death. It is associated with the elderly, because it is presumed that they have lots of lessons in life learned through the years. And so, the older we become, the wiser we are.
To be old, however, does not necessarily mean to be wise. It is one thing to have observations and experiences in life; it is quite another thing to learn from them. Hence, to be wise is to be able to learn lessons out of our observations and experiences in life. Wisdom ultimately comes from God. It is made manifest in nature and in history, and discerned by people through their observations and life experiences.
Wisdom is not an end in itself. The goal of wisdom is to have a pleasant, good life as God intends it to be. The Book of Proverbs says, “Wisdom is more valuable than jewels. Wisdom offers you long life. Wisdom can make your life pleasant and lead you safely through it” (Prov. 3:15-18). #