Psalm 119:100: “I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey Your precepts.”
Proverbs 31:23: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”
Through the course of the Bible, the word “elder” is mentioned a lot, specifically in the Gospels, Acts, Exodus and Deuteronomy. It is, in fact, mentioned 188 times in the Bible*! But what is the significance of this? From the 188 choices I selected two verses that brought out my point. Or, as 1 Timothy 5:1 states it: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father…” Yes, that is what I’m getting at in this post. Respect for elders, their authority, and their overall opinion.
I was recently reading about Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, and how he handled the advice he was given: Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders
who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’–tell them, my little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”
Notice here how, in verse 8, Rehoboam has already rejected the advice he had been given by the elders of Solomon’s time before he had heard the young men’s advice. But the question is, why?
The answer is this: Notice the wording in verse six: …the elders who had served his father Solomon during his life time… These guys were pretty old if they served Solomon during his lifetime! Then look at the further wording in verse 8: …the young men who grew up with him and were serving him… These guys were not so old. They grew up with him, meaning, he enjoyed what they enjoyed, they did that stuff together, and they learned from it – probably evil – but they still learned. Now, he had appointed them as advisers over his life, and they gave him the advice that they grew up learning – bad advice.
But on the other hand, the elders who had served Solomon were old, had grown up with Solomon possibly, and learned wisdom on their path. They had seen Solomon judge rightly and fairly and follow the Lord down various ways, and they too learned from that. My point? He [Rehoboam] was used and desired the advice that his friends would give him, ’cause that’s what he grew up hearing and learning. He learned from them and followed them in all that they did – and what they did was evil. So, when he became king, he knew nothing else. So, when he heard true wisdom, it was strange to him, and he didn’t like it. So, he went with what he was used to – his friends evil, wicked advise. Not only did he keep the burden on the people, but he increased it dramatically, too.
But he didn’t listen to the elders. Years gain you experience, experience gains you knowledge, and knowledge gains you wisdom. So if ever in doubt of a parent or other adult in charge of you, make sure not to question them without cause, or disregard them for no reason. However, everybody can and does make mistakes, so please, if you know they’re wrong, gently bring it to their attention. It could be that they said the wrong thing or just that they forgot a detail or something similar, but your parents or superiors should never lead you wrong purposefully.
I’ve talked about your parents and other superiors, but there’s another important person to consider – your pastor. Pastors should have the place of respected spiritual advisor in your life. If not, then there are things you need to consider. I’m not saying that all pastors are right, I’m not saying all pastors are wrong, and I’m not saying that they are perfect and never to be questioned. But I do suggest that you have respect for your church’s pastor’s teachings, even if they don’t line up with what you believe exactly. Try to find the good, instead of focusing on the negative. If you are the kind of person who tears down your pastor for his faults or teachings, let me ask you something: Why do you go to church? Is it for the teachings? Heh, obviously not, if you’re griping about them to your friends the whole time after the service. Aha! There was the key word. Friend. So many people go to church because of relationships. Perhaps your best friend goes, or your sister, or dad, or some other relative or friend.
If you are the type to tear down your pastor, do us all a favor and stop going to that church. Join another one with teachings more in line with your own beliefs and where you can grow and be challenged by what you hear on Sunday mornings. Tearing apart the sermon with your friends each week is not a good way to encourage each other. It feeds feelings of spiritual superiority, does not support the church and pastor which you pledged to lift up when you joined, and there is not anything good that can come of it.
A big problem when looking for churches when we moved to the Houston area was that we were looking for a church that was identical to what we came from. And we couldn’t find it. Then God showed us what we really needed and it didn’t look anything like what we thought it should. We needed a stronger foundation, a stronger church home, and a stronger church family. And we found all of that at our church.
So, if you’ve “outgrown your church”, it’s time to consider your options and ask God to either change your heart or show you where He wants you to be. A good church and good church family are essential tools that we all need in our continued journey to become like Christ.
*In the NIV