The Dilemma of Youth (No. 41)
(Edition 2.0 19940709-20040504)
The writer relates his experiences with problem youth and their rehabilitation. The meaning of the biblical words for the young are examined. The necessity of service for both young and old is the message that the nation must learn.
Christian Churches of God
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(Copyright ã 1994, 2004 Storm Cox)
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The Dilemma of Youth
The writer worked as a coordinator in a training program for the long-term unemployed youth aged between 15 and 20 years. This involved interviewing many young people with drug problems, alcohol problems, home violence and street crime.
At one point a 20 year old young man, who could neither read nor write was interviewed. He had been smoking marijuana since he was 12 years old; he had been physically abused at home for years and he drank great quantities of alcohol each week. His behaviour was something that had to be seen to be believed. He showed evidence of amphetamine abuse, which could explain his extreme difficulties in concentrating for any length of time.
In another interview a 15 year old youth who had long matted hair, was waving his drug banner, proud of his drinking problem and also was only minimally more literate than the previous person. He admitted to hating his parents and wasn't really sure where they were at that time. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he said a drummer in a rock band and play thrash metal, just like his favourite band which was a death metal band known for its plug for violence and its raw aggression.
While being interviewed he scrawled a symbol on a piece of paper. It was three upside down crosses and he wrote 666 above them. He then proceeded to pick a cut on his forehead, caused blood to appear, then pressed his thumb to his wound and then put his thumb print in blood over this seal. When asked why he felt he had to do this he just said, "I don't know. Satan's cool." Also among these young people were daughters of prostitutes with their own extreme problems and stories to tell, and many other young people heading toward the courts, jail, the streets and, for some, premature death.
Faced with all this the writer was forced to sit down and ask "Why?" Why is this happening to our youth? Why is it being allowed to happen? In comparison one could look back to the 1890s when our young country boys, who were breaking their backs pioneering our hard and brutal country, could still, at an instant’s notice, pack their bags, catch their horses and trek to the Boer War. In 1915, when our country said, "Son, there's no time for roving ... there's work to be done" they went in their scores. They called it war fever.
These men, who were working for their families, in order to create a future for our communities, would die without question so that our people were safe. They worked themselves to death so that we could survive. Their sons, likewise, would carry themselves to war, following a long rebuilding struggle, to fight again. A man does not go off to war because he feels it could be fun. He does it to serve his country, his people and his family.
However, this dedication was lost after the Second World War. It is not the intent to glorify war here but to try to show an attitude of loyalty, commitment and love. Our forebears weren't afraid to go to war, because they believed in God.
Following the Second World War, there were boom times. The fifties were a period of economic viability for the west, hand in hand with the Cold War. The children of the fifties, the baby boomers, in America grew up with jumping under the table exercises ‘in case of nuclear war’. They were taught to hate communists, fascists, blacks, Mexicans, anyone who wasn't American really.
To overshadow these inadequacies, the youth were allowed more freedom. The economic growth and improved methods of production allowed more cars to be produced en masse. There were many young people eager for work. Thus for the youth, jobs started to become economically viable for the first time in history. The easy access to motor cars gave the youth new-found freedoms. The movie industry began to boom. New attractive faces of Dean and Brando, faces hidden behind wafts of cigarette smoke, on motorbikes, in fast cars, with pretty girls, and that led to rebelliousness that this generation found hard to resist.
The youth began imitating their heroes. 'Hanging out' became popular. The freedom to get away from their families and their new image problems allowed new sexual freedom, which in turn was emphasised in the new popular music and in movies. The youth, due to the fact that they were hanging out together in large groups away from their homes, became a political force in their own right with the financial status to keep them above water, so to speak.
This new economic status allowed the youth to demand products which suited their insatiable desires. The sixties saw an explosion in the music industry, the sports industry, cinema and television, and, painfully, the drug industry. "Fun" was in. The music told the story. Drug references, fashions, all brought about by the new 'coolness' of drug use.
The youth understood their new power and with the likes of Leary travelling across the country spreading his 'gospel' of 'consciousness expansion', there was a surge in the use of psychedelic drugs. Acid and LSD were as common amongst teenagers as was alcohol. The feeling that was empowered was a deeper level of understanding, a new way of looking at the world. A pseudo or false wisdom, lacking in rational judgment or any form of logic, but they felt more in touch, more free, and thus the rebellion continued.
However, things started to fall to bits in the seventies. Two schools of thought had emerged amongst the youth culture. One, the working class non-academic types that produced the Hell’s Angels and such like -- they dropped out altogether. The American dream was nowhere in reach and they knew it. The expansionist drugs of the sixties gave way to the abusive use of marijuana, alcohol and heroin -- all downers or depressants. The ongoing situation was violence, anger, hatred, indicative of the psychotic behaviour that abuse of these substances ultimately lead to.
The other group was the Berkeley type, who woke up. They realised the sixties political rallies of flower and rock festivals was becoming tedious and studied to meet the new economic demand of the seventies and eighties - the YUPPIE was born. So too were the designer drugs - cocaine, ecstasy and chronic homosexuality was born from it.
There was so much destruction in such a short time. Now we see the examples occurring that were mentioned before -- the side effects of the youth rebellion. We will now look at what the Bible says about youth and where we see them today and we'll consider what our youth may be doing tomorrow.
What does the word youth mean?
The Bible has many words that describe the young -
bahur, na'ar, yeled, neanias, neunfskos. These words mean lad, boy, young son, young warrior, army, servant, boy, child and man.
neoterus, alma, nea, neotera. All refer to the feminine younger woman, damsel, maiden, virgin, - also girl, maiden, lady-in-waiting.
bhurot, nurim, nour, nvrot, sird, yaldot, neotes. All refer to youth, childhood, a child, boyhood. The Greek word for youthful is neoterikos. The words used in the Bible for young person are not clearly delineated from each other and do not signify the age of a person with exactness. For instance, let us examine the Hebrew word na'ar and its feminine, na'arah. These words have been applied in many different age groups. Let us look at Exodus 2:6
She opened it and saw a baby. He was crying and she felt sorry for him ....
The word used here for baby is na'ar and refers to a three month old baby.
1Samuel 1:22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, 'After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.'
Here we see the term used to describe a young child, a baby still, and again in 1Samuel 2:11.
Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest.
Samuel here performed services such as one would while assisting the high priest -- still as a young boy.
Genesis 25:27 The boys grew up and Esau became a skilful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob a quiet man, staying among the tents.
Here na'ar refers to boys growing up. In Genesis 21:17 we read:
God heard the boy crying and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her ...
Here the word is used to describe Ishmael at an age of 14 or more.
Genesis 37:2 Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks ...
Exodus 33:11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. The Moses would return to camp, but his young aid and Joshua, son of Nun did not leave the tent.
The use of na'ar was often, but not always, an adult.
We see here that the meaning of youth is with us from birth until we reach adulthood. The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, on page 928, states that youth is The time, with no fixed limit, beyond infancy and before a person's prime, a time of vigour and opportunity, though not of judgment and maturity. Prime here is not only referring to physical strength.
The concept, then, of youth is quite broad. What constitutes adulthood?
The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 4, page 925 states that
The numerical age intended is by no means clear. The word na’ar is used at times even for infants or the very young (Ex 2:6; Judg 13:8; 1Sam 1:22; 4:21), for whom there are also other words (see Child), but it is used for the fully grown as well (cf. Gen 34:19; 2Sam 18:5). Lev 27:1-8 might suggest the age of twenty as the time when one passed from youth to maturity. There, for the purpose of fixing a scale of values, persons are divided into groups according to age, and twenty appears as the lower age limit of the group most highly valued, therefore presumably in the prime of life. The census taker counted the population from twenty years old upward (Ex 30:14). These were subject to the poll tax, and the males at this age were ‘able to go forth to war’ (Num 1:3). From Num 14:29 we may also infer that moral responsibility arrived with the age of twenty. But Levites were not admitted to service in the tent of meeting until they are twenty-five (Num 8:24). Yet despite the limit suggested by Num 1:3, the soldier is often called na’ar, and the upper age limit of ‘youth' is not a fixed number.
It is probably that the term 'youth' was sometimes used merely to denote immaturity. Several biblical personalities refer to themselves disparagingly as 'young'. Thus Jeremiah says nothing clearly about his numerical age when he protests: 'Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth' (Jer 1:6), nor does King Solomon when he prays: ‘O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king ... , although I am but a little child' (1Kings 3:7); they only display a becoming modesty. Cf. Judg 6:15.
As 'the beauty of old men is their grey hair,' so 'the glory of young men is their strength' (Prov 20:29), and when 'fair virgins' and 'young men ... faint for thirst' (Amos 8:13), the ultimate in tragedy is at hand.
The young, of coarse lack the experience and the wisdom of their elders; therefore the repeated admonitions in such a book as Proverbs, where the 'sons' addressed are everyman’s sons (eg. Prov 7:24). These youth are invited to find wisdom and gain understanding (Prov 8:32-36 and often), and they are warned to shun the ‘loose woman’ who lies in wait for youthful victims (Prov 7:4-12).
But Koheleth, aware of the infirmities of old age (see Age, Old) begs youth to have its flung 'before the evil days come': ‘Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth’ (Eccl 11:9; 12:1).
Not infrequently, Israel's early history is poetically termed its 'youth' and either regretted as the time of national perversity (Ezek 23:19) or fondly remembered as a time of good faith between God and people (Hos 2:15-17), according to the writer's mood or purpose.
So we see that, to reach adulthood, we shed ourselves of the immaturity and recklessness that is considered to be part of the youth characteristic.
Roles and Responsibilities of Youth
It is important to understand the roles and responsibilities that we should play in the community in order to attain a correct biblical position. In Luke 22:26 Jesus states:
But you are not like that. Instead, the greatest among you be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
The NIV Study Bible, in its commentary on this passage, is interesting. It says:
Jesus urges and exemplifies servant leadership - a trait that was as uncommon then as it is now.
However, this trait is a function of our Church and must be. This statement by Jesus is important in that it tells us of the youth position as regarded by Jesus. He was intimating that the young should perform the humble tasks. Acts 5:5,10 reiterates this.
5Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him ... (NRSV)
10Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. (NRSV)
This shows that the youth must learn to serve before they can be physically served themselves. This servant process is how the young attain wisdom.
Throughout Proverbs the father is the teacher, the son is the student. This attribute is the attitude that God wants us to have.
Proverbs 4:1 Listen my sons to a father's instruction, pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning so do not forsake my teaching.
A young person must listen to his teachers with a humble attitude of acceptance and discernment through the Bible. Times are hard for the young now.
Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 7 Light is sweet and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. 8 However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. Everything to come is meaningless. 9 Be happy, young man, while you are young and let your heart give of joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. 10 So then banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigour are meaningless.'
Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them.
Perhaps this is what has happened. The youth enjoyed their time but forgot their Creator. Youth is a time for enjoyment, but it goes hand in hand with devotion to truth. It is interesting to note that Israel's early history is called 'youth' and is fondly remembered or regretted according to your viewpoint. Israel's youth was perverse from Ezekiel 23:19, but Hosea 2:15-17 fondly remembers its youth as a time of good faith. Thus the values of youth are to use our daring and strength to serve our communities, use our energy and passion to devotion and learning so that our time is spent well on earth and our judgment is not too great.
The writers of the Bible, in dealing with youth in terms of warrior/servant use the word na'ar (Judg. 7:10). This shows how the youth were regarded. The importance of their strength was great. Their strength and energy made the young the greatest workers and they worked hard to serve their community. The old, in their wisdom through experience, guided the affairs of the community and relied on the young for life and the young relied on the old for knowledge. This system is sustainable.
All men/women served the other group so that the community as a whole could function in a correct and proper Godly manner. Somewhere, this all broke down.
The youth don't understand that their wish for freedom, understanding and adulthood prematurely, before wisdom has been gained, is the cause of violence, drug problems and the general community attitudes they feel are so wrong. The sixties was a time when materialism amongst the young exploded. Music, cars, fashion, sport, etc. were being demanded constantly, and the adult sectors of our community responded in greed and self- orientation.
IKings 12:6-14 6 Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the older men who had attended his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying 'How do you advise me to answer this people?’ 7 They answered him, 'If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.’ 8 But he disregarded the advice that the older men gave him, and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and now attended him. 9 He said to them "What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me 'Lighten the yoke your father put on us.’" 10 The young men who had grown up with him said to him, "Thus you should say to this people who spoke to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you must lighten it for us’; thus you should say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. 11 Now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’" 12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day as the king had said, 'Come to me again the third day.' 13 The king answered the people harshly. He disregarded the advice that the older men had given him 14 and spoke harshly to them according to the advice of the young men ... (NRSV)
1Kings 12:19. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. (NRSV)
We read here the result of listening to the advice of the young and immature people. The king rejected the wisdom of the aged and adopted the recklessness of youth. The end result was violence and hatred between communities. The hearts of the fathers were turned against their sons, and the sons against their fathers. The youth demanded and advised and the leaders listened.
The young saw the hypocrisy in the system. The people of America, who claimed to be God fearing and peaceful men - and still the children had to scramble under tables to survive a nuclear war that their God loving Christian men worked so hard to arrange. When the youth rebelled -- rather than make servants of themselves through guidance, wisdom and discipline -- they turned to self and thus the distance between youth and adults grew. They call it the generation gap. The unsustainability of the system lies in this generation gap.
All the violence in this world now amongst the youth drug cultures stems from one sin -- the sin that all evil has been created from. When Satan chose to consider himself greater than God, he started a chain reaction of similar thought processes in mankind to this day. All men wish to consider themselves greater than they are. The youth culture of the sixties tried to make itself greater and the youth wanted equality with the adults -- the same concepts as Satan's -- the same concept that allows man to make Jesus equal with God. By doing this we justify our own weaknesses of pride and desires for personal self-aggrandisement.
The calling of youth is to obtain wisdom and to pursue wisdom at all costs. Wisdom is our greatest calling.
Proverbs 8:1-22 1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 besides the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: 4 'To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. 5 O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. 6 Hear, for I speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge. 10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; 11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. 12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly. 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. 18 Riches and honour are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, 21 endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries. 22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work. (NRSV)
Servitude is the only process. The youth must learn to serve again and adults must, in the same way, learn to serve their youth in return. Otherwise the system will not survive.
Why did this happen?
The view is that the youth rebellion was allowed to occur for a very important event in the end time. The products of this rebellion have been vast and deadly. The drug culture has given birth to corruption, murder, suicide, street violence, home burglars, auto theft and on and on and on, to where even the elderly are being beaten and their property stolen so that the junkies can have their fix.
Ultimately, the government will crack down in the form of a very controlled system. The governments will say that the young people have created this mess and the corrupt governing bodies are unable to cope with it. Thus the first justifications for the beast system are born.
What young people can do if they are serious about helping solve the problem, is to seek wisdom at all costs. Flock to wise people, seek the truth in the Bible. There is much work to be done in aiding the troubled and confused; side effects of the ongoing rebellion against God that began millions of years ago. To this day men are still scrambling for power and position above their fellow men.
If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favourable answer, they will always be your servants.
Note: biblical quotes are from the NIV except where indicated as New Revised Standard Version.