It takes the same letters to spell “I’m mature” and “Immature,” but there’s a big difference between the two outcomes.
Cheese matures. So do savings bonds and life insurance policies. But what does it mean to be a mature person? Is mature merely a nice-sounding euphemism for old and outdated? The Greek term for maturity, teleios, is sometimes translated “perfect” in the New Testament, but teleios also conveys the idea of completing a journey—going through the necessary stages to reach a goal or accomplish a purpose. That’s the word Paul used in Colossians 1:28 when he expressed his intention to “present everyone fully mature in Christ.” One way to explain teleios is to think of a pirate’s telescope that extends and unfolds one stage at a time until it functions at full strength. In that sense, maturity is finally reaching the goal and arriving at your God-given destination after a long journey.
The Latin maturus meant “ripe,” like a piece of fruit at the peak of its flavor and nutritional value. That’s an appealing illustration. As I grow older, I would rather be compared to a juicy peach than a moldy piece of cheese. The psalmist had a positive view of aging. He declared that God’s faithful people “will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:14).
Bearing Fruit for the Lord
What does a ripe old age look like for a Christian? Fruitfulness! Remember the mature individuals we read about in the opening pages of the Gospel of Luke? The elderly couple Zechariah and Elizabeth were privileged to serve God as the parents of John the Baptist. The seasoned believer Simeon “was righteous and devout,” full of the Holy Spirit and waiting with faithful anticipation to see the Messiah before he died (Luke 2:25, 26). The aging widow Anna “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37). These senior adults bore fruit for God in their later years. Other biblical passages about fruitfulness shed additional light on what it means to be mature.
A ripe old age means delighting in, meditating on, and obeying God’s Word. “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season” (Psalm 1:3).
A ripe old age means staying connected to Jesus Christ, who said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5).
A ripe old age means producing the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). By contrast, immaturity yields the exact opposite as we age: selfishness, grumpiness, impatience, rudeness, ingratitude, and the like.
A ripe old age means worshiping God and offering him “a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
A ripe old age means growing wiser, for “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
A ripe old age means persevering in faith, hope, and love until we dwell with God in the heavenly city where the tree of life yields its sweet healing fruit (Revelation 22:2). That’s the glory awaiting us when life’s long journey is finally complete.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.