‘I am just a boy’: Meditating on the young with Kings David and Solomon
11 September 2018
Is it possible to depend on young people? Is it not risky to give responsibilities to those who have not gained experience? Would trust in a young person be misplaced? Ecclesiastes seems to respond to these questions by stating: “Alas for you, O land, when your king is a child (na’ar)” (Eccles 10:16). Even the prophet Jeremiah, facing the mission that God entrusted to him, is self-deprecating and resists, citing his young age as the reason: “Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy’ (na’ar)” (Jer 1:6). Because of his young age Jeremiah feels unsuitable and too immature to speak and to carry out the prophetic mission. In both cases the Hebrew word na’ar is used, which generally refers to a non-adult, a young person, an adolescent, but can also refer to a child or an infant.
But can young age alone be an indication of incompetence and inadequacy? God answers Jeremiah’s concerns with: “Do not say: ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you’” (Jer 1:7). Here, as in other passages of the Bible, the Lord shows that his own criteria for selection go beyond mere chronological age. God does not behave like a recruiter looking for curricula vitae that offer a wide range of experiences. As Pope Francis recalled in the pre-synodal meeting with young people: “In many moments in the history of the Church, as in numerous Biblical episodes, God wished to speak through the youngest… In difficult moments, the Lord moves history forward through young people.”
We will see, in fact, how the Lord is not afraid to entrust to young people the fate of his people.