Would this translate to age discrimination against the young and underestimation? How would this be interpreted? Is this advice just to Timothy, to all young leaders, or to all young members of the church in general?
1 Timothy 4:12
NKJV - 12 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.
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I would say that Paul was telling Timothy that, while he should be respectful to those who were older or had more life experience, he should not automatically defer to them in all circumstances, or allow others to discount or condescendingly ignore him and his actions or teachings based on his younger age, since (as Elihu said In Job 32:9), "[I]t is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old that are wise, nor the aged that understand what is right." At the same time, however, he was not to respond in anger or resentment to them. Rather, he was to demonstrate his wisdom and his Christian virtues (love, faith, and purity) in his words and actions, so that he would be recognized (even by those who were senior to him in age, or in their membership in the congregation) as being worthy of the leadership position in which he had been placed, and also of instructing them in the faith, despite his relative youth. I would also say that this guidance could be applied as needed to any setting (not necessarily just in a religious context) in which a young and inexperienced person (qualified as he may be) is striving for acceptance by others with more age and experience -- especially when the younger person has been placed in a position of authority over them.
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