In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he implores Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he is young (4:12) and in his second he tells him to flee the evil desires of youth (2:22). I don’t entirely know why, but it interests me that Paul has used such similar words in different ways.
1 Timothy 4:12 is used to encourage young leaders in churches, to remind them that their age does not prevent them from leading and that they must still be an example of faith, love and purity that others aspire to. They are challenging words, but empowering ones at the same time. Paul seems to think that being young is not such a bad thing, at least not in Timothy’s case.
Then we come to 2 Timothy 2:22, when the reverse is true of youth. There isn’t a vice list here, but Paul writes that Timothy must flee the evil desires of youth. There is an association of certain sins with youth. I can’t pretend to be an expert, but I think that the problems would be those of spiritual immaturity and a lack of self-control as is characteristic of young people even today. If you listen to Driscoll talk for more than a minute you’d probably notice that it’s a big deal, at least to him. The evil desires of youth are something to flee from, and yet Timothy is encouraged to not let anyone look down on him because he is young.
Here’s my theory… I think that being young comes with a lot of benefits. Passion is associated with being young (or it should be – even if apathy seems to be the dominant characteristic sometimes), a certain optimism is also prevalent, because those who haven’t yet been burnt by life and leadership have enthusiasm that a veteran may not… yes, they will make mistakes, but if they get it right, then… wow. It’s right. God can do awesome things through the young. But in contrast, there is a certain caution that must be present when a young person is leading. Arrogance is easy to slip into, thinking that we are invincible and can do anything that we want. Ministry becomes about our skills, our talent, and in the midst of it all, the glory gets lost on us and never makes it to the only one who is actually worthy of it.
Not entirely formed thoughts, but then again, when will any ideas of mine be fully formed? It’s a challenge for me to think about the balance, of not being ashamed of being young… not letting people look down on me because I am, but at the same time being cautious of the sins that youth are most likely to succumb to. Your thoughts?