By Dennis G. Allan
Nineteenth century British writer Robert Southey once said; “Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of your life.” His statement seems to summarize the sentiments of many of our brethren in Christ. Youth is repeatedly portrayed as a perilous, difficult, temptation-filled time in which one does well to avoid the lures of Satan to indulge in open wickedness. Seldom do we hear demands for young Christians to take action in the church – to do righteousness (Psa. 106:3).
I fear that many individuals and even churches have adopted an unspoken policy that a teenage Christian needs only obey one rule: “Teenagers should be seen, not heard” – be seen at every assembly and not heard of for misconduct elsewhere. While it is true that we, as teenagers, must be faithful in attendance of services and must maintain an unspotted reputation, we must also take an active role in the work of the church. Omitting this requirement to lower the standards and accommodate for the “perils of youth” endangers the souls of the young and allows the Lord’s body to become spotted, jeopardizing the souls of every member (Eph. 5:23-27).
The account of the wasteful son in Luke 15 provides a valuable example of the problems of our early years. Frequently, we view this passage in its general application to all of God’s children, but let’s consider it now in a limited application to the young.
Righteous Vs. Riotous
Throughout our lives, but perhaps especially in our teenage years, we face the same decision described in verses 12 and 13: shall we be righteous or riotous? We may hear about the many complex decisions of youth, but the primary choice is between good and evil. The wise man did not say simply to forget Satan, but to remember the Creator (Eccl. 12:1). Paul did not say only to “flee youthful lusts,” but to “follow after righteousness” (2 Tim. 2:22).
Feeding The Swine
As this reckless son became dissatisfied with the ways of the world and found that his pleasures were as short-lived as his money, he left his wickedness and took a demeaning, but apparently honest, job. Verses 15 and 16 give no indication of continued riotousness as he fed the swine. In fact, it appears he had fled those youthful lusts. He was at the point so many young Christians are encouraged to occupy resisting upon evil, but doing nothing useful! This son realized he could not survive in those circumstances; he was starving to death (vs. 17). How many teenage Christians are starving spiritually because they are told to keep out of trouble without being encouraged to grow?
Servants of the Father
Just as the prodigal son came to himself and returned to his father (vss. 17-21), we must “seek the things that are above” (Col. 3:1). Paul shows very clearly that young and old must empty their lives of evil and fill them with righteous works. 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and 6:9-12 stress that ;resistance of the temptations of the world is only the beginning of obedience. From there we must go on to serve faithfully. 1 Timothy 4:7 seems to sum it all up: “but refuse profane and old wives fables. And exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (emphasis mine – DGA).
Be Merry . . . Together
As we read of the lost son’s return in Luke 15:20-32, we learn two things about rejoicing: (1) his father did not rejoice when the son left his riotous living to feed swine; he rejoiced when the son moved toward his home, and (2) their joy was not when some of them were sitting around “staying out of trouble,” but when all were united in activity.
If young Christians are expected only to attend the regular assemblies of the church and to avoid active sin, they are being locked in a cage which limits their spiritual development. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they are being locked in a pen to perish with hunger . . . just feeding the swine!
Truth Magazine XXIII: 47, p. 754
November 29, 1979