It is rather singular that some young believers have a difficulty in discovering what they consider a suitable sphere for the exercise and development of their spiritual energies. They imagine that if they were only going out as missionaries to the deadly Congo or to some lonely Pacific Isle, they would have opportunity to display to the world such Christian heroism and self-sacrificing devotion as have rarely been seen. They are overwhelmed by the fact (we all are for that matter), that of the 1,500,000,000 inhabitants of this world, it is computed that only 400,000,000 profess the name of Christ, a proportion of a little more than one in every four. But because they seem as yet unable to originate and carry out some gigantic scheme for the blessing of mankind generally, they are still waiting for an opening to take part in some grand Christian enterprise.
Allow me to say to such ambitious souls that the first thing expected from you is to "show piety at home." You must not expect to begin at the top rung of the ladder. You should remember that David, who was eventually raised to be king over Israel, commenced his career by keeping his father's sheep. So that you have not to travel thousands of miles to find your sphere. You are already in it.
I recollect the first time I came to London from the country, asking a policeman where Hyde Park Corner was. The officer, with imperturbable gravity, pointed above my head where I read for myself "Hyde Park Corner" in big capitals. I was already there.
So is it with many young persons with more modest aims than the above. They are very desirous of something to do in the way of Sunday School teaching or of preaching. But they altogether overlook the apostolic injunction, "Let them learn first to show piety at home" (1 Tim. 5:4).
Are you saying, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Here you have your work. You need not so much as look out of the window to find it. "Show piety at home."
In the verse quoted (1 Tim. 5:4) "piety" has the sense especially of that affectionate duty and respect, which is so becoming in young believers towards their elderly relatives, and the more so where (as in the text) that relative is a widow. The apostle wrote, "If any widow have children or nephews ['descendants' is said by scholars to be the better word], let them learn first to show piety at home and to requite their parents: for that is acceptable before God." From the general terms used, it may be seen that the apostle, without specially mentioning anything, refers to whatever is due from the younger to the elder members of the family.
I am quite prepared to hear that some of my young readers think it is quite unnecessary to call attention to this subject. They say, "We all know how to behave towards our parents We knew that before our conversion." But I think I shall be right in supposing that these objectors are the very ones who have not conscientiously sought to "show piety at home."
Nay, my young friends, you forget that however obedient and dutiful you may have been when you were unconverted, you could not have displayed the life of Christ. When born again, you received a life entirely new, which manifests itself in the ways of Christ. I am sorry if you have not yet learned that unless you are watchful it is self that rises to the surface and not Christ. The same thing may be done either for self or for Christ. I mean that you may, for instance, obey your parents in order to please yourself, or to please Christ. The latter is showing piety at home. The spirit of Christ is then displayed in all your filial relationships, and all the household can see it.
I do not wish to undervalue in the slightest degree teaching or preaching or missionary work. But I venture to say that piety at home is more important than a class in the Sunday School or speaking at the corner of the street. And the reason for saying so is found in my text, "Let them learn first to show piety at home." And what God has put first, it is always wrong for us to put even in the second place. How much more to neglect it altogether!
It is a feature of the present day that young folks set themselves up to know a good deal more than their elders. The young shoulders claim to have old heads on them. Mr. Timothy Novice thinks that his father is very deficient in the knowledge of scripture, and that he is not at all clear as to the difference between Babylon and the Beast. And when his mother says that in her young days young persons were not so forward and presuming as he is, he frowns and replies somewhat haughtily that she has forgotten what exceptional advantages he (Mr. T. N.) has had, and so on. Is this a godly spirit? It is not the spirit of Christ. Read the last three verses of Luke 2.
My young friends therefore must be careful not to give themselves lofty airs in the house. Don't exalt yourself even at home. Be clothed with humility. Remember too, that the great secret of showing piety at home is in the exercise of self-denial. Love yourself and please yourself last. To be a sturdy Christian you need a thorough training in such unselfishness. And the best place for this is the home circle.
Why is home the best place? Because there you are more off your guard than anywhere perhaps. You know that if you are denied your own way, you fly into a tantrum more quickly at home than elsewhere. Because for some reason you are not allowed to go to the preaching, or some other meeting, you are suddenly attacked with a fit of the black sulks. You don't mind "showing off" before your parents. But why should you keep your sweetness for your Christian friends and your sourness for your family? You must first learn to show piety at home. It will make you a better teacher of children, and a better disciple of Christ in every respect.