1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
Paul wrote this letter to Timothy for encouragement. Today, when we think of youth, we usually think of people who are under thirty-five. In other contexts of the Bible, however, people were considered youthful even up to their forties. Age aside, we can all apply these words to our lives, whether you’re 20- or 60-years-old. Despite the difference in meaning of youth according to the different times we live in, it is important to note that age discrimination upon the youth, no matter how young in each generation, is not acceptable in God’s eyes. Why? Because the younger generation is the next generation to be leading the world, so they are to set the example, which is why this verse is so important.
Now, Paul was writing to a young pastor, Timothy, for he continued in verse 14, “Do not neglect the spiritual gifts within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” The spiritual gift Paul is referring to is likely Timothy’s pastoral office, for it is indeed a gift, not something anyone can do. The “prophetic utterance” refers to “the proclamation of the Word when Timothy was publicly placed in his position as pastor, comparable to the ordination and/or installation of pastors today,” whose ordination “was mediated through the Church and her official representatives” (Engelbrecht, 2,075)—that is, the “presbytery,” or elders.
There is the “inward calling” of the pastor, where at a certain point in his life he feels that inner call by God to be a pastor (or some other ministerial calling). The calling is confirmed if he receives an “outward calling” from a church body (hence v. 14) and upon this calling, is ordained and placed as pastor of the church (or installed as a type of minister for those called to other offices). This outward calling is extremely vital because anyone can feel that inner calling, but it’s not always from God and not everyone has the skills, talent, and education necessary to be a pastor. If one is called to be a pastor, God will call him to a church.
As a 26-year-old in his youth, I treasure this passage because the youth are often looked down upon by older generations. Instead of judging and condemning the youthful, it would be more wise to teach them and lead them, which requires indefatigable patience. As a Millennial, my generation doesn’t make the situation any easier, however. My generation is intolerable towards others while they preach tolerance, they are hateful while preaching “love trumps hate,” they’re narcissistic, and they settle for mediocrity. But not all people in my generation are the same, and I think the older generations need to remember that. The best reminder is 1 Timothy 4:12. The younger generations are the next leaders of this world. Because of this, Paul encourages young Timothy to be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.
Next time I will begin this new series in how to be an example in our speech.
Engelbrecht, Rev. Edward A., various editors. The Lutheran Study Bible: English Standard Version. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2016.