Debbie Despisers

Mentoring Millennials

Tip #9: Commend Them (1 Tim. 4:12-16).

            Commend is not a word we use very often these days. When you hear it, you probably think of some gallant knight turning to his fellow after the battle and saying, “Hark! I commend thee for thy great skill with thy lance and thy shield!”

            Well, I asked my good friend Mr. Webster and he told me it meant: “to recommend as worthy of confidence or notice.” It’s different from complimenting, which is often done privately between two people. To commend someone means to praise them publicly.

And that’s what Paul likes to do in his letters for those whom he sends to deliver his letter or help a church. And for no one does he do it more joyfully than for Timothy (as we saw last week in Philippians 2). But in 1 Timothy 4:12, he goes a step further when he says, “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.”

Now we come to it. Perhaps the passage that you most expected me to refer to in this study. Probably the most familiar. What is Paul doing in this verse? Well, “let no one despise” is not actually a command to Timothy. It’s this weird thing that happens in other languages that doesn’t happen in English—a third-person command. It’s when you’re talking to someone and tell them that you are commanding someone else outside the conversation to do something. So Paul is literally commanding people (likely those in the Ephesian church) to not despise Timothy’s youthfulness—but he’s telling it to Timothy. It’d be like if I were talking to you and said, “Let my girlfriend go buy me Starbucks!” It’s a little weird—what can Timothy do about that? He could report to the men in his church that Paul commanded them that—and likely he did.

But I think Paul is emphasizing something. He’s telling Timothy not to worry about what other people think—the fact that some doubt his qualifications for ministry due to his age. He can’t control their responses—he can only control himself. So he was not to focus on the “Debbie despisers” and instead focus on living an exemplary life—in everything he said, did, loved, had a passion for, believed in, and thought about.

How does this connect to you and your mentee? Well, first of all, don’t “despise” their youthfulness! Don’t doubt their ability just because they are young. Young people throughout history have done extraordinary things. David killed Goliath. Daniel stood up to Nebuchadnezzar. And Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered the city of Constantinople and killed all the Christians when he was only 21! Okay, maybe that’s not a good example, but you get my point…

And also, don’t let others in your assembly “despise” their youth. Teach your congregation to respect young men training for the ministry. Teach your older people to seek to mentor the younger, not belittle them.

Paul continued in 1 Timothy 4:  “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

Paul is full of commands here for Timothy to focus on. He wants him to give himself entirely to the work of faithful ministry—and then his progress will be there for all to see and no one will be able to belittle them. Paul urges him to continue so he may see fruit. This is all part of a private encouragement which we will discuss next week.

But Paul was commending Timothy to those in his church. He was commanding them to respect him just as he was commanding Timothy to live a life of respect. Are you doing that with your mentee? Are you urging others to see his “gift” and support him? When he graduates or moves on, will you be the number one reference on his resume? Will you recommend churches to hire him? Will you call your pastor friends and encourage them to support him as he goes on the mission field?

Questions to consider as you consider how to commend your Timothy. Don’t let the “Debbie despisers” get the better of you.



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