Pastoral Letter 13 Feb 2022
My dear readers,
Is a Man Wise by Growing Old?
Proverbs 16:31: “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.”
Some believe that just because they have white hair or no hair they will be regarded as wise. Perhaps the most common reason is that they have seen much of life and experienced almost all aspects of it and are still alive, and they must have much to share to help the younger ones make fewer mistakes as they live their lives! This line of reasoning has made many hoary-headed men and women rather sure of themselves, not in the good sense. They might end up looking down on the younger ones believing that “they have eaten more salt than they have eaten rice.”
To a certain degree it is true that they have seen more of life simply because they have lived a longer time on earth. But it does not mean that because they have lived longer, they are wiser. For example, in 2019 a 70-year-old woman who worked as a church warden cheated a number of church members of large sums of money. One of her victims, a 71-year-old woman, lost nearly $1 million of her life savings. The scam involved investments with a promise of guaranteed handsome returns. The 70-year-old scammer was convicted and sentenced to six years and two months of imprisonment. She was a declared bankrupt, and had been jailed before for criminal breach of trust and forgery. Yet, in her old age, she committed this crime of cheating. She failed to learn her lesson that crime does not pay. She was old and had experienced much of life, but sadly she was not wise. She is now in prison, again.
White hair does not equal wisdom. What is wisdom? In Holy Scriptures, wisdom is the application of the right knowledge of God to the right circumstances of life to God's glory. This results in a life that has eternal blessings from God. It is a life that fulfils precisely what a person made in God's image was designed for from the very beginning. Proverbs 16:31 teaches us God's definition of wisdom.
The literal translation: “A crown of glory is a hoary head that is in the way of righteousness, if it be found.” The main emphasis of this verse is “a crown of glory.” The crown is given to the believer only at the end of the race of life. It is not given half way through the race even if he is ahead of everyone. As long as his race is not completed the crown will not be given to him. He might fail or fall along the way and not complete his race. It is called “a crown of glory” by God here because his holy life of victory at the end will bring glory to God in Christ. This is a crown with the believer's name on it and it fits only his head. No one can take it from him as it is given to him by God in Christ who is his Lord and Saviour.
It is a crown purchased by the blood of Christ, and not through good works. The good works of the believer who lived for Christ are the evidence of his salvation in Christ and NOT the basis for his salvation. He knows his salvation is by God's grace alone. That is why he is extremely grateful as an unprofitable servant to give his all to his Lord Jesus Christ and live in holiness at all costs. He will live, suffer and die for Christ as his only way to serve and worship Him. The LORD wants all His children to focus on the crown as they live for Him. No suffering, obstacle, temptation, or any seductive carrot dangled by the Devil will push or pull him from his steadfastness in Christ. There is no crown on earth that can be compared to the crown of glory reserved for all of God’s children. 1 Peter 5:4: “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
However, Proverbs 16:31 is NOT referring to the future crown of glory even though the name is the same and every believer will definitely receive his future crown of glory. Proverbs 16:31 says that the crown of glory is already found in the one whose hoary head is found in the way of righteousness. This is a reference to the present. The “way of righteousness” must be defined by God as this is the way that leads man into His heaven.
The word “way” is a path well-trodden. It refers to a Christian life that is well lived, and not a sporadic and haphazard life of a sunny-day professing Christian who, when it rains, will find the slightest excuse not to attend church; and he seldom prays. When he does, it is to ask God to get him out of trouble. Once he is out of trouble, he stops praying. Reading the Bible is a chore. It has no thrill and delight like one who has no love for his God and Saviour. The way of Christianity is skin-deep. He attends church to sooth his conscience. He does not see church life as an integral part of his spiritual life. If his manner of life is examined closely, even by man, there is no way of righteousness in him. But the way of righteousness is a way that begins from an inner righteousness imputed upon him by God in Christ at his spiritual birth. Thus, the way of righteousness is the fruit of his salvation. It is the evidence that he has been imputed by God with the righteousness of Christ.
A hoary head whose life has been lived in the way of righteousness is a crown of glory. He has experienced all the phases of life, such as: bringing up a family in holiness; completed his labour on earth and is retired in holiness having borne a godly witness for Christ to his colleagues; his sacrificial service in church has been a blessing to many brothers and sisters-in-Christ; his Christ-centred friendship to all his friends and enemies has pointed them to the Saviour; and his lifelong diligent study of God’s Word has enabled him to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. This is the holy pattern of life that he has lived since the day of his second birth so that all areas of his life bring glory and honour to God and Christ. This is his way till death. The Holy Spirit who dwells in him guides him in this way. He knows no other way that is better than this new way in Christ. This is his life and he will walk no other way but the way of righteousness till he sees and stands before Christ. If his Christian life is not lived in the way of righteousness, he is just a man with a head full of white hair. He is without wisdom and cannot be considered wise by God.
The LORD must be the One who finds him wise at the end of his life. God’s decision is all that matters for eternity in the end. Let us walk in the way of righteousness to please God alone. Then our hoary head will be seen as a crown of glory today.
The one who has the crown of glory on earth will certainly receive also the crown of glory in heaven! Do you have a crown of glory today?
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew