To look at life differently, they could not be so bold
Some people don’t grow wiser, they merely grow old.
They remain as they were and think in the same way
And the only change in them is they’ve grown old and gray.
Wisdom is a thing that can serve one quite well
Though also a thing one cannot buy or sell.
Financially well-to-do wise people one might say “rare”
For wisdom will not make you a millionaire.
That the wise are a minority comes as no surprise
For many people grow older, but they do not grow wise.
“No fool like an old fool” you do hear some say
The truth in these words is still living today.
They remain as they were, and think in the same way
And they do not grow wiser, only grow old and gray.
– Francis Duggan
As this poem points out, old age does not always a wise man make. Old age merely serves to reveal who and what we really are, free from the pride and pretense of our youth. While a wise man will tend to grow wiser with age, a fool will tend to grow all the more foolish. As we age, our masks chip away and our true colors are seen in full array. What hues will be displayed in your latter years? Don’t believe the lie that wisdom will find you as you age. On the contrary, you must find wisdom. Wisdom is not a gift to be imparted, but a treasure to be hunted! We would do well to find wisdom before time overtakes us and we have little use left for it in our days.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. – Ecclesiastes 12:1
It is not uncommon for one to reach age before beauty. That is to say, many people will become elderly before they so much as begin to take their spirituality seriously. Some won’t even make it that far – and years wasted can not be retrieved. Turning 30, 40, 50, or 99 will not make you wise; the common belief in a mystical, magical “age of wisdom” is erroneous. The age of wisdom is NOW…whether you are a 16 year old or a 60 year old. It is not the maturity of your years that defines you; but the maturity of your spirit.
Readers of all ages: don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Wisdom is yours for the taking, calling to you from every direction (Proverbs 8:1-5). Today we will discover three steps to avoid reaching age before beauty. Firstly, we must be…
Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished*. – Ecclesiastes 4:13 *warned, advised, urged
Why should we be taught before age? Because we retain more of what we learn when in our youth. Language, music, art, sports, and the like, are most easily learned and remembered when taught early. The same is often true in regards to spiritual matters. The older one gets, the harder it is to learn and sustain new concepts.
Embrace the art of listening to and learning from others now..while your mind is keen. You have not fully “arrived” – none of us have. You don’t “know it all” – none of us do. Each of us must lay down our pride in order to age beautifully like the Lord has intended.
…He teaches the humble His way. – Psalm 25:9b (NASB)
There is no shame in being young, only in being unteachable. Young people who close their ears to truth will quickly find themselves reaching age before beauty. Yet what if there is another way – a way to beautify yourself from the inside out before the gray hairs and wrinkles come knocking?
- Be taught before age…willingly listen to what people of all ages and walks of life have to say. Just make sure that you discern appropriately what parts to keep and what parts to discard. (1 John 4:1)
- Be taught before age…allow each day to have a time for work and a time for play. It’s easy to get sucked into the entertainment trap, but if you balance your time and discipline yourself to spend some amount of time each day working on a ministry for the Lord, it will soon become second nature – and your spirit will grow as a result. (Ecclesiastes 9:9-10)
- Be taught before age…build spiritual habits right away. Reading your Bible, talking to the Lord in prayer, meeting with your local assembly…these things may sound cliche, but they will make or break you. Don’t tell yourself that you will do these things when you have more time, or when life gets easier. First of all, tomorrow may never come. Secondly, the excuses you make today will only show up in different forms under a different time, a different circumstance. Don’t tell yourself lies…prioritize. (Proverbs 8:17)
Want to beautify yourself? Be taught before age! Because:
How ill white hairs become a fool and a jester!– William Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV (1597-98)
Secondly, to avoid reaching age before beauty, we must be…
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not. – Hosea 7:8-9
“A cake not turned” – quite the visual description to describe an old person devoid of wisdom. An elderly man or woman may have spent a long time in the “oven” (on the earth), but an experienced baker knows that time in the oven alone does not make a good cake, but is only one variable. A cake may appear crisp and well done on the outside, but still remain not-quite-done in the middle. (i.e. A person that looks old and wise on the outside, but is immature and foolish on the inside) As was the case with Ephraim, one must turn (to the Lord), lest his gray hair be little more than a decoration.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. – Psalm 90:12
In other words: Life is short. Don’t waste your youth away on foolishness!
- Be turned before age…it may seem freeing to live as we please, but this favorite lie of the devil is a tale as old as time. The “freedom” we exercise now will end up being the very chains that enslave us later. (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)
- Be turned before age…do you think you can sow your wild oats now, and settle down later when the pleasures of sin fade? Think again, for old habits die hard. (Proverbs 26:11)
- Be turned before age…contrary to popular belief, there just may come a day when repentance will not be available for the taking. Choose for yourself: is an eternity of grief worth the few, cheap thrills of this life? (Hebrews 12:15-17; Proverbs 1:28-31)
Want to beautify yourself? Be turned before age! Because:
Many foxes grow gray but few grow good.– Benjamin Franklin
Lastly, to avoid reaching age before beauty, we must be…
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. – Psalm 119:99-100
Wisdom comes not from our age, but from our aim. Those who are “tacked” (fixed/fastened) to the Lord, will naturally be wiser than those who aren’t, regardless of how many years spent on this earth. Many believe that wisdom can only come from experience; and while it is true that experience can bring wisdom, this is not always the case.
Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. – Job 32:7b-9 (emphasis mine)
Does a drunkard who has experienced 100 hangovers change his ways? Sometimes…but not always. Does a convicted sex offender who has experienced 20 years in prison change his ways? Sometimes…but not always. Does a repeat traffic violator who has experienced multiple tickets change his ways? Sometimes…but not always. Experience alone does not change a person whose love for their sin outweighs their fear of punishment – being tacked to the Lord is what would give them the wisdom they need.
- Be tacked before age…first you must hear God’s word and believe in Him. I’m not talking about mere belief in His existence – even Satan and his demons have that kind of belief. I’m talking about unwavering allegiance and submission to Him. Build a faith for yourself that is built not on feelings alone, but on unwavering truth. (Romans 10:17)
- Be tacked before age…confess Christ as your king by your daily walk (there’s that allegiance and submission again!). Soften your heart and continually repent of any and all sin in your life. (Proverbs 28:13)
- Be tacked before age…be immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins as as God has prescribed. Forsake the old man of sin and death and walk confidently as a new man filled with righteousness and life. (Galatians 3:27)
Want to beautify yourself? Be tacked before age! Because:
Age does not necessarily give wisdom; gray hair does not necessarily signify gray matter.– Leroy Brownlow
Sometimes the age comes before the beauty, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I have heard it said that “growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional” – this is a truth. Every day, in every choice we make, we are choosing whether to grow older and wiser or merely old and gray.
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Be taught before age, turned before age, and tacked before age. If you are wise, then even in your old age…underneath the gray hair and the wrinkles…will be a person of insurmountable beauty. A real stunner, if you will.
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. – Proverbs 16:31
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing. – Psalm 92:13-14
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.