Dee Holmes has spent 12 years in the legal profession and currently works as a Client Manager for a Trustee Company. She is a member of Fairfield Baptist Church in Hamilton. 

We all know the importance of intergenerational relationships. Getting older members of the congregation to interact and engage with younger people can lead to hugely rewarding relationships that bear wonderful fruit. I know this all too well, as I came to faith at ten years old through the blessing of “Bible in Schools”. I will be forever grateful that an incredible woman of God was placed into my life to plant a seed that has lasted a lifetime. However, that generation gap can often be subject to mistaken impressions, such as believing your voice and views aren’t valued. This would stifle anyone’s willingness to speak up or engage. Understanding some of the generational misconceptions can contribute to the discussion about fostering intergenerational wisdom in the church. 

I’ve spent much of my career in the elder law space, journeying alongside elderly people from all walks of life. Unfortunately, this has challenged my thinking on Job 12:12, which is the premise for this article. I’ve seen too many cases where elderly people have been abused and abandoned at the hands of others. In other instances, they have put themselves in situations where they have given away their autonomy to their own detriment. This is contrary to Job 12:12, which says, “Wisdom is with the aged and understanding in the length of days”. One recent case in Australia saw a grandmother invest $320,000 of her life savings into her grandson’s trading business. In a case of misguided wisdom, she associated his lifestyle (fancy car, nice apartment, lavish office) with his success. However, this wasn’t from his business prowess; he was running a Ponzi scheme and was in receipt of $2 million from victims across Australia. In this case, despite receiving wise counsel that all was not as it seemed, she invested anyway.

When adversity strikes, we’re often left questioning where the attack comes from. Even though Satan roams the earth “going to and fro … and …walking up and down on it” (Job 1:7 ESV), he is still under the dominion of God when he tests Job. We know this from the two sets of challenges that God sets forth - first, to take what he has but not touch his person, and second, to attack his health but not take his life. In both these instances, Satan inflicts the most extreme tests that one person could ever endure (Job 1:8-2:10) but stays within the parameters set out by God. The test for us is what we would do when faced with the same adversity, when all we know is stripped away, and we are crawling in the dirt. When the pressure is on, we might recognise that we are under attack, but what is less certain is the direction of the onslaught. Is it from Satan aimlessly roaming the earth, or has God chosen us to prove to Satan that we cannot be broken and will remain unwaveringly faithful to him?

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Bevere writes about how important it is for generations to connect and share their hopes and challenges. In her 2020 book Godmothers, Bevere writes that a generation gap can render us vulnerable to attack and that perceptions can lead to mistaken impressions, for example, the younger generations thinking older people are not interested in them and older generations believing young people don’t want what they have to offer. Correcting these wrong impressions and bridging the gap is a challenge for the church and is something people have grappled with for a very long time. Take the interactions between Job and his three older friends who came to impart their wisdom during the throes of his suffering. In The Wiersbe Study Bible*, Warren Wiersbe comments as follows:  

Eliphaz spoke about two things from his own observations of life (Job 4:8; 5:3; 27) and his own frightening personal experience (Job 4:12-21). He put great faith in tradition (Job 15:18, 19) but had a rigid theology with little room for God’s grace. Bildad was a legalist (8:20) who could quote ancient proverbs and had a great respect for tradition. He was also certain that Job’s children had died because they were sinners (Job 8:4) who seemed to have no feelings for his hurting friend. Zophar was the youngest of the three but also the most dogmatic, with an unfeeling approach (Job 11:6). He was merciless and told Job that God was giving him far less than he deserved for his sins (Job 11:6). Zophar only spoke to Job twice as he was either unable to answer Job’s arguments or he felt that trying to help him was a waste of time. All three men made true as well as foolish statements but were no help to Job because their viewpoint was too narrow, and their theology was rigid. However, by maintaining his integrity and refusing to say he sinned, Job had undermined his friend’s theology, which made them angry.

I don’t know your current situation, but I do know that God is not done with you yet – regardless of your age or stage, he will work through you. All he asks is that you seek to connect with others and speak with his glory in mind. The message of Job’s older, wiser friends acts as a cautionary tale. Wisdom may be with the aged and experienced, but perceptions alter the narrative if they are grounded only in our own understanding. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are given the incredible gift of discernment through the Holy Spirit, and we need to get better at paying attention and sharing these insights with others across generations. Fostering intergenerational wisdom in the church can then be accomplished. 

*Warren W. Wiersbe, Job's Friends and Their Pat AnswersThe Wiersbe Study Bible, Thomas Nelson (NKJ) 2018.

Photo: by David Brown:

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