Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Having worked in the corporate world for most of my working life, I picked up a few observations about people. Especially those who have recently retired or are approaching retirement, usually in their early 60s; the one exception is my friend who retired in his mid-30s after amassing a fortune from his hard work as a sales representative at a multi-national company!
But people in their retirement age intrigue me. These people have accumulated a lifetime of work experience and more importantly human experience. They are now approaching their twilight years and have come into their own as persons. They are supposed to be older, wiser, and role models for the younger generation. And their true character at this point in time has – pardon the pun – ossified. I don’t mean to be disrespectful but at this juncture, their personhood is very much concrete and complete. This is as good or bad as they come, whether they turn out to be innocent doves or crafty serpents and ravenous wolves.
It is the same for our loss of innocence or inversely, the learned increase of sinfulness. As children, we were quite innocuous at the beginning. Although I remember at age 6 or 7, a classmate stole some construction paper from me and then accused me in front of the teacher of stealing the item from her. Some of us start earlier in our education of sin, but I’m sure I caught up soon after!
I remember that it was quite easy to befriend others in school between the ages of 7 to 13. I guess we were still undeveloped in our prejudice against others. And a majority of us still thought that cheating and lying are wrong. But as we grew older, we changed. We learned to use lies and manipulate others to get what we want, be it power or money or something else. We favoured people like us and discriminated against others who are different. We also learned to love things and use people. Sounds like a day at work for many of us. If your office isn’t like that, you are blessed.
So you could imagine our trajectory as we age: if we consistently choose be manipulative, mendacious, cantankerous, remorseless and unkind to others, our last state is very likely to be worse than our first. So you can see why I am intrigued by people approaching retirement and those in their twilight years – you can see them for who they really are in their final state and summation. I used to work for people in the earlier mentioned category and sadly, a few professed to be Christians. They were hardly role models for the younger generation, and could be quite stumbling to people who want to find out more about the gospel. Frankly, I am unsure if they are Christians. But only God’s opinion of them matters, not mine.
I have also met retirees who are quite the opposite – godly, loving, sacrificial and kind. Some have gone on to be with their Lord. They profess to be Christians and their lives are consistent with their profession – such gems. By their fruit we will recognise them (Matthew 12: 33). They are by no means perfect, but are definitely more Christ-like as they get older and wiser.
It is also my hope and prayer that I will be like them.
May we choose our role models carefully and see people for who they really are.
God’s peace be with you.
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