Do you ever wonder if you are “missing out”? You know what I mean. You have grown up with parents who would not let you go out and party. They have always insisted on knowing where you were, and are not “okay” with you coming in at all hours of the night. They want to know who your friends are. They make you share your Facebook password with them and do not believe in “computer privacy” for kids. Maybe they even home-school you!
If you are a young person reading this magazine, you are more likely than most to fit this profile. Your parents may sometimes be accused of “sheltering” you from what most teenagers today would call “real life”—and that accusation may be accurate! Because of their shelter, you may not have experienced some of the teenage “rites of passage” that many today consider normal, such as getting drunk and having sex.
Maybe you have even met an adult who has said to you, “You mean you haven’t kissed a girl? What’s wrong with you?” Or, “You haven’t held hands with a guy? You are really deprived!” Maybe you have met an adult or two who has even told you, “You’d better sow your wild oats while you’re young, or you’ll regret that you missed your chance later.”
With so many pressures to fit in and do what society says is normal, it can be easy for a young person to think, “My parents may mean well, but are they making me miss out on experiences I really ought to be having?”
This can be hard to handle, even when you know God exists, and you basically want to live His way of life, and you do not want to be a “pop culture zombie” following mindlessly the superficial people around you. Deep down inside, you know that what today’s society considers “normal” is not necessarily right with God—or right for you.
But, still, the temptations are there. Should you really “sow your wild oats” while you can? Surely that is part of what being a “normal” teenager is all about—right?
Wrong! It does not have to be that way. In fact, it should not be.
Consider a parable related by Jesus Christ—who, by the way, knew what it was like to be a teen. He told of a father who had two sons. One “sowed his wild oats” and sought to experience all the extremes life had to offer, living his life with abandon. But when the fun came to an end, how did this prodigal son come to feel? We read that he would “gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate.” The party was over for him, and his life was miserable (Luke 15:11–32).
There is a saying: “If you sow wild oats for six days, pray for crop failure on day seven.” No matter how attractive the idea of “experiencing real life” may seem for a while, those experiences bring permanent consequences—the “crops” that spring from what is sown. The Bible puts it very simply: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
The reality is that there is no “free pass” when it comes to cause and effect. Wise King Solomon knew this when he wrote, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). Even in our youth, the actions we choose will affect us for the rest of our lives. Our teen and young adult years are filled with potentially life-changing decisions.
For example, when young people become involved in drinking alcohol—which many consider a normal “rite of passage” for teens—they are taking a first major step toward injury or even death. Motor vehicle crashes, often caused or worsened by alcohol consumption, are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control reports: “Young people ages 15–24 represent only 14 percent of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30 percent ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.” (“Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet,” October 2, 2012).
What about “hooking up” in sexual encounters with your friends? Is it a harmless “rite of passage”? Certainly it is common among today’s teens. The Centers for Disease Control reported in a 2011 study that 47.4 percent of teens had engaged in sexual intercourse, 33.7 percent had done so in the past three months, and 5.3 percent reported having sex with four or more people during their teen years (“Sexual Risk Behavior: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention,” July 24, 2012).
That same CDC report describes the millions of cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) contracted each year. The report states that, “nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year are among young people aged 15–24 years” (ibid.). Other statistics point out that, each year, one in four U.S. teens contracts an STD or other sexually transmitted infection, and that by 2025 as many as 40 percent of all men and half of all women could be carrying one or more STDs.
How did our culture come to this point? By trivializing intimate contact between guys and girls. By removing standards that define appropriate contact. By winking at “sowing wild oats” that may seem fun at the time but that bring a lifetime of heartache and regret.
So, do not let anyone tell you that when you strive to obey God’s law you are “missing out.” Instead, make the effort to sow good seeds for your future. Solomon wrote, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother, for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck” (Proverbs 1:8–9).
As Solomon wrote, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11). Make sure that the seeds you sow are godly ones that will produce good fruit. Even if you have sown a few wild oats in the past, you can turn your life around. It is never too late—or too early—to start doing what is right.