Too Young To Serve?

Jefferson Sole

The opportunity to serve the Lord did not always come easy for David. In fact, in 1 Samuel Chapter 17, David encountered several individuals, not just Goliath, who attempted to stifle his growth as the leader of God’s people. Eliab (his eldest brother), Saul (king of Israel), and Goliath (champion of the Philistines), all had one thing in common: their distaste for David’s youth in relation to his service to God (1 Sam 17:28, 33, 42).

In 1 Samuel 17:13 Jesse’s three oldest sons Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah followed Saul to battle, but David, being the youngest, returned to his shepherding duties (1 Sam 17:14). After 40 days of taunts from Goliath and the Philistines, Jesse ordered David to deliver food to the army of Israel (1 Sam. 17:17-18). As David obeyed his father’s wishes and delivered the food to the army of Israel, Goliath reiterated his previous challenge (1 Sam. 17:8-10), and Saul and his army reacted with fear (1 Sam 17:11, 24) and fled (1 Sam. 17:24). David, after watching the army of Israel cower in fear, was alarmed that a pagan would challenge God’s people and offered words of encouragement to the Israelite army (1 Sam. 17:28). Eliab took exception to David’s words and posed two questions that aimed to embarrass David (1 Sam. 17:28). Embedded in his words are these inferences: 1) David was not authorized to be there and was interfering in adult affairs (1 Sam. 17:17); 2) He had forgone his meager responsibilities (“few sheep”) to do so (1 Sam 17:20). Both of these insinuations were untrue. His true colors were revealed when he attributed David’s motives to pride, naughtiness, and childlike curiosity – motives he could not have known or proven (1 Cor. 2:11). The objection to David’s youth is somewhat humorous. The oldest brother Eliab and the entire Israelite army had stood idle in fear for at least 40 days without addressing the taunts of Goliath. Though they were too fearful to assume responsibility and face Goliath themselves, they were also adamant about whom they did not want to address the issue – namely, a younger man.

The next roadblock to spiritual growth was Saul. Saul, likewise, objected to the youth of David but for a different reason (1 Sam. 17:33). It seems that Saul’s objection was founded in legitimate fear for David’s well-being. David, a young man, would be fighting against an older man who was a warrior from his youth. Adults (many times parents) will discourage their sons from becoming preachers of the Gospel because they fear they will not live a monetarily successful life and will face unique and difficult challenges. While these challenges are real and should be discussed, they should not be used as a tool to divert one’s desire to serve God in this capacity. 

Goliath also took offence to David’s youth and questioned the Israelites’ respect for him because they had sent such a young and fair skinned man to battle (1 Sam. 17:42-44). This type of attitude is prevalent in the world today. We have all heard older men talking about a young man “having to pay his dues” or having to wait until a certain age before “anyone will pay any attention to him.” Unfortunately, this type of sentiment has crept into the church in some instances. Paul did not have that kind of relationship with Timothy. In Timothy’s late 20’s or early 30’s, Paul had already sent him to Ephesus to provide spiritual strength to the church, a task that Paul was unable to do, himself. Similarly, Christ did not put an age requirement on hearing, obeying, or preaching the Word. 

We hope and pray that you will encourage men to grow spiritually and prepare themselves for leadership roles in the Church of Christ. The faculty at the West Virginia School of Preaching have dedicated countless hours teaching young (and older) men the Gospel of Christ for this reason. Please visit and/or call us at 304-845-8001 if you are interested in attending school at the West Virginia School of Preaching. –PO Box 785, Moundsville, WV 26041.

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