Few things bother me more than watching a group of adults ignore or be condescending to a teen or child. I often find myself reminding people, especially in the church, that “youth have wisdom, too.” Sometimes adults seem hard-wired to look down on anyone in a younger age bracket or who have less experience at a particular job. I don’t think adults do this on purpose. Some just forget what life was like for them when they were younger; they forget that God can use anyone, regardless of age.
This isn’t news. Adults have had this tendency for about 2,000 years.
The apostle Paul was aware of it when he wrote to a young pastor named Timothy,
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young (1 Timothy 4:12 CEB).
Paul knows that adults can sometimes feel superior to young people, and he warns Timothy. Paul doesn’t want Timothy to get distracted by trying to prove himself to people who think that his age makes him unqualified to be a pastor. Have you ever heard this phrase?
God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
If you read the Bible, you’ll notice that most of the time, God called unqualified people to do His work. These people weren’t actually unqualified, but they felt unqualified for the jobs God wanted them to do. It doesn’t help us feel qualified to do God’s work when other people are continually telling us that we’re unqualified.
As a youth pastor, I see many students start to give a suggestion about something and stop part way through because they’re afraid. They think no one will care what they have to say because they’re young. This is heartbreaking.
Paul knows that sometimes speaking wisdom isn’t enough, so after this exhortation, he gives Timothy a list of things to focus on so that people can see by both his words and lifestyle that he is not inferior to them.
Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and by being sexually pure. Until I arrive, pay attention to public reading [of Scripture], preaching and teaching. Don’t neglect the spiritual gift in you that was given through prophecy when the elders laid hands on you. Practice these things, and live by them so that your progress will be visible to all. Focus on working on your own development and on what you teach. If you do this, you will save yourself and those who hear you* ( 1 Timothy 4:13-16 CEB).
(*Note – when Paul uses the phrase, “you will save yourself and those who hear you,” he doesn’t mean that salvation will come to people through Timothy. He means that people will come to salvation by hearing the truth preached by Timothy and that Timothy will fulfill his calling.)
Set an example for other believers with your speech, behavior, love, faith and purity. Don’t just do what it seems like everyone else in church is doing. Read the Word for yourself, and do what the Lord says. Love your neighbor (Mat. 22:39) and your enemy (Mat. 5:44). Bless those who persecute you (Mat. 5:44). Forgive people (Mat. 6:15). Speak with kindness and purity (Prov. 22:11, Eph. 4:29). Behave in a godly manner (1 Peter 3:8-9) and honor those in authority (1 Peter 2:13, Heb. 13:17).
1 Timothy 4:12-16 is one of the most powerful passages in the New Testament with regard to our actions. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like adults aren’t paying attention; make your voice heard anyway. Do it with love. Follow the example that Paul set down for Timothy to follow. God’s church needs your ideas, your passion and your wisdom.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because of your youth…not even yourself.
Girls, do you ever feel inferior because of your youth?
People were bringing babies to Jesus so that he would bless them. When the disciples saw this, they scolded them. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it’ (Luke 18:15-17 CEB).
More Stories Like This on Project Inspired: