I have come to believe that we can measure our maturity by how we value people, things and ideas. Consider with me:
Self. When young we tend to value ourselves by what we do. This is not surprising since strength, beauty, brains, energy and a life time to do, all belong to the young. We think we have capacity, opportunity and time to succeed and measure ourselves accordingly. It’s only after years of fighting, failures, and unfairness, that we begin to realize that our value can’t be in what we do, since what we do is so much less than what we dreamed. The realization that our worth is in who we are is slow to come and difficult to keep up. If we have had the blessing of coming to know Christ, we learn that it’s not about what we have done, but what He did. Our worth is in being His and being loved by Him. What we do is as filthy rags; what He does through us is the stuff of miracles. If we fail to reach this level of maturity, we die in failure and hopelessness. If we learn to live in Him, we live in eternal joy and glory despite temporary suffering and short-term struggle.
Others. In youth we also tend to value others by what they do and/or by what they have. We measure worth in accomplishments, dollars or fame. We believe the best people are the best known and admired. We are dazzled by the resume’. We are inspired by accomplishment and motivated by fame. Bigger homes and flashier cars are sure signs of worth. It takes years to realize that there is more value in who others are and not in what they do. Character, integrity, honesty and the ability to love rise in value as sin, double mindedness, lies and hate become more visible and more potent. If we reach mature valuation of others we feel hope instead of despair. We live with purpose instead of aimlessness.
Things. To the young, newness and glitter attract. It takes years to recognize the power of rot and rust. Recognizing value in longevity is a character trait of age. The youth marvel that the aged still have this or that thing, aren’t dazzled by new stuff, and talk about how good things used to be. The aged shake their heads at the shallowness of youth in its valuation of what will not last and what has no eternal significance. How we view, use and understand things, is a measure of our maturity.
Ideas. It’s perhaps in the valuation of ideas that maturity is most significant. While intolerant of the lack of accomplishment of people or measured worth of things, the young tend to be extremely tolerant of ideas. They believe that all ideas have worth, often equal worth. This is rooted in an immaturity about the nature of truth. Truth is by definition exclusive. If one idea is true, other inconsistent ideas are false. Youth tend to believe that all religions have merit. That it is possible for my truth and your truth, though contradictory, to be equally true. The ridiculousness of this on its face doesn’t seem to penetrate the immature mind.
If what Jesus said is true; then the only truth is that He is THE only way and that no one comes to the Father except through HIm. It seems loving and “”tolerant” to respect and honor all ideas, even though only one of them can be true.
The real problem of immaturity is the failure to recognize that all persons, but not all ideas, have equal worth.
God loves all, but not everything they do is right, nor is everything they believe true. The mature person finally comes to the place at which all persons are worthy of love and respect, all material things are recognized as temporary, and all ideas are worthy only to the extent that they are true.
And so this is true: We are valuable because we are loved by God. We are relevant because we understand and accept His truth. We are useful because we do His will, All else is temporary and passing.