Elder Abuse - What Does The Bible Say about It?
I need help with research on elder abuse. What scripture references would you use to enlighten me on the Christian's responsibility in cases of elder abuse? Should the Christian speak out? Is it meddling to discuss/report suspected elder abuse? I found very little in my concordance under abuse, elder and aged. Can you help?
Often, the Bible does not use our terms or categories but still has much to say on the subject. The Bible has much on how older people should be treated by others. I will give you some of these teachings in no particular order.
- An older man is to be treated like a father while an older woman is to be treated like a mother. This would include treating them with respect while caring for them and their needs. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 states, "Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity."
- Older people are to be treated with special honor. That would include absence of physical or verbal abuse. However, it would also include listening to them with respect, honoring their desires and opinions, and giving them an exalted place. Leviticus 19:32 says, "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD." The "hoary head" is the head that is covered with grey hairs. To rise up before them means to stand and show them honor when they enter the room. I understand that this is the law, but there are many lessons for us here. In the book of Job, Elihu waited to speak until all the older men had their say (Job 32:4).
- As one of the signs of a society that has broken down and rejected God, "the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient" (Isaiah 3:5). It is wrong to mistreat the elderly.
- We are warned against the mistreatment of our parents when they grow old. Proverbs 23:22 states, "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old." Jesus is our example in this because He made sure that His mother had someone to care for her even as He suffered on the cross (see John 19:26-27). Even nephews are responsible for widowed aunts if there are no children (1 Timothy 5:4).
- The Bible even goes so far as requiring us to follow the lead of the elder. In Philemon 1:9, Paul pleaded as "Paul the aged." It was assumed that his age brought increased respect for what he had to say. 1 Peter 5:5 teaches, "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder." This really goes against our thinking today when we have accepted youth as one of our gods. Yet it is the teaching of the Bible. Certainly, there are times when older people would lead us away from the commands of God and this advice cannot be righteously followed. However, the Bible is clear. We are to give in to them whenever possible and follow their wisdom and leadership when it does not go against the clear teaching of God's word.
I understand that most of these verse do not deal directly with the kinds of elder abuse we often hear in the news today. However, it does not need to. If these principles are followed; if we honor our elders, give them special place, and submit to them, we can never physically or verbally abuse them. I hope this helps.