13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13–16, NKJV)
Who do people say you are? A good reputation is valuable and should be guarded (Prov. 22:1). Yet, what people say about you may not be the truth. People said many things about Jesus, many of which were incorrect (Matt. 12:24; Jno. 7:12). Peter accurately identified Jesus as the “Christ, the Son of the living God” because he accepted the Father’s testimony of His Son (Matt. 16:17; Jno. 5:36-39). When we value what people say about us more than the truth God reveals in His word, we will find ourselves compromising truth for the sake of having people’s approval. Many did this concerning Jesus: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jno. 12:42-43). God’s word sanctifies us, not what people say about us (Jno. 17:17; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4).
1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2, NKJV)
I suppose the younger generation has always been tempted to grow impatient with their elders. It should not be so. Israel was instructed to “rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). Children should be taught to respect their parents. In turn, this trains young people to treat older men and women with similar dignity. Simple expressions like, “yes, ma’am” and “no sir” naturally flow from the lips of those who learn and live respect for their elders. Even when Timothy would have to disagree with an older man (which would invariably occur as he worked as an evangelist, 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), he was to show respect in his demeanor and in his words. Elihu is an excellent example of how a younger man respectfully approached older men with whom he disagreed (Job 32:4-10). He waited to speak, listening to the older men first (v. 4). He spoke with respectful humility, acknowledging his youth before the aged (v. 6-7). He did not shrink from speaking God’s truth, asking the aged for a fair hearing (v. 8-10). Treat those older than you with respect, not annoyance; with dignity, not disdain; with humility, not haughtiness. By doing so, you will be respected in return (1 Tim. 4:12).