What is said in the Bible about gray hair?

In the Bible, gray hair was a sign of advanced age. Most people's hair color starts to fade in middle age and continues to lose color and become completely gray, silver, or white the longer they live. Thus, in the Bible, gray hair is used as a symbol to connote old age. For instance, when expressing that all people in the community would face His judgment, God said, "for young man and woman alike, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs" (Deuteronomy 32:25).

The Bible teaches that older people are to be honored. God commanded in Leviticus 19:32, "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD." Older people have lived long enough to have some experiences from which they can have learned and gained wisdom, so they should be respected. Often, these people have also served their families and communities during their lifetimes, so they can be given gratitude. However, gray hair and old age frequently come with diminishing physical strength, so these individuals may also need protection and care. Respect, gratitude, and care are all ways to honor the aging.

In Matthew 5:36 Jesus pointed out that no one can control how his/her hair grows out from his/her head. He said, "you cannot make one hair white or black." While we cannot affect the color of our hair at its roots, today we have the technology to cover the gray hair with dye once it has grown out from the scalp. While there is no moral concern in dying one's hair, the Bible encourages people to see gray hair as "a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life" (Proverbs 16:31) and as "the splendor of old men" (Proverbs 20:29). Aging (and its accompanying gray hair) is seen as a blessing and a privilege for which to give God glory and a reminder that we are not in control of our own lives and circumstances.

God, who is sovereign, promised to be with us throughout life's journey, including into old age. In Isaiah 46:3–4 He declared, "Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save." God's presence in our lives is continual from beginning to the very end.

One biblical example is Naomi who experienced God's provision in her old age when her daughter-in-law Ruth gave birth to a son. Her community remarked, "Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him" (Ruth 4:14–15). One psalmist prayed, "O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come" (Psalm 71:17–18). This writer wanted to experience God's presence during his old age so that he could continue teaching younger generations about the character of God. Similarly, in Psalm 92:14–15 the psalmist wrote that "[The righteous] still bear fruit in old age;… to declare that the LORD is upright" (Psalm 92:14, 15). Aging generations should use the blessing of old age in order to testify to younger generations of God's faithfulness.

While graying hair represents old age, is a sign for others to show honor, is a privilege, and does not preclude a person from God's powerful presence, it is also a call for serious self-reflection. God warned through the prophet Hosea about Ephraim, "Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this" (Hosea 7:9–10). Graying hair can be a reminder to "seek the LORD while he may be found" (Isaiah 55:6). The letter to the Hebrews teaches, "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). So graying hair can be a reminder of ever-approaching death and the need to be in right relationship with God. Mercifully the letter to the Hebrews continues, "so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus has made the way for people of all ages to be in right standing before God, to save them from condemnation (John 3:16-18, 36; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:17–21; Ephesians 2:1–10). For those who do not know God, graying hair should be a catalyst to place one's faith in Jesus and receive salvation before one's eventual impending death. For those who are followers of Jesus, graying hair can be a reminder to finish well (2 Timothy 4:7–8; Hebrews 12:1–2).

In the Bible, gray hair calls for reflecting on one's relationship with God, for testifying to younger generations of God's presence and provision, for expressing gratitude to God for the privilege of long life, and for others to show honor in the presence of the aged. May we have the intimate experience of Jacob, who upon his death bed declared that God had "been my shepherd all my lifelong to this day" (Genesis 48:15) and the confidence of David to say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:6).

Related Truth:

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