“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” This is one of those proverbs I’ve been meaning to explore for a long time. But finally, over the summer, I had time and opportunity to spend a couple of weeks pondering it and trying to figure it out. And as I did so, I found a few ways to be both challenged and encouraged by it.
“The aged” obviously refers to elderly people. But because these words are found in the book of Proverbs, we know that they must refer to a certain kind of elderly people—ones who over the course of their lives have followed the way of wisdom rather than the way of folly, and who are now seeing the many benefits of living such a good life.
We need to remember that Proverbs presents a kind of idealized life based on living according to wisdom. Proverbs indicates, “If you live in this way, these are generally the results that will follow.” These results aren’t guaranteed, but are typical. According to Proverbs, and really the whole Old Testament, a wise life generally leads to children and grandchildren. (See, for example, Psalm 128 which seems to perfectly capture the great desire of every Israelite heart: “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! … Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. … May you see your children’s children!”) It’s clear that God’s blessings are upon those who live in wisdom, and his blessings generally include marriage, then children, and then grandchildren.
When our proverb says that grandchildren are the crown of their grandparents, it must first and most obviously refer to pride. By simple observation we know that grandparents are proud of their grandchildren, and that’s right and good. But because we are in Proverbs, we know there must be a little more going on than just pride in the existence of grandchildren. In this case, it must be pride in a certain kind of grandchildren. It can’t be grandchildren who are living depraved and dissolute lives, but grandchildren who, like their grandparents, are living in the way of wisdom. This is seen as God’s ultimate blessing because for as long as these elderly people live, they get to see their descendants following their God. This stands as validation of their godly life because it has extended not just to the second generation, but to the third. It’s one thing to have children who imitate their parents and walk in wisdom, but another still to have grandchildren who do the same.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged like gray hair is the crown of the aged. Almost everyone will live to get gray hair and almost everyone will live to have grandchildren, but the life of wisdom allows that hair and those grandchildren to be like a crown. If children and grandchildren are following the Lord, that is an amazing achievement, a splendid crown. It’s right and good for grandparents to see that kind of godly grandchildren with a kind of pride.
But it’s not the kind of pride that says, “Look at my accomplishment. Look what I’ve done.” It’s the kind of pride that says, “Look at God’s accomplishment! Look what God has done!” The way I see it, godly grandchildren are like the Alps. The Alps are the greatest beauty I’ve ever seen on this earth. If you drive through the Alps you come across moment after moment of incredible, stunning beauty. Time and again you’ll see something so beautiful and so majestic you can hardly believe it’s true. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, where a shiver goes up your spine or a tear comes to your eye. The Alps seems to be where God shows off his creative power and ability like nowhere else.
Multigenerational Christian families are like the Alps. They are beautiful to behold and they evoke that same sense of awe, that same sense of wonder. Why? Because we know it’s so far beyond our ability to do this ourselves. We know that the pleasure of seeing godly children and godly grandchildren means God has worked through at least three generations of people who have shaken their fists in his face, three generations all born with a sinful nature that defies him and is in opposition to him. Yet he has drawn all of those people to himself and granted them the beautiful and precious gift of salvation. That should take our breath away and move us to worship. We can’t make the Matterhorn and we can’t save a soul. It’s beyond us, so it can only be God. If the Alps is God showing off his ability to create, then multigenerational Christian families are God showing off his ability to save.
No wonder, then, that grandchildren are a crown! Godly grandchildren are the crown of godly old men and godly old women. There is such beauty in seeing a grandchild following the Lord. It evokes the awe and wonder of seeing this display of God’s immense, unmerited favor. It moves the heart to worship.
Parents and grandparents, I think you ought to consider the kind of legacy you are establishing in your family. I’m sure everyone, Christian or not, longs to have a certain kind of grandchildren because grandchildren have a way of establishing and cementing our legacy. They tend to be the final generation of our descendants we get to see before we go to the grave. If your life has been dedicated to pursuing wealth, you’ll feel validated when you see wealthy grandchildren. If your life has been dedicated to pursuing athletic accomplishments, you’ll feel validated when you see athletic grandchildren. Godly grandchildren validate a life dedicated to godliness. But where money can be willed from one generation to the next and where athletic ability can be passed along genetically, when it comes to godliness, we are completely dependent upon grace. It can’t be earned or willed or bestowed. It can only be given by the grace of God.
It falls to you, then, to live a life that is worthy of imitation by your children and grandchildren. It falls to you to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, then to support your children as they, in turn, raise the next generation. And all the while it falls to you to plead with God that he would extend his saving grace to the second and third generation. In other words, it falls to you to pray that your godly head would some day be crowned by godly grandchildren, for “grandchildren are the crown of the aged.”