If you grew up in a church like I did, we probably had similar experiences: messy games, crazy trips, and tons of great memories.
You also probably heard several sermons and devotions on 1 Timothy 4:12. And maybe, like me, your student ministry logo was somehow based on this verse.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)
It’s a commonly used verse by many church leaders. Paul’s message to Timothy is an incredible encouragement and challenge to young people. It probably inspired you as a 15 year old to become more Christlike.
But here’s the reality: Timothy was likely in his early 30s when Paul wrote this. He wasn’t 12, 15, or 19. He was the equivalent of today’s millennials.
Timothy was a leader among 1st century Christians and an elder at the church in Ephesus (along with John the Apostle). At this point in the New Testament, Ephesus was the third largest city in the Roman empire, so equivalent to modern-day Chicago.
Paul, nearing the end of his life, filled letters to Timothy with practical wisdom. These letters show an old man giving final words of counsel and encouragement to a young leader in the church.
And what does he include to this 30 something? An admonition to not get discouraged by people who look down on him because he appears to be a “youth.” Historians estimate men in the first century AD lived until their mid-60s, so Timothy was now “middle-aged.”
Why it’s important today
What does this mean to us, millennials, today? Many of us are
- Over 27 (49 million millennials to be exact)
- Established in our careers
Yet despite the fact we are in new life stages, many older folks look down on us for our age. We are considered inexperienced, unprepared, and incapable simply because of our birth year.
I realize age is not a direct indicator of wisdom. As someone once said “Some people have 20 years of experience. Others have 1 year of experience 20 times.”
But how others think and act is outside our responsibility. Instead, let’s focus on us. What can we do knowing people will consider us a “youth” well into our 30s?
Simple. Follow the instructions of Paul to Timothy: set an example for other believers in the areas of in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Live a life that does not allow older generations to scoff at your age or consider you incapable of something.
Stop complaining about the perceptions, and intentionally live in a way that prevents others from despising you simply because of age. You’ll be amazed at how much your influence will increase.