MsDora, former teacher and counselor, is fascinated by the prospect of joyful aging. She explores and shares habits of happy seniors.
“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree . . .
They shall still bear fruit in old age.”
–Psalm 92:12,14 NKJV
“Still” suggests that there are factors which may prevent fruit-bearing in old age; but the psalmist compares his subjects to flourishing palms, not to trees affected by distress and decline. The Easy-to Read Version interprets his description of them in Psalm 92:12 as “good people.” The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition states that they are “[uncompromisingly] righteous,” and in verse 14 declares that they “shall flourish like the palm tree [be long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful.]” Their fruit-bearing in old age is the outcome of lives planted and nurtured in godliness, and their flourish is predicted (verse 13), but is there something significant about putting on this display in old age?
Before considering the necessity of their fruit-bearing in old age, take a brief look at the kind of fruit they bear.
What Fruit Do They Bear?
The fruit that the tree bears is the result of the seed planted. The quality of the fruit may be affected by the kind of soil in which it is planted, and the nurture it receives. Like trees, some people experience a rough start. Hostile environment and disastrous accidents sabotage the development of strong upright characters, but it is possible for them to be replanted into favorable conditions, which empower their transformation into strong, upright posture like that of the palm.
These fruit-bearers are righteous (named so by the psalmist). Their fruit, reflecting their identity is righteousness and it is sustained by a righteous God. Whether they have always been fruitful, or have been transplanted on the journey toward old age, their fruit develops from His sustaining, transforming power within them. Human beings need supernatural enabling to think right, do right, live right. All the virtues like those listed as fruit of God’s Spirit in Galatians 5:22 (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are species of righteousness.
Following are four reasons that their fruit is still necessary in their later years.
1. They Are Purpose Driven
"The last days of the saints are sometimes their best days, and their last work their best work." —Matthews Concise Commentary
The purpose of fruit trees is to bear fruit, and age does not cancel their purpose. Neither, does long life make old people useless. In fact, responsible persons consider that there is purpose to their extended years, and they set out to find and pursue it. Their fruit at this time of their lives is the culmination of the talents they nurtured, and the skills they cultivated. The strength of their bodies may decline but their spirits are renewable (2 Corinthians 4:16). They become more spiritual in their approach to life, and their spiritual fruit increase.
They live to bear fruit, and because they have matured in wisdom and confidence over the years, they are motivated to increase their production. They feed their own sense of usefulness and they have more time on their hands to serve others with the fruit they bear. Why would they stop now, when they are more aware that they can enjoy life while fulfilling their purpose?
2. Their Fruit Supplies Needs
“[An aged man] ... should feel ... that the world needs the benefit of his counsel and his prayers; that his life is lengthened out not for his own ease or enjoyment, but that virtue and piety may be extended in the world by all the influence which he can bring to bear upon it in advanced years.” —Barnes Notes on the Bible
Every day, sensible young people reach for the good fruit hanging on the speech, the appearance, the habits, the prayers and every other gesture of the godly people around them. They pick and eat fruit, every time they interact with the older folk.
They bite pieces of wisdom when grandparents offer a new perspective based on personal experience.They drink courage from the old, kind neighbor who stands up for the young homeowners who are not sure of their rights. They taste hope when an old professor cares enough to recommend to his old friend, a former student who is seeking for guidance.
They may learn from the academics about other vital fruit like faith, loyalty, morality and resilience, but nothing is more easily digested than when it is given firsthand by someone who lived it. Without counsel, support and other fruit borne to this generation on the positive influence of older folk, it would take years to learn what the fruit-bearers can teach in an hour of interaction with them.
3. Their Fruit Builds Their Legacy
"A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds." —Saint Basil
The longer people live, the more they think about dying. And the thought of dying brings to mind the concern of legacy.
Jeffrey Krueger, in an article titled Why Are Old People Less Scared of Dying? quoted Steve Taylor, a lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University in England: “A lot of our fear of death is about losing the things we’ve built up.” Then Krueger added that thinking of things that will outlive a person will lessen the fear. (TIME 2016)
“Things that will outlive a person” is the definition of legacy. In old age, people are able to spend more time focusing on fruit, the memory and influence of which, will outlive them. Those whose lives they touch will still be encouraged, guided and supported by the words and deeds when the fruit-bearer passes on. If the fruit nurtures someone to become another fruit-bearer, who nurtures someone else to become another fruit-bearer, and so on, and so on, what a far-reaching legacy that could be. During their extra years, it pays to focus on legacy rather than death, over which no one has control.
4. Their Fruit Inspires Faith
“Fruit... it's just God showing off. ‘Look at all the colours I know!’” —Dylan Moran
Just like the many varieties of fruit put God’s creativity on display, so the fruitfulness of the righteous aged demonstrates His faithfulness. The Easy-to-Read Version of the psalmist’s conclusion to fruit-bearing in old age (verse 15) is “to show everyone that the Lord is good,” and in The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition, “there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
The old fruit-bearers inspire faith in those who are tempted to doubt that godly living can be joyful and rewarding. They prove that the promise of renewal and sustenance for older folk (Ruth 4:15) can come true; that the physically tired can receive divine strength (Isaiah 40: 29), that they can remain productive and useful to the very end (Psalm 92:12-15).
Bearing fruit in old age makes one a living proof that faith brings rewards.
© 2022 Dora Weithers