The Bible does not recognize “adolescence” or “the teenage years” as a distinct stage of life. As Dr. David Alan Black has discussed in his book, “The Myth of Adolescence,” the Bible speaks of childhood (birth to age 12), young adulthood (age 12-30), and mature adulthood (age 30 until death). We see this, for example, in the incarnational life of Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus as a baby and child, then He is in the temple teaching at age 12, and finally He begins his ministry at age 30. The Apostle Paul writes about how he thought as a child, and then he began to think as an adult and put away childish things (1Corinthians 13:11). The ancient Jews had a special ceremony called a “bar mitzvah” at age 13 to recognize the transition of boys into young manhood (religious Jews today still honor this tradition). For thousands of years, cultures all over the world treated ages 12-14 as a time to begin training young men and women as young adults rather than children. They were given and expected to show increasing responsibility in life. For much of history, 14 and 15-year-olds could start earning real money in a career and even marry (I’m not advocating these things for us today, just pointing them out as historical facts). The idea that ages 12-18 (or even up to age 22 or older!) would be a time of totally carefree fun and irresponsibility is a modern invention that only dates back to the late 19th century AD or perhaps even later. This notion of a long stage of adolescent carelessness has created generations of middle and high school students who are beginning to develop adult desires and interests like finding romantic relationships and meaningful work but lack adequate training in how to prepare for biblical marriage, parenthood, and vocational callings (finding the jobs God wants them to do). Teenagers still want to be adults as they always have but our modern society wants to keep treating them as children.
But today’s challenge from Ephesians 5:15-20 to walk in wisdom and redeem our time for the Lord should apply to teenagers, too! Middle and high school students are old enough to take individual ownership of their walks with Christ. They are emerging young adults. They are old enough to take public stands for their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are old enough to start having their own quiet devotional times with the Lord. Teenagers are old enough to start taking responsibility for reading their Bibles and praying on their own. They are old enough to start sharing their faith and testimonies with lost friends and family. And middle and high school students are old enough to start planning their time and using it wisely. They are old enough to say no to alcohol and other substances and influences that might control their minds and souls and to instead learn how to be controlled by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Teenagers are old enough to joyfully praise Jesus in chapel and church and not care what their friends might think. They are old enough to stand up for the Lord at the lunch table, in the locker rooms, and on the sports fields. And they are old enough to stop living as selfish children and start living lives of sincere praise and thanks to Jesus Christ. For our middle and high school students, it’s time to start growing up in the Lord. And for our parents and teachers, it’s time to start expecting more from our students spiritually and helping them to grow as God wants them to grow.
The Text (Ephesians 5:15-20)
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Questions to Think About
- In what ways do you think and act more like an adult now than when you were in elementary school?
- How can treating teenagers as children create problems for their spiritual and overall life growth?
- Are you taking increasing responsibility for your own walk with Jesus Christ? How can you tell?
- Does your heart sing with praise to God throughout the day? Why or why not?
- The word translated as “redeeming” in verse 16 carries the idea of buying back something that was or could be lost. Paul is saying that if we do not plan to use our time wisely, it will be wasted and we may even fall into sin. The old adage “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” is not literally in the Bible. However, the underlying principle that laziness often leads to other sins and always leads to lost opportunities for doing good is taught in today’s passage, the book of Proverbs, the Parable of the Talents, and many other places in Scripture. Biblical rest as part of a balanced weekly schedule is good. However, hours and hours and days upon days of doing nothing but streaming videos, playing games, and posting and commenting on selfies is not redeeming the time that God has given us.
- Note the importance of singing to the Lord in our hearts through different types of worship music. “Psalms” probably refers to songs taken directly from Scripture, while “hymns” refers to songs about who God is and what He has done and “spiritual songs” refers to lyrics about our personal experiences with God. All of these should be sung from our souls out of an atttitude of thanksgiving to God for His many mercies and graces in our lives.