I've been in my role as Youth and Family Pastor here at Redeemer Fellowship for over 9 months now. Part of my "job" is to work with youth (jr/sr high). My passion is to help future generations figure out their mission and maturity in Christ. In order to do that better I recently did a word study through the Bible on the word "youth". Over the next few posts I will share what I have learned and how I plan on applying it. I am purposely starting with the problem with youth. The reason? If there wasn't a problem, there wouldn't be a need for a person like me doing the job I do.
On the front end I would like to share some observations that surprised me. First, the vast majority of references to "youth" are found in the Old Testament. In fact the word is only used two times with any significance in the New Testament, both by Paul in his letters to Timothy (a young pastor, in fact). This surprised me because like most Christians, I view the New Testament as more practical, and the Old Testament as more plain history. Second, the verses spoke both positively and negatively about youth. I was expecting much more negative than I found, probably due my own cultural influences.
How the Bible describes youth
The Bible uses many adjectives to describe youth. First, right from the beginning, the Bible says youth are "evil" (Gen. 8:21, Job 13:26, Jer. 32:20). This evilness is because of unrepentant sin. The description doesn't stop there though, the Bible goes on to describe youth as exhausted, weary, and faint (Is. 40:30); afflicted, helpless, and close to death (Ps. 88:15); lewd (Ez. 23:21); not listening to (Jer. 22:21) and disobeying (Jer. 3:25) God; and disgraceful (Jer. 31:19). This doesn't paint a pretty picture of humanity in general or youth specifically.
As I was organizing my thoughts on this word study, I had to ask the question, "why"? Why are youth like this? Ecclesiastes 11 and Isaiah 47 answered this for me. Let me explain. Youth "walk in the ways of [their] heart and the sight of [their] eyes" (Ecc 11:9). In other words, they walk in what they see (or think they want/need) and with their feelings (way of the heart). The problem is what they see and desire might not be good for them, and may end up harming them. They don't want to see or hear that. When they are told "no", they get defensive and start talking about how parents (and other caring adults) are holding them back. The way of their hearts or "feelings" or "emotions" can so easily be swayed or manipulated when they are not anchored to truth. Essentially, they "labor" (Is. 47:12, 15) after vain things. They see with their eyes and feel with their hearts the way they want things to be. When reality doesn't play out that way, this causes "vexation and pain of heart" (Ecc 11:12). Youth tend to strive after things of the world, vain things, and when they don't get what they think they deserve and/or want, this causes them pain of heart. Without having somewhere to take that pain, they are prone to lash out and the descriptions above are likely to be true of them.
But is that all the Bible has to say about youth? Does it all have be "bad news"? Thankfully, no. The Bible describes youth as: full of vigor (Job 20:11), fresh flesh (Job 22:25), hopeful and trustful (Psalm 71:8), and ready to be taught (Psalm 71:17). Youth are ready to do something amazing, when they are shown the right direction. The next question that comes up is, how do we get youth from one list to the other? Thankfully, again, the Bible has given us the answer to that question ... which I will share in the next blog post.
Please feel free to share thoughts in the comments section. I believe "all of us are smarter than one of us" and could benefit from your wisdom. Thanks!