The Bible has much to say about caring for elderly parents and other family members who are not able to care for themselves. The early Christian church acted as the social services agency for other believers. They cared for the poor, the sick, the widows and the orphans who had no one else to care for them. Christians who had family members in need were expected to meet those needs. Unfortunately, caring for our parents in their old age is no longer an obligation that many of us are willing to accept.
The elderly can be seen as burdens rather than blessings. Sometimes we are quick to forget the sacrifices our parents made for us when they are in need of care themselves. Instead of taking them into our homes—whenever that is safe and feasible—we put them in retirement communities or nursing homes, sometimes against their will. We may not value the wisdom they have acquired through living long lives, and we can discredit their advice as “outdated.”
When we honor and care for our parents, we are serving God as well. The Bible says, “The church should care for any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God very much….But those who won’t care for their own relatives, especially those living in the same household, have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers” (1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8).
Not all elderly people need or want constant, live-in care in their children’s homes. They may prefer to live in a community with other people their age, or they may be quite capable of complete independence. Regardless of the circumstances, we still have obligations to our parents. If they are in need of financial assistance, we should help them. If they are sick, we should take care of them. If they need a place to stay, we should offer our home. If they need help with household and/or yard work, we should step up to assist. And if they are under the care of a nursing facility, we need to assess the living conditions to make sure our parents are being properly and lovingly cared for.
We should never allow the cares of the world to overshadow the things that are most important—serving God through serving people, especially the people in our own families. The Bible says, “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—”that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).