“Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the LORD.” (Psalm 107:43)
As I sat to the left of the lady being honored, it seemed as though I had known her and many members of her family for a long time. We had gathered at a local restaurant in recognition of her one-hundredth birthday which had occurred only a few days before. She was fortunate to have been blessed with good health; in fact, she made the decision just in the past year to give up driving her car. During our time together, someone asked her about the automobiles of her youth. Her response was that there “were not many to be found.” Then I got to thinking about the vast array of changes she would have witnessed during her lifetime. These would have included much advancement in the fields of science and technology and a notable transformation in how we as a society have come to value power and fame over common goodness. The old adage came to mind: “Each successive generation gets wiser and weaker.”
While I believe that this statement bears a lot of truth – it is not in the Bible, as some have claimed. There are scriptural references, however, that could help to support this belief. In the Old Testament, for instance, one can read: “The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1). One could easily conclude when we read about the Saul/David relationship that here is a case where it was the younger generation who got stronger and wiser while the older became weaker. Perhaps David, a flawed person in many ways, was blessed with wisdom because He developed a strong relationship with God, always searching for and permitting Him to rule over his life. Saul, on the other hand, allowed himself to be fueled by suspicion and jealousy, resulting in spiritual and mental deterioration. It is somewhat ironic that at his death, David would become his successor as King of the Israelites.
While each generation possesses the opportunity to gain more knowledge than the previous one, they frequently make unwise choices. For they have evolved to fix their eyes on what immediately lies before them, as they display a disregard for that which is lasting (2 Corinthians 4:18). Take, for example, their infatuation with prominent figures who are promoted to become global icons, almost as if they have been anointed as the Chosen Ones. These persons are often described as being “larger than life itself.” Therein lies the problem. Scripture warns that “A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth” (Proverbs 17:24). This obsession with today’s celebrities has become so fanatical and overstated that it is practically worshipful. Some allow themselves to lose sight of the reality that even famous persons are simply people, each having their own flaws. And if, by chance, something happens to one of these whom they uphold with such high reverence . . . they are devastated.
Someone once said that when you are labeled as ‘larger than life’ you have to run really fast to be able to keep up with your own image. There is, in fact, no one who has ever walked this earth who is larger than life. The only exception in this category is Jesus who was crucified. Scripture says: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). God wasn’t promising that every person would live to be seventy or eighty; the psalmist was simply describing an average human experience. Our times are in God’s hands, and for some their journey on earth seems to be cut short. But no matter who we are – our time on earth is limited, and someday death will overtake us. Death is a reality, and no one evades it—no matter how strong, how famous, or how many years they have been blessed to live. My one-hundred-year-old friend understands that with each new day life continues to be a delicate balance. King David understood this as well, and so should we. For our earthly days are but a mere testing ground to determine where we will spend all of eternity. Hopefully for you and me, that destiny will get us to where we hope to be . . . in the presence of the One who is truly larger than life itself.
REFLECTION: Are you giving thought to how you are spending the days God is giving you in this life? Do wisdom and knowledge become factors as you make this determination? Why does each generation think they are smarter than the generation that came before them and wiser than the one that comes after them? How do you control your admiration for people who evolve to be notable legends in our culture?