For the first time in many years, an old man traveled from his rural town to the city to attend a movie. After buying his ticket, he stopped at the concession stand to purchase some popcorn. Handing the attendant $1.50, he couldn’t help but comment, “The last time I came to the movies, popcorn was only 15 cents.” “Well, sir,” the attendant replied with a grin, You’re really going to enjoy yourself. We have sound now…”
I suppose there is really good and bad to getting older. But growing older is no guarantee that you’re getting better. The Bible says concerning King Solomon, during his senior years, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father” (I Kings 11:4).
Some folks seem to have the impression, and heaven only knows where they got it from, that getting older automatically enables us to shed bad tendencies, to become more tender, to be more loving and wiser, simply because we get older. Nevertheless, sometimes aging just brings to the surface our darker sides.
Ben Patterson wrote in his book, The Grand Essentials, something which has stuck with me through the years. Patterson contends that what we become in life is largely determined by the choices we make in the here and now. He writes:
“I have a theory about old age…I believe that when life has whittled us down, when joints have failed and skin has wrinkled and capillaries have clogged and hardened, what is left of us will be what we were all along, in our essence.
Exibit A is a distant uncle…All of his life he did nothing but find new ways to get rich…He spent his senescence very comfortably, drooling, and babbling constantly about the money he had made…When life had whittled him down to his essence, all that was left was raw greed. This is what he had cultivated in a thousand little ways over a lifetime.
Exibit B is my wife’s grandmother…When she died in her mid-eighties, she had already been senile for several years. What did this lady talk about? The best example I can think of was when we asked her to pray before dinner. She would reach out and hold the hands of those sitting beside her, and a broad, beautiful smile would spread across her face, her dim eyes would fill with tears as she looked up to heaven, and her chin would quaver as she poured out her love for Jesus. That was Edna in a nutshell. She loved Jesus and she loved people. She couldn’t remember our names, but she couldn’t keep her hands from patting us lovingly whenever we got hear her.
When life whittled her down to her essence, all that was left was love: love for God and love for people.
When life whittles you down to your essence, what will be left? Growing older is no guarantee you’re getting better. What we become at the twilight of life will likely be the result of the many choices we are making today.
King Solomon is a good example of a man who had a tremendous start and achieved incredible feats. But because he started making wrong choices – because his heart was turned away from God – he didn’t finish very well.
The worse thing I could think of happening to any person would be going through life and rejecting Christ as Savior and Lord. No matter what that person may have accomplished, if at the end of life’s way he or she enters into eternity without their sins cleansed and forgiven, they shall always remain in a hopeless and hardened spiritual state. Whittled down to their essence, the only thing left will be an unredeemed sinner, who unwisely rejected God’s remedy of atonement in Christ. Tragically, their sins will fuel the fire of God’s wrath against them forever.
The fact of the matter is getting older doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re getting better. Only those who choose to receive and follow Christ in life actually have any possibility of finishing well.