I see some of the younger generation floundering a bit.

Some don’t seem to have direction. Some are so into themselves and their own lives they give no concern or thought to others or their needs or the world around them. Some are so flippant in their relationships, not caring for others’ feelings. Some cannot think for themselves, going along with the group. Some expect answers or results right away, not wanting to take the time to do the necessary hard work on their own. Some are apathetic; they simply don’t care.

Sadly, our education system has been increasingly dumbed down so that in many schools, students are simply churning out worksheets while the U.S. spends more money on education, but not truly receiving an education that frees one to truly think.

Did you know that the U.S. government spent $809 billion in education in 2011? This infographic shows U.S. spending compared to 11 other countries (Germany, U.K., Japan, Finland, Australia, Russia, Mexico, South Korea, Brazil and France). $809 billion!! The U.S. spends waaaay more than than the country next on this list– which is Japan, spending a measly $160 billion. Russia spends almost $87 billion and Finland spends the least, only $10 billion per year.

Let’s break that down to a per-child expenditure, according to the graphic. The U.S. spends over $7700 per child, followed by the UK, which spends over $5000 per child. Japan spends over $3700 per child.

The literacy rates of Finland and Russia are the highest, 100% and 99.4 %, respectively (which spend among the least).

Want to guess which country ranks first in this list in both math and science scores?

You guessed it. It’s Finland– the country that spends the least.

Guess where the U.S. ranks in math scores? 10th.
Guess where the U.S. ranks in science scores? 9th.

If our youngsters had to start a country from scratch like this nation was founded, I wonder– could they do it? Could they produce as eloquent a document as the Constitution, the Preamble, the Bill of Rights? Indeed, do the God-given rights that seemed so obvious to the founding fathers of the United States seem so obvious to our citizens now? or to our young people?

Sometimes I wonder– can people see the stars in the sky?

I wish I could say it is different among the young people in the church. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it truly is. I can’t say that there is such a strong dichotomy between those who are Christian or go to church and those who aren’t or don’t go to church.

Do you find the contrast clear? In general, I find it a bit fuzzy. Again, there are indeed many examples of fine young people who have integrity, character and who love God. But among all the youth, they are not the norm, but the exception. I can’t generalize; this is not true of ALL the youngsters. But I find the trends a bit concerning.

A nation that is losing its moral compass, its direction, its heritage… a nation that has been exceedingly blessed… we are in trouble from so many directions and I’m not sure we are doing what we should be doing to equip our young people.

Going to church does not guarantee anything– it does not guarantee a certain outcome. I remember a saying I learned when I was in high school: “going to church doesn’t make someone a Christian anymore than going into a garage turns someone into a car.”

Yet we still sometimes act as if this is the case, which is why we are surprised to learn that so many college students actually leave the church. Why it is to surprising when we focus so much on outward practices? When church sometimes looks like a place to act as if everyone has it all together? When no one acts any different?

Likewise, I don’t think that reading one’s Bible or memorizing scripture makes one a Christian, either, although those are most definitely practices a true believer ought to pursue.

The Pharisees were quite good at playing this game. They memorized, knew the scriptures, and knew how to behave piously when others were watching. For some of them,  I think they genuinely thought they were indeed doing the very best thing…they were of course, blinded and deceived (and deceived by their own hearts).

And that is what is scary, isn’t it? When pride and rule-following and completing all the right “practices” fool one into thinking that is all there is to it?

You know I think we are all good at playing the game. I can be a nice little Pharisee at church; can you? Be nice and smile at everyone, hug babies, help walk old ladies, be the last ones to leave and then yell in the car at the kids on the way home from church?

No, that is not what it is about.  Because if it were, then surely the person who has memorized the most scripture or read the most or never yelled or gave the most or “whatever” the most– that person would “win”. The rest of us would “lose”.

Wrong gospel.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not rules-based. It is relationship-based. Jesus cares about the condition of our heart and soul and less concerned with what we do or say for “show”. Jesus exposed the truth of the heart of the Pharisees… and most of them couldn’t take it, couldn’t face themselves, couldn’t believe it, or wouldn’t believe it.

We don’t stand a chance if we had to be so perfect.

I don’t know if young people today know what it means to be truly mature. What does that look like? How many examples of noble and Godly character can we each recite, off the bat? There might be a few. Are they living or from the past? How are we exemplifying or teaching this? Are we maturing ourselves?

As parents, or adults of influence (and we all are, whether we recognize it or not), we may be acutely aware of our weaknesses (as well we should be– part of being mature is realizing our own depravity and our own weaknesses), but our strivings and goals are toward that mark of maturity. And part of it is realizing that maturity is a lifelong goal and a lifelong process. We will never achieve the true perfection in our lifetime– but we can thankfully make some steps forward in the right direction to help guide those younger ones who are coming behind us.

Our education system is lagging behind, and we can’t expect the schools or educators to offer our children the moral compass and truth they need to truly live. Or even to think. The “dumbing down of America” is no myth, which leaves our youngsters vulnerable to false doctrines, false gospels, false prophets and any other lies that the enemy wants to throw this direction to cause us to fall. If he can attack our future leaders, if our youngsters haven’t learned how to think for themselves and are susceptible to falling prey to lies and false propaganda, then this country is in some kind of trouble. We must teach our young people to be able to think and to speak.

We adults may not have it all together (who does??) and may be painfully aware of where we fail and fall and need to grow (and right we should be). But we have a job to teach the younger. We’re older, we’ve been around the sun a few times and younger people haven’t yet. Despite the failings or mistakes of  maturing adults, we have responsibilities and gifts to pass on to the next generation. It is part of getting off the milk and moving to solid food, to step up and speak and share and take some responsibility.

I want to end with some quotes I found on maturity and spiritual maturity. This is by no means all I have to say on this topic of the younger generation; it is also on my heart to share about the importance of integrity– especially in a time when it seems that honesty, integrity, character, and a good name are not given enough serious consideration. Also on my heart is to talk about the media, and also social media. So many things to talk about. 🙂

But for now, I’ll end with the quotes:

One of the marks of spiritual maturity is the quiet confidence that God is in control – without the need to understand why He does what He does. –Anonymous

There is a canyon of difference between doing your best to glorify God and doing whatever it takes to glorify yourself. The quest for excellence is a mark of maturity. The quest for power is childish. — Max Lucado

We fail to see the place of suffering in the broader scheme of things. We fail to see that suffering is an inevitable dimension of life. Because we have lost perspective, we fail to see that unless one is willing to accept suffering properly, he or she is really refusing to continue in the quest for maturity. To refuse suffering is to refuse personal growth. –Henri J. M. Nouwen

When I was young I was sure of everything; in a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before; at present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me. –John Wesley

A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart. –Charles G. Finney

The first mark of maturity is the ability to deal constructively with reality to face facts, to not cover up reality or call it something else, but to deal with it as it is. Mature people do not kid themselves. The second mark is, adapting quickly to change. We all experience change, whether it be physical, at work, in the family, or whatever. I am amazed at how much some of you have changed through the years while I remain exactly the same! Immature people resist change. It ma Kes them nervous. But the mark of maturity is to adapt to change because change is inevitable. The third mark is freedom from the symptoms of tension and anxiety. The worried look, the frown, the ulcers, the palpitations of the heart – come because you are upset, anxious and worried. Maturing means you have begun to see that God is in control of this world. He is working out purposes that you do not always understand, but you accept it. He will take you through the deep water, not drown you in it. Maturity means you are learning to trust. Fourth, it means to be satisfied more with giving than receiving. Some of you have recently learned that the joy of Christmas is not getting presents but giving them. To see the joy in someone else’s face when they get something they either need or want. That is a sign you are growing up. You are discovering the true values of life. The fifth mark is, to relate to others with consistency, helpfulness and mutual satisfaction. Maturity is learning to get along with other people, to be a help, not a hindrance, to contribute to the solution and not to be always a part of the problem. Finally, maturity is sublimating and redirecting anger to constructive ends. Maturity is the ability to use the adrenaline that anger creates, not to lose your temper and add to the problem, but to correct a situation or to contribute to changing the nature of the difficulty. — James I (J. I.) Packer

Maturity consists of no longer being taken in by oneself.                        –Proverb

Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.
–John MacNaughton
Maturity is the ability to think, speak and act your feelings within the bounds of dignity. The measure of your maturity is how spiritual you become during the midst of your frustrations. –Samuel Ullman
The awareness of the ambiguity of one’s highest achievements (as well as one’s deepest failures) is a definite symptom of maturity. –Paul Johannes Tillich