A Matter of Age…

At this point many will bring up the Bar Mitzvah and the idea that in Jewish culture a boy became a man on his 13th birthday, marked by the Bar Mitzvah. This is true, but it does not change the conclusion. While the boy became a “man” he was more an “apprentice man” and the primary care for him was turned over to the father with whom he apprenticed in the family business and from whom he learned what it means to be a man. He was not expected at the age of 13 to know what it meant to be a man, or to make the right choices as a man.

In fact, the word “child” in Hebrew applied to those between the ages of 5 and 21. The word “infant” was for those under 5 who were still nursing and after 21 they were an “adult” or a “man”. Paul draws a distinction between being a child and a man when he says, in 1 Corinthians 13 that when he was a child he thought, acted and reasoned as a child, but when he became a man he put away childish things. In Jewish culture there was a healthy expectation that a young person was still “in training” and the person in the role of disciple was not expected to surpass the master at a young age.

I mentioned what I have learned about the conclusions of child development experts and how amazed I was that their conclusions matched so well with the learning curve I saw in the Bible, so let me share now. From 6 to 10 years of age children are learning facts-soaking up details and information like sponges. From 10-14 they are developing logic and from 14-18 they are developing reason. It actually takes a full 18 years for a child to grow up! Until they become a man, they continue to think and reason and ACT like a child!

One thing that really stood out to me was the meaning of the word “chastisement” and when it would be most appropriately applied in our parenting. It is commonly translated “correct” and it does mean that, but it means so much more. It carries with it the connotation of “come let us reason together”. If the stages of child development as listed above are correct, that means this can’t be done until the child is in adolescence! We can’t reason “together” until we can both reason.

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