The care of aged believers.
The Bible describes 70 years as a life span and makes it clear that extra years means extra need for care and comfort (Psalm 90:10). Many live beyond this span and discover that they must depend on others for their care and even for some financial support. As assembly believers are we accountable for the support and care of aged saints? We need to re-examine the Scriptures, which leave us without doubt as to our responsibility. “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father, younger men as brethren; elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed” (1 Tim 5:1-3). Would we allow our own mother to be left without care and means of support? Then we are to treat all older sisters as mothers.
There is an order in this responsibility, “If any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God” (1 Thn 3:4). Family responsibility comes before assembly responsibility. It is not acceptable to God for believers to send their older family members to a Christian Care facility and expect other Christians to pay the bills, but many older Christians do not have a saved family to support them financially. The basic cost for a bed and food often far exceeds their income. The result is that the care facility has a very large “shortfall”, and this money must be made up from other sources. This problem is greatly multiplied when the elderly need nursing care. The cost of infirmary care is at least double regular care.
I made the error of thinking that when an assembly encouraged an older brother or sister to go to a Christian Home, the assembly would be careful to make up whatever shortfall there was between the income of the person and the cost of their care. I was very wrong. There may be exceptions, but very frequently assemblies have not provided adequate support. I have been told nothing by the board at Longport, but have learned from several other homes that the funds they receive by donation from individuals and assemblies make up less than ten percent of the shortfall. We need to be deeply concerned at our failure: “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Tim 5:8). Are these believers “our own”? This verse distinguishes between “his own” and “his own house”, leading to the conclusion that any assembly believer is “our own”.
I had the privilege of staying in the home of Mr. Will Moon at the time when the Longport Home was in its planning stage. Many dear saints, many servants of the Lord and missionaries have been cared for lovingly and tenderly at Longport in their closing years. All of this love and labor for God is on the record above, nothing can steal it away. It has become necessary for Longport to close its doors. Many of the residents have been called home, so only about twenty are left. The board has made a wonderful provision for them. They live in a section of the Lutheran Home at Ocean View, New Jersey, about ten miles from Longport. They have their own dining room there and are able to meet for a prayer meeting and for Bible study They are still together as an assembly and the breaking of bread is held at present in the home of Mrs. Sue McPherson. The board has done their very best to be sure that these aged saints continue to be under loving care, and have made a large provision for those who lack their own funds.
We need to assess the needs of older saints and as individuals and assemblies we need to be certain that we are doing all that we can to care for them and to support those who are in need.