“I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.”
— Psalm 119:100
The way a Christian grows is by keeping the Word of God—both in trusting God and obeying Him. We are quick to miss the truth that our growth as Christians is entirely managed by these two things and nothing else (not emotionalism, external religious practices, idealisms, self-examination, philosophy, intellectual reasoning, etc). When a person keeps the ways of God they will grow. This also means that when a person ceases from these things they will fail to grow.
One issue within this is that if a person is not faithful to the daily duties of Christianity, then other believers, younger in the faith, can grow up to and past them. However, this is not because of something special in the younger believer, but only because they did their duty, as all should.
Many people become passive in their duty as Christians to pray and study the Word of God. They are too easily satisfied and fail to realize just how incomplete they are. This is a danger for all ages of Christians and, not least of all, those who have walked long in the faith. But we must all recognize the truth that it is our singular duty to “hold fast what you have until I come.” (Rev 2:25) Though we may not be walking away from Christ, our duty is to also continue to seek Him and obey Him.
There is shame in our failure to maintain our daily duty, but if the older believer is rebuked in seeing younger believers catching up to them, or even having passed them, they should not be overcome by it, but rather put their hand to the plow in repentance and truth. God has shown them the truth of how necessary daily duty is. They should not go so far in their shame that they despise the truth and refuse it for the sake of the self image they wish were true of them, but is not.
For the younger believer, there is no place here to be proud, yet it is here that a younger believer is most tempted to be. Rather, they should fear and see how shameful it is to put off daily duty. The only lesson here for both parties is how necessary our obedience is and how true God is to grow those who seek Him. We should never have reason for pride nor reason for despair, but should always aim for the truth.
There is a belief today that we should treat younger people as if they’re more pure and therefore wiser, but this is foolish! This is only the case if an older person has neglected their duty of obedience; it should not be the case. To follow this thinking is demeaning to older people based upon their age and produces arrogance in younger people because of their age—it’s shameful!
Yet this is what so many people are doing, demeaning themselves before younger people as if they are somehow wiser in their innocence!
The only person who is wise is the person who fears and obeys God. That is why whether a person is young or old can be of very little account. In one culture we are taught to honor older people as if they are just inherently wise, and while there is some wisdom that comes with age, we are foolish if we believe that there is any true wisdom in those who do not obey God. In another culture older people are pressured to believe they should stoop to younger people’s standards. Seeing anything about themselves as outdated and foolish, young people are treated as wiser because they are treated as if their youthfulness is a certain innocence, and such innocence to be inherent wisdom.
Both of these are false, for what does Psalm 119:100 say? Why is David wise? “[Because] I keep your precepts.”
There is much threat today of us failing to walk in our duty and there is still further threat of us being proud in whatever “wisdom” we imagine that we have. It is always people who are wise in their own eyes and self-satisfied who fail to pursue Christ correctly. Every day we need to remember our duties to Christ and ensure that we are walking in them, remembering that this alone is wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Prov 9:10)