If you grew up in youth group, this verse was your life song. Maybe you even have it on a youth group t-shirt! This verse was probably the one your pastor quoted in church when talking about youth and children’s ministry. Maybe this was your personal life verse until about 25-30 years old. Or maybe when you were early in your marriage and wondered if you could speak into marriages, this verse gave you confidence. Or maybe you heard it in your ministry life as you started out teaching, learning, and speaking into other peoples’ lives.
And maybe now you’re not quite as young anymore. When I read this verse I am tempted to skim over it, skip it, pretend it’s written for someone else. But as I looked more deeply into this verse, I discovered that Paul was writing to Timothy with the express purpose of giving him more confidence in his ministry. He was trying to encourage Timothy not to let the religious leaders look down on him because he was young and inexperienced. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to replace the word young with any perceived (or real) shortcoming we might have when it comes to speaking into the lives of other believers:
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are shy…
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are not published….
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you don’t have a lot of followers….
Because you are just a stay at home mom…
Because you are a woman….
Because you haven’t gone to seminary….
Because you fill in the blank….
What is holding you back from the work God is calling you to do in the church? What conversation are you afraid to have? What space are you afraid to step into?
And then Paul reminds Timothy of how people will really learn from him. They won’t learn from the education, the eloquence, the perfection of what Timothy says and does. They will learn from the example he will set—the example we will set. They will learn from the extent to which we are connected to God, and they will learn from the way that that connection bleeds into every part of our lives: our speech, our conduct, our love, our faith, and our purity.
In speech- do our words build people up or break them down?
In conduct- do our actions reflect the ways in which Jesus would act in our world?
In love- do we love unconditionally, or with condition—just like everyone else?
In faith- do we approach circumstances with the faith that God is always working, or with the cynicism of the world?
In purity- does everything we do reflect a purity of heart: a clear purpose and mission?
If you don’t think you’re qualified to do what God is calling you to do, remember that the way we live and breathe Jesus and His love is the only thing that matters.
That thing that holds you back doesn’t matter.
Don’t let anyone look down on you…. Ignore them.
Set the example.
Be who God called you to be.