“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” –1 Timothy 4:12
I came across this verse during my devotional time one recent morning and couldn’t help but feel a little sad. You see, it used to be one of my favorite Bible verses. It’s a call to be bold and take on the world in spite of youth with the energy, idealism, and strength of youth. Who doesn’t love that?!
Someone who’s reluctantly beginning to realize that there are fewer and fewer people out there looking down on her for being young. Let’s face it, when you’re praying this verse for your adult children . . .
God didn’t let me mourn for long. He drew my attention right back to that verse and helped me understand it in a currently applicable way.
Timothy was a young minister working with the church Paul had established in Ephesus. Because he was young and, perhaps, a lot of members of that church were a little older, Paul knew Timothy’s age could become something that would hold him back. Timothy might have been tempted to let himself be intimidated by others because of his age. So Paul told him not to let anyone look down on him because he was young. So . . .
- If Paul were writing to you, what potentially intimidating factor might he see?
Don’t let anyone look down on you because . . . you’re quiet? You have a disability or chronic illness? You’re, um, not as young as you’d like to believe people think you are? You don’t have as many credentials as someone else? You’ve been abandoned by someone you counted on?
- How would you fill in the blank? Don’t let anyone look down on you because . . .
This is what Paul might have written to you.
But that’s only half the point of this verse. The truth is that none of us, not even Timothy, has the power to control what others think of us. If someone in the Ephesian church wanted to look down on Timothy, he wouldn’t have been able to stop them. Timothy’s only power was to keep their opinions from keeping him from doing what God called him to do. In other words, Timothy was to “keep people from looking down on him” by proving their opinions wrong, by capably doing what God called him to do—in spite of his age.
What a relief! This favorite verse of mine can still be a favorite because, in truth, it applies to people of any age. It remains a bold call to take on the world in spite of whatever we think people may look down on us for. We do so with the energy, optimism, and strength God provides. We do so for the glory of His name.
Father, please help us to identify anything in our lives that we fear others look down on us for. Then help us to entrust that thing to You. You created us at the perfect time with all we need to fulfill Your purpose for our lives. Therefore, we shouldn’t let anyone intimidate us, even if we think they’re looking down on us. Please fill us with your energy, optimism, and strength regardless of our age or any other thing. We thank You, Lord. Amen.