Despising Youth

McCainFatherandGrandfatherWhen I was young, I loved Paul’s counsel to Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth. Now that I’m likely in Paul’s generation at the time of his writing that letter, I’m less certain it’s such a good idea for young pastors to lead the elders.

Of course it was a great idea in Timothy’s case. Paul described him like this to the Philippians:

But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. (Phil. 2:19-22)

Timothy was Paul’s kindred spirit. He was genuinely concerned for the welfare of the church in Philippi. He didn’t seek after his own interests, but those of Christ Jesus. He’d proven his worth in the past, publicly. He’d served with Paul to advance the gospel. He’d worked for Paul the way a child would for his father.

Those are a lot of pluses, but there’s more. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he tells him to

remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. (1:3-4)

Young though he was, Timothy could discern between strange doctrine, myths, endless genealogies, speculation and the truth about God. He wasn’t fooled, though apparently men his senior had fallen into such error—people Paul had “handed over to Satan.”

In fact, Paul told Timothy to be an example to others by his speech, conduct, and quality of godly living.

Is it so hard to imagine that young people today might not have the same qualities Timothy had?

I don’t think Timothy was one of a kind, but at the same time, I don’t think his validation in Scripture is cause for the church to rubber stamp someone because he is young.

In other words, in the same way Timothy’s youthfulness was not to be a reason for people in the church to discount what he said, his youthfulness was not the reason they were to pay attention to him, either. Rather, Paul was saying Timothy had a spiritual gift and had served with him and had the ability to discern error. Because of his godliness and service and work for the gospel, his youthfulness wasn’t to prevent him from ministry.

In Colossians Paul said that in the family of God there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Sythian, slave, or freeman, but Christ is all and in all. In Ephesians, he added male and female. In many ways, though he didn’t list it, he was making a case in 1 Timothy for old and young being included with the others.

Today I see a sad turn of events in the church—division based on age. Maybe I spent too many years teaching junior and senior high schoolers, but I happen to enjoy the Timothys of the church. As I’ve heard from several sources lately, they aren’t the future of the church; they are it’s present, just as much as I am.

Age divisions aren’t new. I experienced the “generation gap” when I was growing up. It’s simply ridiculous, as if youths have nothing to contribute because they haven’t lived long enough and older folk have nothing to contribute because they’ve lived so long.

Isaiah says that “vigorous young men” can stumble badly and that those who are weary and tired can gain new strength by waiting on the Lord.

In other words, old age is not an excuse to retire from Christian service, and youth is not an excuse to avoid it. Older saints serve an important role in the church—they are “like fathers” and “like mothers” to younger members. But youths play an important role too, some, in fact, as significant as Timothy.

More important than the believer’s age is their heart-attitude. Timothy was Paul’s kindred spirit. Any young person who thinks like Paul and cares like Paul and serves like Paul should most definitely not be despised because of his youth.

Published in: on July 14, 2014 at 5:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Twelve Days And Counting

Because I’m counting down to Christmas, I’m taking each of these numbers and running with them. And today we’re at Twelve.

What a significant number in Scripture. Twelve tribes of Israel, twelve disciples, and Jesus was twelve when he stayed in Jerusalem discussing Scripture in the temple.

Twelve, and He had an overriding desire to be in His Father’s house.

Ah, some may be tempted to think, that was the God side of Him. Well, no, Jesus wasn’t divided, half Man and half God. He was all human as much as He was all God. He got hungry, tired, sad, and tempted. He had things He liked and probably people He preferred. As a twelve-year-old boy, He would have had the proclivities of His age. But He, above all else, wanted to be in the temple, talking theology.

We have a good many adults today — Christians — who don’t want to spend any more time in God’s house than they have to. Some clock watch on Sunday morning and get quite restless, maybe even irate if the pastor “runs late.” I remember my own feelings of irritation as a kid when Christmas would fall on a Sunday and we would honor our weekly habit of assembling together with other believers rather than our yearly tradition of hanging out opening presents and having a special breakfast.

I wasn’t so much interested in my Father’s house in those days. I was pretty much interested in ME, ME, and ME. Sadly, I grew up in the ME generation, so change hasn’t come easily. What’s more, I see it all around me.

One mother says her child, admittedly young, can’t possibly understand at such an early age what it means to be a Christian. A youth group designs their evening get togethers around games and social activities because teens can’t possibly be captivated by spiritual things. Society expects the young to behave foolishly, promiscuously, without focus or discipline, because someone “normal” can’t possibly be pure and other-centered and interested in spiritual matters more than fame and glory.

Well, huh! Looking at Jesus as a twelve year old should blow up those ideas of what a young person can or can’t care about. The fact is, like all of us, twelve year olds want a purpose for being. They want to be significant. They want to be important. Instead, our society tells them pretty much all they’re good for is goofing around.

And you know, twelve year olds will take it, if that’s what the adults expect. After all, who are they to tell us we’re wrong. They don’t even know themselves that we’re wrong. They don’t have enough experience to know that they can fall in love with God so much that they will eagerly be in His house, learning, asking questions, growing in grace and the knowledge of their Lord and Savior.

The Bible doesn’t have a lot of stories about young people. I tend to think that’s because there was no “adolescence” in those days. Children were dependent upon their parents, but they were learning a trade or learning to run a home. Then they graduated to their own family, their own jobs. None of this limbo we put teens through these days. But there are a few places in the Bible that refer to a “lad.”

One such offered Jesus his lunch. What child will have five barley loaves and two fishes for lunch? Isn’t that a lot of food for a five year old, or even a ten year old? And we have no mention of his family. If he was with his parents and they had prepared him a lunch, wouldn’t they most likely have had lunches too? So it would appear that he was there in his own, with the crowd, listening to Jesus teach in this isolated place. A youth, eager to hear Jesus.

It’s not unheard of today, but probably we’re more shocked than expectant. Why shouldn’t God’s children, all of us, the young and the old, want to be in His house, spending time with Him, being about what He’s about, learning, growing in grace and the knowledge of God?

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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