Honoring the Elderly
The fifth commandment is addressed in the Westminster Larger Catechism with eleven questions, more than any of the other Ten Commandments. This should tip us off to how important the Westminster divines viewed this commandment. It is also extremely clear from what the Larger Catechism says about the fifth commandment that the divines felt that the duty to honor one’s parents does not end when children leave the house. Indeed, some of the most important – and difficult – occasions of keeping the fifth commandment will be when one’s parents are old.
Brian L. De Jong addresses the issue of keeping the fifth commandment in regards to aging parents in Honoring the Elderly: A Christian’s Duty to Aging Parents. This is not merely a theoretical exercise as he has had to address the issues of eldercare when his parents and his mother-in-law began to need assistance. In addition to his own experiences, he had input from his parishioners at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. All of this practical experience and advice is combined with solid theological thought.
De Jong addresses issues such as the brevity and difficulty of life (his discussion on priorities is both funny and pointedly clear), caring for those with dementia, coping with difficult parents, the loss of independence, financial issues, and more.
When De Jong addressed the matter of the end of vocational work, I could not help but think of a sad matter that I have seen too much of at my place of employment. Someone retires after forty years or so, and then you hear within several months that the newly retired employee has died. It is as if their entire life revolved around their job, and when the job was over their whole reason for living was over as well. Such should not be the case for a Christian, because for them to live should be Christ (Phil. 1:21).
There are excellent discussion questions after each chapter, which are thought provoking and make this book very useful in a small group setting. This book is a very good book on a subject that more and more needs to be faced.
A copy is in the Church Library.