Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the
believers in word, in conduct,
in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12
So, when did we stop expecting great things from our youth?
When exactly did this happen? The 1960s? The 1970s? I honestly do not know.
But one thing I do know, is that our nation is worse off because we stopped expecting greatness from our youth.
And why? Why did we stop? Why did we start telling our young people that they will contribute once they are adults?
Go back in history with me for a moment...
King Edward the VI
Did you know King Edward ascended the throne at age 9? Because he was so young, he sought out wise counsel to help him rule. He loved to journal and in his journals he wrote that he hope he could be a good king. He also loved geography and ordered maps and charts made of the kingdom. He died at age 15 from Tuberculosis.
George Washington was home schooled. At age 12, he was already learning geometry and trigonometry. At age 15 he owned his own successful land surveying business. He wrote journals about how to act with civility in public. You can read these journals today at the Library of Congress. At age 21, he was Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia Militia.
At age 12, Alexander Hamilton helped his mother run a successful trading business in the West Indies in 2 languages. After his mother died, he moved to New York with his step father. He helped his father run his business as well. The neighborhood respected Alexander so much, they gave him money to send him to King's College (now Columbia University) at age 16. He dropped out to join the American Revolution and the rest is history.
Perhaps the greatest American theologian, Jonathan Edwards was home schooled. At age 13, he wrote a research paper on the flying spider. The paper was so good, his parents sent it to Yale University where he was admitted as a student. He graduated at age 16 as Valedictorian. He continued on and earned his Masters of Arts at age 19. After teaching at Yale, Jonathan Edwards was co-founder of Princeton University.
Booker T. Washington
Born into slavery, he was freed at age 9 after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. He learned to read and write in school. He then went on to the coal mines in West Virginia. There, former slaves gave him money to go and study at a school for Negroes in Virginia. The money ran out during the journey, so the young man was forced to walk the rest of the way sleeping on sidewalks and working odd jobs for food. He finally made it to Hampton Institute where he asked to be admitted in exchange for working as a janitor. He was 17yrs old. He graduated and taught at the school and then, at age 25, he co-founded the Tuskegee Institute in 1881. In 1901, he became the first black man to dine with the U.S. President in the White House.
These are just a few examples from history that reveal how young people were motivated to do great things. No one despised their youth.
But perhaps the greatest example is our Lord Jesus Christ....
At age 12, He was accidentally left behind by his family during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. Three days later, his family returned to find Him. That means in those days alone, Jesus had to find Himself food, a place to sleep, and stay out of trouble all at age 12. When they did find Him in the Temple, He wasn't cowering in a corner weeping...no, He was teaching the elders about the Scriptures. They were amazed at His teaching!
As adults, we would be most wise to tell these stories to our youth. Like Paul encouraged Timothy, we need to encourage our young people not to let their youth keep them from accomplishing great things. It is up to us to expect greatness from them. We are the ones who can teach them that they do not have to wait until they are adults to have an impact on the world.
No, we would be fools to let all those years pass without empowering them to make a difference. It isn't too late. Take a moment today, and inspire a young person to go out and dare to dream...take a chance....and be an example to the world!