I read a proverb recently that surprised me:
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
The first line wasn’t surprising: yes, grandparents take great pride and joy in their grandchildren. I expected the second line to parallel the first: Dads are proud of their kids.
Makes sense, right?
Except that’s not how it reads.
The second line of the proverb isn’t “the glory of fathers is their children,” but “the glory of children is their fathers.”
After my initial double-take, the wordplay started to make sense. Yes, it is true that parents are proud of their children. But it works the other way, too: think about the “my dad is better than your dad” claims on the playground. A little boy’s “glory” is his dad.
I think the gist of this proverb is reflected in Paul’s instructions to the “older men” in the churches of Crete. In his letter to Titus, Paul gives targeted instructions for various demographic groups. First on his list are the “older men”:
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
In the church, age and experience matter. If you are an “older man” (or woman), the “healthy teaching” Paul offers you is to be worthy of respect, to model Christian maturity and finish well—because the next generation is looking to you as their example.
According to the New Testament, a person’s maturity is not measured by how much they know or which positions in the church they hold, but by how they are growing in faith, hope, and love. For example, look at what Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica:
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
I’ve heard it said that couples who are married for a long time start to look like each other. In the same way, someone who has walked with Christ for a long time should start to look like him. The marks of Christian maturity should be evident: there should be growth “in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (the natural outgrowth of hope).
A mentor of mine is helping to lead a men’s conference this weekend for “Titus 2:2” men called “4th Quarter: It’s Your Time.” Here is how Noble Heart Ministries describes “4th quarter” manhood:
You’re not a rookie any more. You understand the game, your teammates and opponents, the plays and strategies. You no longer have to be told what to do. You can survey the field, see what needs to be done and get into action knowing the part you are to play.
In this 4th quarter of your life:
- You are more of what you were created to be than you were as a younger man.
- Your words, your actions, your presence have a greater weight than ever before.
- You have acquired perspective, experience, understanding and wisdom about the world, people and God.
Throughout Biblical, historical and contemporary times, a man’s greatest impact, a man’s greatest work, has been done in the 4th quarter of his life.
It’s your time, your most powerful time.
The enemy knows this and has been trying to sideline you. That’s why, in our 4th quarter, we often feel diminished, unneeded or unwanted, fearful, secluded and uncertain. We can feel overwhelmed or overlooked, besieged or bored to death.
This is a time for clarity, courage, camaraderie, character, and command.
This is not a time to retire. It’s a time to re-fire.
This is not a time to hold on. It’s a time to let go.
This is not a time to fade away or disengage. It’s a time to show up and engage.
As part of a generation that is somewhere around halftime, I want to say to you who are entering your “4th quarter” years: We need you. You are our spiritual fathers. We need your wisdom and experience, and we look up to your example of faith, love, and steadfast endurance.
“The glory of children is their fathers.” This is your time. So don’t fade away or disengage. Show up and engage.