Youths, ‘What You Sow You Reap’
IT WAS a touching scene. Jesus Christ knew that his earthly ministry was drawing to a close. Soon he would enter Jerusalem, where a painful death awaited him.
Jesus had been teaching “great crowds,” miraculously curing people and counseling his disciples while he still had time. (Matthew 19:2-12) A busy schedule indeed! Perhaps his disciples felt he was too busy to be bothered with “mere” children, who had been brought “for him to put his hands upon them and offer prayer.” (Matthew 19:13) At any rate, they “began to reprimand” the well-meaning parents of the young children.—Luke 18:15.
But how did Jesus respond? “At seeing this Jesus was indignant [at the disciples] and said to them: ‘Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to suchlike ones. Truly I say to you, Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a young child will by no means enter into it.’ And he took the children into his arms and began blessing them, laying his hands upon them.” (Mark 10:13-16) How pleased the parents and their children must have been!
This incident shows the tender concern that Christ Jesus has for young people. In turn, Jesus’ concern perfectly reflects the attitude of Jehovah God. It was Jehovah who lovingly included a promise of long life in his commandment that young people honor their parents. (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-4) Moreover, in the Mosaic Law Jehovah made special provision for the spiritual instruction of children. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Are you a parent? Then the tender emotions you feel for your children are but imperfect reflections of the feelings shown by “God our Father, who loved us.”—2 Thessalonians 2:16; Genesis 1:26.
But the affection that Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have for young people is not sentimental. It does not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. (Proverbs 15:3) The principle that “whatever a man [or a youth] is sowing, this he will also reap” cannot be negated by tender emotions. Youths and parents need to realize this.—Galatians 6:7, 8.
Because of Jehovah’s concern for young people, he included straightforward warnings to them in his Word. For instance, an inspired proverb says: “The eye that holds a father in derision and that despises obedience to a mother—the ravens of the torrent valley will pick it out and the sons of the eagle will eat it up.” Yes, gross disrespect and disobedience by young people could cost them their life!—Proverbs 30:17; compare Exodus 21:15, 17.
Jehovah well knows that young people have a sort of ‘herd instinct.’ If you are a young person, likely you can testify to the strong pressure you feel to speak, dress and act like your peers. If your associations are good, then this peer pressure can be beneficial. But if you are surrounded by bad influences, the result can be damaging indeed. (Proverbs 13:20) It was to protect youths—in fact, all the people of Israel—against contamination by bad, rebellious influences that the Mosaic Law prescribed the death penalty in extreme cases. Yes, a stubborn and rebellious son was put to death in order to ‘clear away what was bad from their midst.’ (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) Israelite parents who wanted to protect their children from rotten association doubtless appreciated that law.
The Bible shows just how bad things can get when young people herd together without discipline. Jehovah’s faithful prophet Elisha encountered a band of juvenile delinquents as he traveled from Jericho to Bethel. They jeered him, showing great disrespect for him and his prophetic office. “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” they shouted. (2 Kings 2:23) By this, they may have meant for him to get off the earth as they supposed his predecessor Elijah had done. In any case, they did not want God’s representative around.
Elisha endured their jeers and taunts for a limited time. “Finally,” the record says, “he turned behind him and saw them and called down evil upon them in the name of Jehovah. Then two she-bears came out from the woods and went tearing to pieces forty-two children of their number.” How the parents of those children must have wished that they had disciplined them and taught them to respect their elders! (2 Kings 2:24; Leviticus 19:32) But now it was too late! They reaped the harvest of their neglect.
Worldly youths today routinely mock teachers, parents and anyone in authority. Often, television scriptwriters are paid large sums to portray children as clever and adults as stupid. Christian youths are surrounded by disrespectful persons and potentially bad association. Sadly, some have been affected by all of this. But this need not happen to you. Cultivate wholesome respect for older people and especially for your parents.
A Word to Parents
If you are a parent, the attitude and conduct of your youngster should be of great concern, for surely you want your child to ‘sow to the spirit.’ So parents, how do your younger children behave at meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Do they show proper respect for others? How do they respond when spoken to by older persons? Do they control themselves after the meeting is over, or do they race around the Kingdom Hall? How do you respond if an attendant must point out to you that your children have been causing a distraction or even a dangerous situation? Do you realize that seeds of disrespect and rowdiness, if excused now because you think your children are ‘too young to know better,’ can lead to a bitter reaping of outright rebellion later?
Questions such as these surely furnish Christian parents with food for thought. By word and example, therefore, they should help their youngsters to ‘sow to the spirit.’
A Need for Caution
If you are a young person, you need to make an individual effort to ‘sow to the spirit.’ This calls for the exercise of caution and good judgment in various things, including entertainment.
For instance, some older youths have been influenced by the bad association found in television serial dramas. These programs are like a training course in fleshly thinking and the cultivation of improper desires. While these dramas once were aimed at the bored housewife, now they are increasingly slanted at youth. So, youths, ask yourselves: Is it possible to watch such fare and still follow the Bible’s counsel, “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world”? Remember that the apostle John went on to say: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” And do not forget that “the world is passing away and so is its desire.” If you want eternal life, then, reject worldly desires.—1 John 2:15-17.
If you are a fan of serial dramas, is it because you hate the world and want no part of it? Or is it because you secretly yearn for such a life-style? One young Christian, a full-time minister, caught herself watching these programs and thinking, ‘Well, if I can’t do these immoral things, at least I can watch others do them.’ Has that happened to you? If so, what kind of seeds are being sown in your heart? What can you expect to reap in a moment of weakness or temptation?
‘Sow With a View to the Spirit’
Youths, the world makes it very easy to ‘sow with a view to the flesh.’ There is a battle under way for control of your heart, and passive resistance on your part is not enough. As the apostle Paul put it: “He who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Galatians 6:8.
There is an old adage that ‘the best defense is a good offense.’ If you wish to resist “the desire of the flesh” in these wicked days, stay on the offensive! Sow with a view to spiritual things. Fill your heart so full of spiritual hopes, plans and aspirations that fleshly desires are crowded out.
Is there a difference between your goals and those of your worldly classmates? There should be, if you are serious about “sowing with a view to the spirit.” Likely, many of your fellow students are planning to get out of school, get a job and make a great deal of money. But what about you? With a view to spiritual things, why not plan to enter full-time service, perhaps hoping to serve someday at a Bethel home or as a traveling overseer or as a missionary?
Do not be content merely to drift along, following the world’s view that ‘you can have your religion, but keep it in its place, and you can have your career too.’ By ‘in its place,’ the world means in last place in your life. If you adopt such thinking, you will soon be trying to serve two masters, and Jesus tells us that no one can succeed in such a course.—Matthew 6:24.
Perhaps it will be years before you will finish school. But it is never too early to begin sowing spiritual seeds in your life. The courses you take in school now can have a bearing on your future full-time service if they can equip you to find part-time secular work later.
In the meantime, concentrate on making a real contribution to your family’s efforts to serve Jehovah together. Show that you are eager to prepare for Christian meetings and attend them. Concentrate on what is said at the meetings and discuss these points with your parents afterward. Regularly and zealously share in the field ministry. Set personal goals for yourself in your ministry, such as conducting a home Bible study, or auxiliary pioneering during the summer months. Be quick to respond to your parents’ efforts to train you.
Youths, have you been sowing to the flesh or to the spirit? Be honest with yourselves. Set spiritual goals and ‘sow with a view to the spirit’ now. Do so while there is still time to reap everlasting life!