Gray hair is usually a sign of aging. Although some people turn prematurely gray in their twenties or thirties, most don’t start graying until middle age. Many gray-haired people in Western societies hide the gray, but in ancient times gray hair was a badge of honor. The gray-haired were treated with respect. God commanded such demonstrations of respect in the law He gave Israel: “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” (Leviticus 19:32).
Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” A man or woman who has lived long enough to develop gray hair has had many opportunities to gain wisdom and knowledge. Gray-headed people have lived through various seasons and experienced trials, and they have learned some things the young have yet to learn. Such experience should be honored: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31).
Gray hair is not a guarantee that the mind beneath it is yielded to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Although gray hair is not an infallible indicator of a person’s insight, prudence, or godliness, it does usually signify that a person has mellowed with age and gained understanding he or she may not have had when young.
While there is nothing inherently righteous or unrighteous about the color of a person’s hair, gray suggests maturity. While our culture views aging as negative and youth as positive, God wants us to know that He is with us in every season of life. Even when we grow old, He continues to give us opportunities to bear fruit for His kingdom and enrich the lives of others. The Lord promises, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you” (Isaiah 64:4). When a person has walked with God into the golden years, he or she can count on God for continued vitality: “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green” (Psalm 92:14, ESV).
There is nothing wrong with a gray-haired person dyeing his or her hair if it makes him or her feel more attractive. But gray hair can also be evidence that a person has lived long and well and has much to offer younger generations. The Lord desires us to respect our elders. We should teach our children that older people, with or without gray hair, are to be respected and their counsel is to be carefully considered. One day every person who lives to a ripe old age will develop gray hair, so younger people should treat their gray-haired elders with the same courtesy that they will expect when their hair also turns gray (see Luke 6:31).