Is gray hair a symbol of glory or scorn?

As we get older, many of us start seeing our hair turn different shades of gray. Others, like me, seem to watch helplessly as our hair falls out instead.

Yet, many people go to great lengths to hide their distinguished gray locks by dyeing their hair or having new hair follicles plugged into their scalps. I guess it’s part of the “forever young” mindset in which people think if they look old, they must be old and that means everything they enjoy doing will soon come to a screeching halt.

Pastor Tim Challies wrote a blog a few years ago that offered a different perspective on those lovely gray hairs we try to pluck from our heads. He reminded his readers of two passages from Proverbs that assure us gray hair is actually a very good thing.

Proverbs 16:31 says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor;  it is attained in the way of righteousness,” and Proverbs 20:29 notes, “The glory of young men is their strength,  gray hair the splendor of the old.”

“The Old Testament views older people not as ‘elderly’ or ‘senior citizens,’ but as ‘gray-heads.’ Since gray hair is associated with long life, which is, in turn, associated with wisdom, this is an honor, not an insult,” Pastor Challies wrote.

Our strength may fade, but it is replaced with something even more important and valuable — wisdom.

“Young men are great in strength but small in wisdom; old men are small in strength but great in wisdom. God has a place or a role for both,” Tim wrote.

Those Proverbs are not a universal truth because we all know of weak young men and foolish old men. Yet, our graying hair should not be seen as just a sign of aging and, therefore, weakness. Rather, it should be seen as a crown of glory.

Pastor Challies reminds us that our gray-hair crown isn’t a symbol of an office we hold, rather it is recognition of achievement. It is not bestowed. It must be earned.

So think of each gray hair as a silly mistake made in our youth that eventually gave us wisdom. Gray hair is a symbol that someone has mastered the art of living, he explained.

“Everyone ages, but not everyone grows wise. Everyone wears gray hair, but not everyone wears the crown,” Pastor Challies wrote. “That crown needs to be earned through a righteous life.”

Is our gray hair a scornful symbol that our time on earth is coming to an end? Or is it a status symbol honoring people worthy of wearing that crown?

I’ve never obsessed over how I look. Today, there is more hair growing out of my ears than there seems to be growing out my head. I got my hair cut the other day and I was amazed at how much gray was on the floor. But, I’ve never tried to hide the gray or been ashamed of the big bald spot.

Yet, even though my hair may be graying, my strength may be waning and I’m not as mentally sharp as I was 10 years ago, I know I have a duty to others to apply my wisdom gained through experience to make a difference in their lives.

Pastor Challies issued a challenge. “Each of us needs to ask: Am I living the kind of life that will allow that gray hair — that proof that I’ve grown old — to also stand as a symbol that I’ve grown wise and that I’ve lived a righteous life?” he wrote.

For people of faith, how we live out the second half of our lives will determine if we can replace our gray-haired crown of glory with a genuine crown of righteousness on the day we stand before Jesus?

Pastor Challies’ full blog post is available at

Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash