Read Timothy 4:12
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (ESV)
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (KJV)
“Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (AMP)
Any way you read it, this verse is for the younger members of the church. My guess is that if you’re a Christian and you’re under a certain age (or were at some point), then you’ve experienced some sort of prejudice due to your age and that you can relate to this verse. I know I have and I know that it can be frustrating.
The church my husband and I go to is old. As in, it was started in the 1800s and we have many older people in the church who have been attending this same church their entire lives. To say traditions run deep would be putting it lightly. For a young woman in her twenties who’s only been here five years, trying to step up and serve can be…intimidating.
You don’t have to be in a historically old church, however, to relate. I’ve been in church plants where the young and their ideas and thoughts were pretty much dismissed due to their age and inexperience. So what’s a young person to do?
Paul told Timothy to combat this reverse ageism by being an example to other believers. In the Amplified Bible (which is taken from the Greek), he was literally to be a pattern for other believers to follow. I want to be clear about something: Timothy was young, but he was far from being an immature Christian. He was able to be an example to others because he was personally growing in his faith, and not using his age as an excuse to be lazy or act foolishly.
Here are the six areas (depending on the version you use) that Paul exhorted Timothy to be an example in:
- In Word or Speech. In this modern age, speech goes beyond just what comes out of your mouth. What are you saying (or even sharing) on social media? Do you spread gossip or use foul words? Does what you say, write, or share promote the Gospel or degrade it?
- In Conduct or Conversation (the Old English definition of “conversation” literally means “behavior” [Jamieson, 1877]) . How do you treat others? Do your actions show maturity or immaturity? Do you get angry easily? Are you living in sin? Does the way you conduct your daily life exude peace, joy, and contentment?
- In Love. In the Greek this love is “agape” love, or selfless, self-sacrificial love. Does Christ’s love overflow out of you? What about to marginalized people? Or to those who get under your skin? Are you more concerned about your desires or “rights”, or about the wants and needs of others? Is Christ’s love in you lived out in actions?
- In Spirit. Matthew Henry narrowed this down to “in spiritual-mindedness, in spiritual worship,” (1761). Are you living in the Spirit or in the flesh?
- In Faith. When trouble comes, what happens to your faith? Do you trust God in all things. Do you obey the things He’s called you to even when they don’t make sense or are hard?
- In Purity. Purity is about so much more than saving sex for marriage. It’s about being set apart, untainted by the world. Are you allowing things into your life (entertainment, people, etc.) that aren’t in line with God’s Word? Are you letting your desire to fit in with others cloud your judgement and convictions? Are you crowding out the Holy Spirit?
My Challenge For You Today: Pick one of these things to work on and choose an action step to commit to. Then pray fervently that God would help you in this area. Journal about your progress.
Example: I want to work on not gossiping (speech). When I am tempted to talk about someone behind their back, I will instead choose one true, good thing about this person and I will say it aloud (or write it in on social media). I will pray that God would keep this in my mind and help me to change my speech.
Henry, M. (1761). An exposition on the Old and New Testament In five volumes. … By Matthew Henry … (The 5th ed.). London: Printed for John Knapton, John Fuller, James Buckland, William Strahan, John Rivington [and 11 others].
Jamieson, R., & Fausset, A. (1877). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,. Hartford: S.S. Scranton.Westcott,B., & Hort, F. (1881). Commentar Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible
Moulton, W., & Geden, A. (1963). A concordance to the Greek Testament, according to the texts of Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf and the English revisers, (4th ed.). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.