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Thirty Is Not the New Twenty

Christians ought to care about the poor, and more than that, they ought to act to help the poor. This moral obligation to act is not only for middle-aged adults in a stable career with a dependable income, but sometimes we act like it is. We tell young people that caring about the poor is enough for now. It’s not. Young people love to care about the poor. At a Values & Capitalism event in 2011, “If I Die before I Get Old,” faith and culture writer Jonathan Merritt made the following “indictment against our generation:”
The prophet Micah says that if you are to be a good person, the Lord has already shown you what is required of you; to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” I think that one of the problems with our generation is that even though Micah says to do justice and love mercy, we love justice and do mercy. I think we forgive people and we do mercy because we think that’s what we are supposed to do to be good people. I think we love justice. So we wear our Charity Water bracelets and our TOMS shoes and our To Write Love on Her Arms T-shirts. And we get together and draft proposals and have panels and ask questions. And I wonder… what are we actually going to do?
This conversation came to mind the other day when I watched a recent TED Talk given by Clinical psychologist Meg Jay, regarding the topic of her recent book “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now.” She identifies the problem with young people this way:
Claiming your 20s is one of the simplest, yet most transformative, things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world… We know that 80 percent of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35. That means that eight out of 10 of the decisions and experiences and “Aha!” moments that make your life what it is will have happened by your mid-30s… But this isn’t what twenty-somethings are hearing. Newspapers talk about the changing timetable of adulthood. Researchers call the 20s an extended adolescence. Journalists coin silly nicknames for twenty-somethings like “twixters” and “kidults.” As a culture, we have trivialized what is actually the defining decade of adulthood… So what do you think happens when you pat a twenty-something on the head and you say, “You have 10 extra years to start your life?” Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.
When it comes to helping the poor, the charitable world depends on the ingenuity, vibrancy and passion of young people. The unemployed depend on young people’s visions to run with that great idea and found that start-up company. The ill and handicapped and their families look forward to medical miracles that historically have been discovered by young scientists early enough in their careers to not know “it’s not done that way.” There is nothing wrong with wearing a bracelet, attending a benefit concert or “liking” your favorite charity. It’s just not enough. Thirty is not the new twenty, and it is unacceptable for Christian young people to be poor stewards of their talents and their time.