by Janice Thompson
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many of us — even in our golden years — fall into behaviors that dishonor our Lord and damage our witness. Those sins that caught us off guard in our youth may play out a little differently, but the consequences are the same.
The inability to be flexible or to see the opinions of others as valuable is far more than being “set in our ways.” It’s pride. Proverbs 16:18 tells us pride is the root of other sins. It causes us to think our way is best. We find ourselves saying things like, “Well, that’s my opinion … my preference … my recipe … my right.” And so on.
Notice a common word here? Pride is always driven by the “I, me, my” voice. It causes us, out of stubbornness, to refuse help from others, such as purchasing that much-needed hearing aid.
And that’s not the only way pride rears its head. Consider Mary and Joyce. Both were well known for their mouthwatering pies. Friendly bantering took place at every church social as parishioners bickered over which pie took the prize.
It’s hard to swallow the compliments without taking A MOUTHFUL OF PRIDE along with it.
Thankfully, things never took a turn for the worse. Some folks can get pretty bent out of shape over something as simple as a pie, especially when praises are flowing. It’s hard to swallow the compliments without taking a mouthful of pride along with it. And no matter how much you sweeten it, pride leaves a bitter taste.
When we were young, we may have dreamed of things we would one day own — a nice house, a fast car, expensive clothes, or rare collectibles. As time passed, we managed to possess some, and now they have a place of honor in our lives and homes.
The desire to acquire stuff can be problematic. If we’re not careful, we can become obsessed with possessions. But hoarding possessions and putting them in too high a place are classic signs of greed. “The one who profits dishonestly troubles his household” (Prov. 15:27). Sometimes our greed hurts others, even when we don’t realize it.
Consider Sharon’s story: “Growing up, I enjoyed a relationship with both my grandmothers, though they were very different. One had a nice home with lovely possessions which we kids weren’t allowed to touch or enjoy. We were fussed at continually.
“My other grandmother had very little in the way of material possessions, but everything she had, she shared. It never mattered to her if we messed things up. In fact, she encouraged it, even sitting on the floor to play with us. My favorite memories of this grandmother include eating pancakes for supper. I found out years later that she served us pancakes because it was all she could afford.”
One grandmother’s generosity left a precious legacy. The other grandmother’s greed left a legacy, as well, though not the one she had intended.
Oh, how we struggle with jealousy when we’re young! If we’re not careful, the desire to “keep up with the Joneses” follows us into our golden years. This transgression results in discontentment and keeps us from appreciating God’s blessings. It also causes us to resent others.
We don’t have to travel farther than the RV world to find a classic example. It starts simply enough. We purchase a small travel trailer for camping with friends. Then we see that our friends have purchased a brand new fifth wheel. Before long, we’re trading up for a fifth wheel — slightly larger and with more bells and whistles.
This isn’t a new problem, of course. The apostle Paul addressed it in his letter to the Corinthian church: “For I fear that perhaps when I come I will not find you to be what I want … there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder” (2 Cor. 12:20).
There’s nothing wrong with owning nice things. But when our desire to have the finest is rooted in jealousy, we should check our motivations.
Most of us would admit that controlling anger is tough, especially when our pride is wounded. Consider which description fits — “sweet” or “cranky”? One reason crankiness grabs hold as we age is because of physical pain or an ongoing illness. It’s tough to stay sweet when we’re hurting. Bitterness, unforgiveness, or loneliness may lead us to lash out because we’re hurting on the inside.
Are you “sweet” or “cranky”?
God’s solution is found in James 1:19-20: “My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
Some may think lust is only a problem for younger folks. Unfortunately, it continues as a destructive mindset for older people. When our eyes begin to wander, infidelity steps in to separate and tear asunder. It’s not just the action that catches us off guard, but the thoughts and intents behind the action. Jesus taught, “Everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).
John, a man in his late 70s, is a prime example of this. Day after day he tended to the needs of his bedridden wife. John looked forward each day to the delivery of their meal from Meals-On-Wheels. He liked the food, of course, but he especially enjoyed flirting with the young woman who delivered the meals. In the early stages, John’s flirtations with Jenna seemed innocent, and she responded to his compliments with a smile and a kind response. Gradually, John got carried away.
Before long, Jenna stopped delivering the meals. She was replaced with a stern-looking fellow who scurried in and out, allowing no time for conversation. John felt foolish and realized he’d crossed a line. He refocused his attentions where they should have been all along — on his wife.
Ah, the church potluck! It stands as a witness to our inability to curb our appetites. We eat until we can’t squeeze in another bite, and no one questions us. We often pay a heavy price (pun intended) after the fact, as we battle excessive weight, diabetes, and joint issues.
Seniors don’t just struggle with excesses in their diet, of course. Some battle drinking problems or misuse of prescription drugs. What starts out innocently can blossom into a huge problem.
We must be diligent, lest our appetites sweep us away to a place we don’t need to go. “For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor, and grogginess will clothe them in rags” (Prov. 23:21).
By the time we’re considered mature adults, we may feel we’ve earned the right to be lazy. Who cares if we sit around all day? We’ve worked hard, for years, in fact. Unfortunately, laziness, like a drug, is hard to give up. The more you sit, the more you want to sit. The less you do, the less you feel like doing. There’s really only one prescription for a slothful life: “Up and doing!”
WHO CARES if we sit around ALL DAY?
Louise is approaching her 80s, but age hasn’t slowed her down one bit. She takes an annual missions trip to Asia, teaches a weekly Sunday School class, and opens her home to those in need. In short, she pours herself out on behalf of others. She is a walking, talking example of 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”
As we consider these seven “deadly” sins, we can make a conscious decision to overcome. Sure, we’re still vulnerable, even in our golden years. However, no matter what we’re struggling with, God has the prescription — the remedy — in His Word. We can overcome sins and temptations by leaning on Him and choosing life.
Janice Thompson is the author of nearly 80 books for the Christian market, most light-hearted in nature. She lives in Spring, Texas, near her daughters and grandchildren.
This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Mature Living. Subscribe