“…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Gen. 8:21b
Have you ever given any thought to our tendencies about traditions in society; the things we do and why we do them? How about at church? Have you ever noticed the similarities between how the church often imitates society? For instance, we get together at church on Sunday morning and evening, the same time every week, and stay hardly a minute more or less unless there is another function scheduled; and we have programs and gatherings during the week for “young and old” alike. Now, please do not misunderstand, I know structure is good. And although I did think about the similarities between the tendencies of our social clubs, our sports teams, and public schools, my thoughts were drawn to our Sunday schools and youth groups and, specifically, how they are always separated into age groups, just like the world. I began wondering how we came to choose to separate the teens out from among the children and graduate them as it were to another level of maturity. Now, in the physical sense, such as competitive sports in society, I understand. But, what about spiritual matters in our churches, how do our traditions stack up against the Bible in this matter? Does the Bible separate the youth from the children in some way? What is the difference between the two, really? It would seem we consider the teenager to have reached an age that is widely regarded as “too old” to be called children anymore.
As I pondered this, the Lord lead me to think about the so-called, “teenager” and how important it is for them to continue receiving a good foundation at home and at church. I remember thinking how important it was that they not be left behind with the toddlers, but also not be placed in a position that is too far advanced for them. I then remembered to think about teens as, “older children that are not adults”. And also alluding to the fact that younger children can certainly handle more “advanced” doctrines, such as, faith, justification, even predestination (foreknowledge); that we should not be afraid to teach such doctrines to them to help solidify the truth early from their younger years onward. I have been surprised to see how much children really can understand. So, where does this well-practiced tradition of age separation come from?
“Teen”, In a Word
These thoughts lead me to wonder about the etymology of this curious word, “teen” or “teen-ager”, and later, “teenager”; of where we can trace the origin of this word to. Is it a Bible word? Is this a doctrine taught in the Bible? Would you be surprised if I told you this ideal, that has crept in and quietly divided our family and our church, originates with the Humanists? Some facts: confirmed by my Webster’s Dictionary, 1828, this word, “teen”, uses the root for “ten” in the context of years. Also, traditionally, the Judaic tradition of a man called, “the age of the bar” is set at age 13 plus one day for the boy wanting to renew his vows to Judaism. But, the Bible defines the beginning of adulthood in the Old Testament as the age that the Israeli began to give his own offerings, was able to go forth to war, and was counted in a census, or at the age of 20. (also cf. Num. 1);
“Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.” Ex. 30:14
In it’s modern context, a quick search of the internet placed the origin of the word, “teen” at about 1921 as an adjective and popularized about twenty years later in its present context as a noun. But, going back to the Bible, the word, “teen”, does not exist, although the word, “youth”, does. Referring to the first occurrence of the Bible in Gen. 8:21b, “youth”, says, “…the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Knowing that God’s Word teaches we are born into sin defines this word, “youth”, for us; from birth to the beginning of adulthood. And so, in my search, I do not find any biblical teaching of an individual that is not yet an adult, but is no longer a child. Clearly, using Bible definitions, all people are children up to the age of 20. But, what is the danger of employing this idea, you may ask? Pragmatically speaking, it can be useful can’t it?
The Teen Philosophy
I would derive from this simple Bible study that the word teen is to be included in the child demographic and that there is no Biblical difference between a “child” and the so-called, “teenager”. What it comes down to, then, is authority, accountability, and obedience. As found, this word and its’ philosophy began around 1941. Certainly, it gained steam as the sub-culture plodded on through the 1950’s with the popular culture of the day fuelled by the post-war prosperity, which gave this new age group their own money to spend on their styles, their music, and the trends they found on the television. Never before had there been witnessed this loud and raunchy lifestyle fueled by the growing rock ‘n’ roll philosophy and the prevailing call from the day’s transistor radios of, “parent’s are too old!”, “They just don’t understand us!”, and “they’re too square!” This prevailing anti-authoritarian mentality, originating in pride, helped erode the once traditional family values of the day and has resulted in the putrid decay we find the world and the church wallowing in today. The problem is, as is stated in Romans 1. Beginning at verse 24, you will find a long list of debaucheries that are vile in the sight of our perfect and sinless God. This is quite beyond our comprehension, because it put His only begotten Son to the most heinous death imaginable, the death on a Roman cross to pay for our sin. The Bible does not exclude a child in their teen-aged years to be under less authority of the father and mother. If the Bible has defined this word for us, then I must presume any other definition must be from the world. The world has exercised this prerogative for a long time now and has resulted in a worldly culture that indoctrinated the child with their own thoughts and ideals, contrary to God’s Word.
I believe today’s Christian family suffers from the love of the world spoken of in I John 2:15-16,
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
This has resulted in modern society being allowed to sacrifice our children in our schools, in our churches, and in our families, including the belief that we should separate from each other based on age. I believe this is the Devil’s wedge. The results are clear and staggering. The fathers and husbands have lost touch with their wives and children. The fathers have traded their responsibilities to the home for longer hours at the office. Society has been able to split the home with the increase of debt and mortgage interest rates and thereby forcing wives to literally abandon their children to babysitters and those that were never employed by God to properly train up that child. Looking back, you must see, this was the Devil’s intent the whole time. How? By separating the family from each other. He hates the family in every way, because God created the family as a blueprint of that healthy cell structure on purpose.
In sum, I believe we should keep the children together with the adults whenever possible instead of leaving them alone. At church, the children will glean from the pulpit that same spiritual food to be digested after church in discussion at home with the father and mother. In the context of having a children’s club, where the parent’s are almost never in attendance, I believe we should keep the younger children with the “older children”, each at their own stage of maturity. The older children must be taught how to behave and then impart that wisdom, in word and deed, to the younger children with the clear example and direction from the adult leaders. This will form a bond that threads through the whole club with the central message that Jesus loves you and gave Himself for you. What greater love can anyone have?! This message will tie everyone together and keep feeding through and through. But, just like the packs of carnivores that craftily separate the weak from the group so to leave the weak vulnerable, so the Devil wants to divide and weaken our loved ones from their most sacred places. If I may say, stay together as a group! Don’t let this world’s many philosophies split you up. With our Lord Jesus as your strong tie, you will not be easily separated and placed in jeopardy.
© 2011; 2018 Remi Fernhout