Over the past several weeks, I have been confronted with the need of managing my aging parents’ life affairs, while they are living through their mid 90s. Being the youngest, it seemed logical for my parents to place me in the position of managing their affairs, while living out their last years of life. Through this process, many things have become known to me and questions have been raised not only in the life of my parents, but for my own family situation as well. Within this article, I want to examine a biblical perspective on aging and the planning for one’s own care in the end years of one’s life.
Within this context, the Scriptures are making reference that in the case of a widow the responsibility of assistance falls to the children to care for their parent, not the Church.
There are several concepts to consider when dealing with this issue; so let’s start with the statement found in Second Corinthians 12:14-15: “Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” (NASB) Here the Apostle Paul is referring to his relationship to those he has lead to the Lord; Paul sees himself as their spiritual father and they as his spiritual children, drawing the analogy that children should not be supporting the parents but parents should be supporting their children. I am sure this could be interpreted in several ways based on context. Therefore, let us move on to the next passage found in First Timothy 5:4-5 which states, “but if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family, and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.” (NASB) Within this context, the Scriptures are making reference that in the case of a widow the responsibility of assistance falls to the children to care for their parent, not the Church.
We read in Mark 7:9-13 Jesus comments on honoring one’s parents, which ties an Old Testament concept transferred to the New Testament, of children honoring their parents through making some provision for them when they are in need. The focus of this passage is not on parent/child relationships but Jewish religious leadership substituting religious traditions in place of God’s original intentions of His words to benefit themselves. In this case, they were changing God’s concept of honoring one’s parents through a loving attitude of providing for one’s parents when having the ability of doing so, to diverting any monetary funds that could benefit one’s parents to God’s work, which actually benefited themselves. In the end, the command of God is to honor one’s parents, which could include any assistance based on ability to provide for them under any given circumstance. It is my interpretation after reviewing the context of the statements and referencing several commentaries, that the command is to honor your father and mother, and if they need assistance, one should try to provide that in a thoughtful and loving way according to the means of the children.
It should be noted that this concept is not an insurance policy or guarantee that one’s children will have the ability to care for their parents.
It should be noted that this concept is not an insurance policy or guarantee that one’s children will have the ability to care for their parents. It could be that in some cases the children are financially in worse shape than the parents are with no ability to provide for their parents. This single fact should not negate the concept of honoring one’s parents, for there are many ways this still can be expressed.
Finally, we read in First Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NASB) This passage refers to anyone who has chosen to take on the responsibility to care for others or men who choose to marry and raise a family.
When all four concepts are evaluated as a whole, we can see that ultimately it is the husband that the ultimate responsibility falls to for planning and supporting some type of care for his life, as well as those God has made him responsible fore.
When evaluating these type issues, we begin to see how complicated life can become.
Having evaluated these concepts let’s ask some important questions concerning how we can care for our family in the future. The first question is, How long do you think you will live? Why is that an important question? Because without that knowledge you will not know how much money is required to live out the rest of your years. That raises another question. If one retires at at age 67, how much money will be required to support you and your spouse to the end of your lives? In addition, the end could include assisted living expenses in the thousands of dollars per month, if you indeed get to a point where you need such services. When evaluating these type issues, we begin to see how complicated life can become.
Scripturally we know that husbands are responsible for providing for their families. If we do not know how long we will live or when life will end for us, how do we plan for the future? Within today’s culture, the simplest way to start is through life insurance. Some would say that is a bad investment, if this was simply a matter of financial planning that could be a true statement. However, if one looks at their obligations to their family, from God’s point of view, life insurance makes the most sense to meet God’s requirements in providing for your family in today’s world. Yes, there are all kinds of life insurance policies, and if you think it through and work with a finical advisor that you can trust, a solution can be obtained. Finally, if you die during your retirement, will that retirement transfer to your spouse? Some pension programs do not, and who pays for your spouses living and funeral expenses, your children? Yes, but how much burden are you willing to put on them for your widow and their mother?
Personally, I have cared for these matters to the benefit of my wife, while covering for our funeral expenses, which can run between 2 to 10 thousand dollars per person. Could my wife and I afford assisted living while both of us still live, probably not? Thus, the need of this discussion, to help others not make the same planning mistakes I made. Am I worried about this newfound awareness? Not really, God has always found away around my lack of planning to his glory and to my good. Never the less, let’s not purposely temped God by daring him to cover for our errors when there are solutions we can act upon.
As a personal note, if I were still young, I would invest in a life insurance policy that is paid up at age 65 with a payment that never changes over the course of the payment years. This would provide a tax-free death benefit to your spouse and cover all your current debt and funeral expenses. In addition, if you so choose, you can give that death benefit to whomever you choose, including to God’s work if your spouse and children pass before you do. Such a policy could be setup to provide a savings account for your spouse to draw from to supplement their Social Security or some other retirement plan, if those still exists in the future; from a biblical point of view, this makes the most sense to me in meeting one’s obligations to one’s family from God’ perspective.
If you are asking, do I sell insurance? The answer is no, but as I review the uncertainties of life and what God expects from us, this solution makes the most sense over the period of our life time and when added to the many other options of savings and pension programs, this concept could by our best option in obedience to God’s stated desires for living out our lives.
Think about it, and pray for God’s wisdom as you contemplate your finances in the world we live in for His glory. Remember, planning is the key, and if the Lord does not return within your lifetime, how will you be living out your last days?
Proverbs 20:5 states, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out.” (NASB)