“Flee from youthful lusts,” Paul warned Timothy (2 Tim. 2:22, NASB). For Bible-believing Christians eager to live rightly, this has long been a key verse. We know that we can grant such youthful lusts no quarter in our lives. So we put filters on our computers, find accountability partners, read books, set boundaries, warn our children, and guard our own hearts, minds, and bodies.
Except most Bible translations have moved away from that phrasing in this particular verse. “Flee the evil desires of youth,” says the New International Version. The English Standard Version goes with “youthful passions.” Because while Scripture gives overwhelming admonition to flee sexual immorality, Paul seems to be warning Timothy about something else here, another wrongly ordered love—a sin—that destroys.
Paul’s command about youthful lusts comes amid several related injunctions: “Warn [God’s people] before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen” (v. 14). “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly” (v. 16). “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (v. 23). It’s the desire to fight foolish error and join fruitless arguments, not lechery, that Paul is anxious about.
His counsel is clearly not just fatherly advice sent along to one hotheaded young pastor. Paul writes the same to Titus: “Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After ...1