Posted at Reformation Scotland:
It’s not just that our culture only seems to celebrate youth as successful – it makes it everything. Deep down there is a desperate fear of ageing, losing our material pleasures…and of death. We live in a culture that wants to keep us in a state of perpetual adolescence. That way we will be more impulsive and self-focussed and therefore buy more. Social media (misused) often seems to feed the desire to be the centre of attention. Frequently it promotes immature use of language, reason, truth claims and emotion. Scripture makes a clear distinction between being childlike and childish. Do we know what that is?
Our culture doesn’t want to “put away childish things”: it wants to carry on speaking and reasoning in a childish way. This is of course the opposite of what the Apostle Paul says should happen (1 Corinthians 13:11). There are indeed spiritual characteristics similar to being childlike (Matthew 18:1-4). Yet these are quite different to childishness. One passage in Ecclesiastes speaks directly to the young in relation to matters of eternity and ultimate significance. Given that our culture keeps us from advancing beyond adolescence, it is a very appropriate message for us to hear.
There is an irony in Ecclesiastes 11:9 when it calls on the “young man” to “rejoice” in his “youth” and let his heart bring him hear in the days of youth. Walk according to the ways of your heart and as seems good in your own eyes, he says. It as though he says “follow your dreams and desires…but” and then introduces an unexpected and shocking warning. “Know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement”. As Alexander Nisbet says, Solomon is applying his exhortations about preparing for death and eternity to the young because they are most prone to put these thoughts off. They are most bent on their earthly pleasures and so he labours to stop them in their violent pursuit of them.