For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Piety and youth
"Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:7-8).
Just like in our times, in those of Paul and Timothy’s there was a great fondness of sports. The Olympic Games had extended their fame for two centuries beyond Greece and all the Roman Empire. Paul himself, in his letters, uses a lot of terminology from these games, all of which are very applicable to the Christian’s life. Nevertheless, Paul warns his young coworker, Timothy, about the dangers of being dragged by the passion of sports.
Without a doubt, a young body needs the expansion and exercise that sports has to offer. It is convenient and healthy, but Paul knows that it can transform into an overwhelming passion. In our time, we witness a still greater fondness than that, something that may be called a 'culture' of sports, almost idolatry, encouraged by fame and money. In the sports environment millions of dollars are involved and young people are tempted at a very early age to be protagonists of them or to be become fervent followers from the tribunals.
"The physical exercise profits a little", says Paul. Certainly, the apostle grants certain utility to physical exercise, but it is very small compared to the benefits of exercising in piety, "…having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come". The point is not if sports are legitimate, but how they are somewhat insufficient as to occupy the time of the Christian youth.
Sports are insufficient because the glory obtained by them only has temporary value; they fade quickly. The Christian youth, on the other hand, have the opportunity to obtain trophies of everlasting value that transcend time and space. They go beyond a short phase of life. ‘to exercise for piety’ is a call to acquire a practice of faith and of good works. This exercise requires patience to acquire such ability, just as a determined athlete prepares in time to face its opponent.
To reach victory an athlete has to abstain him or herself from many things. Paul says in one of its letters: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1Cor. 9:24-27).
Piety in the Christian youth is an exercise that will require them to abstain themselves from those things that normally attract the youth. In a time of dreams and projects, of hopes and fears, the Christian youth would do well in being exercised for that that will never lose its reward, neither in this life or in the future: true piety, the devotion of heart and life, to Christ.