A friend who is a financial advisor recently told me approximately 90% of the time the wealth gained by one generation is totally lost or squandered by the third. It sounded about right to me, reminding me how even the Kingdom of David, which is the royal lineage that Christ was to come from, was nearly lost by the third generation. We learn in fact that the only reason God preserved the royal line (well beyond the third generation) was “for the sake of David” and because God’s eternal plan would unfold in the incarnation of Jesus in the “house of David.”
David’s heir to the throne was his son Solomon, who we know built Israel up into the envy of the world, and rulers were literally lined up out the door to hear his wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom, kingship, and greatness are not things he achieved through rigorous calculation and clawing at power, but because he asked God, in the spirit of a receptive son, to grant him wisdom. And all of the wisdom of Solomon and the wisdom literature of the Bible in general, takes on this father-to-son delivery, that to be wise is to receive the wisdom of the fathers.
But after Solomon comes Rehoboam, the third generation after David (see 1 Kings 12). Rehoboam ascends the throne and consults two groups to help him decide what to do about the people, who have demanded that he lighten the tax-load that Solomon imposed. He goes to his youthful friends, and then consults the elders – the men that lived alongside his father, the representatives of previous generations.
The youthful cohorts convince him to actually raise the taxes and make the burden heavier upon the people, despite the fact that the elders advised wisely the opposite, to listen to the people and be kindly to them as a father would. Rehoboam rebukes the elders, even bragging about the size of his genitals compared to his father’s (1 Kings 12:10-11). If you needed more evidence that he was acting in rashness and immaturity, there it is. And, if you thought that bragging about genetalia was something reserved for today’s teen-movies, you are mistaken. Immaturity is an old foe.
The result is the people revolt and the Kingdom of Israel is divided north and south, never to be united again. Literally the rest of Israel’s history is one of dysfunction and disunity, and it all began when Rehoboam listened to youth and rejected the elders, failing to receive their wisdom. Young men desiring the renewal of themselves and their culture need to find wise elders, and they need to listen well. And men that have gained the experience of years must live lives of integrity and virtue so as to gain the trust of the youth.
Teach the older men to be sober, decent, orderly, soundly established in faith, in charity, in patience… Encourage the young men, too, to live orderly lives. Let them find in all thou doest the model of a life nobly lived; let them find thee disinterested in thy teaching, worthy of their respect… (Titus 2:2, 6-7).