Adapted from a reflection by William Cave in celebration of Older Adult Month.
“For everything there is a season…”
These opening words from chapter three of Ecclesiastes have captured imaginations throughout history. The author is believed to have been a philosopher and teacher. He identified with “reason” as a way to interpret life, but that approach left him baffled. Still, he believed that life, even with its limitations, is worth living.
It’s interesting that the predetermined patterns of life listed by the Ecclesiastes philosopher do not include seasons when it is necessary—even a blessing—to receive rather than to give. This seems out of place in our culture that is dominated by models of economic exchange which expect that any gift will be reciprocated. A spirit of generosity and gratitude has been replaced with one of investment and return.
The danger with this model is devaluing people who have nothing to give. It becomes easy to exclude such persons, even within the fellowship of believers, since our rules of engagement require the ability to offer some reasonable return—something that will benefit others.
And yet, the author of Ecclesiastes contends that there is a season for “every matter under heaven.” Our lives experience rhythms, including times when, for health, time, or financial reasons, we cannot contribute much to others—we have nothing to exchange. That is a season when the only proper role is to receive the care of others; that time when it is actually more blessed to receive than to give.
As Christians, we embrace the truth that within the fellowship of believers, all care is given and received freely because it is done in the name of Jesus, the Christ. May we find within our respective faith communities the permission and strength to receive care of others with grace and dignity.
William Cave, of Cleona, Pa., is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren whose passion is helping others learn about the aging process and ways to share Christ’s compassion with older adults. Read his reflection in full, as well as several other resources for Older Adult Month, at the www.brethren.org/oam . Support the important work of Older Adult Ministries at www.brethren.org/give .