Love is not free. Genuinely caring for someone requires a payment. Energy. Time. Money. Emotions. The list continues. Sometimes we pay the cost without thinking, like the swipe of a credit card. Other times, however, the cost of love weighs on the giver—like the man who pays for his meal with coins. First the stacks of quarters; then some dimes, a nickel, and a few pennies. It comes slowly and consciously. Perhaps you know what this slow trickle feels like. It’s not that you aren’t willing to pay the cost of love; it’s just that the cost does weigh on you.
For the last several years of my grandma’s life, she battled Alzheimer’s. A few years before she died, my parents took us by her place in Georgia to say “goodbye” while she could still remember us. My dad, however, continued to go back to see her. He kept in regular contact with the nurses and would visit her even after she couldn’t remember him any longer. Currently, my mom cares constantly for her mother, playing the roles of chauffeur, doctor, advisor, and comforter.
While I do not write from personal experience, I have seen the type of love required to care for aging parents. I’ve seen the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual pull. But I’ve also seen something else: genuine love and concern. I’ve seen both of my parents willingly, consistently love their parents.
I’d like to just offer a few biblical encouragements to anyone caring for aging parents. In short, keep serving. Keep giving. Keep caring. Your labor of love is not in vain.
God cares how you treat your parents
Jesus responds to an inquisition from the Pharisees and Scribes about his disciples following the traditions of the elders with this condemnation in Mark 7.
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
Certainly, these religious leaders violated the Word of God in many ways. Jesus says as much (“and many such things you do”). Why then does Jesus bring up this example? The answer must at least include this fact: honoring parents is important to God. Of all their offenses, Jesus brings up this one. He cares how we treat our parents.
Christ is not debating the interpretation of some obscure command. He is addressing an application of one of the Ten Commandments. So keep caring. Keep loving. Keep serving. Your care for your parents is important to God.
Caring for parents demonstrates your connection to Christ
1 Timothy 5:8 reads, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I always assumed this passage spoke to fathers. So I read it as saying, “Care for your children!” Let me encourage you to open to 1 Timothy 5 and read through the first eight verses.
It’s not talking to fathers, is it? No, it’s talking to children. In fact, just a few verses before Paul writes, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.”
Pleasing in the sight of God! God sees the long hours you spend. God sees your battle to stay patient and to maintain the right attitude. Keep caring. Keep loving. Keep giving. God sees. It is pleasing in his sight!
1 Timothy 5:8 magnifies the importance of caring for your aging parents. Your care visibly displays the love of God at work in you. It confirms your connection to Jesus. Your actions support your faith, they testify of God’s work in you.
A Few Final Encouragements
It is crucial to know God’s perspective. We’ve examined a couple of passages above that reinforce and energize our love for aging parents. I’d like to end with a few brief encouragements in no particular order for the here-and-now.
- Grieve the consequences of Genesis 3 present in the creation all around us and in us.
- Pray for them. Pray for their spiritual growth. Pray that they would be tender to God and his Word. Pray for their love for others. Pray that they would be selfless. Pray that God would give you favor with them. One of the most loving things you can do is to pray to the One who can care for your parent’s soul.
- Remember Christ’s love for you when you were unlovely. He loved you when you returned no thanks for all of his goodness to you. If your parents are unthankful for or indifferent to your help, remember God’s love to you while you were hostile to him.
- Rejoice that you are able to picture grace so vividly. In a very real sense, you cannot extend grace unless you have been wronged. If your parents are difficult or antagonistic, you have been handed just such a situation.
- Hope in hardship. Your suffering works for you an eternal weight of glory.
- Rejoice that you are part of God’s visible care to your aging parents.
May God strengthen your hands to honor him by honoring your parents! Keep loving. Keep caring. Keep serving.