I Know this Post is Foolish …
It has been on my mind for a while to put together this list because I believe young people have the most to gain from memorizing scripture. Even if you are committed to memorizing Scripture it can be difficult to know where to start. I’m hoping that providing a list of scriptures to memorize it will provide a starting place. (I have a post on how to memorize scripture if you want some suggestions for a process that works.)
I recognize, though, that making a “top ten” list of passages is a foolish thing to do for at least these reasons:
- To name “top ten scriptures” could be interpreted to mean I believe these passages to be better or more important than others (1 Timothy 3:16)
- I’m probably going to leave off some passages that others would include
- By recommending these I am in a sense putting myself in the role of a teacher and therefore I will be judged more strictly (James 3:1)
- By specifying the list is for a “young person” I’m likely scaring away young people (because they want “the grown up list”) and everyone else (because they think the list won’t work for them)
I specified “young person” in the title because I’m thinking someday, when I’m old enough, I’ll make an “adult” version of this list (… hmmm … that didn’t come out quite right) and because some of the chosen passages, I believe, will be especially pertinent to an individual who is somewhere in the range of 13-22 years old.
But I’m Posting it Anyway!
Narrowing the list to 10 passages was more difficult than I thought it would be. Let me acknowledge that I have omitted some passages that would make a LOT of top-ten lists. Sometimes these omissions are intentional and some are probably just oversights. One passage, for example, that I did not include is John 3:16 which says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) My reason for not including it is that most people who will be using this list will be so familiar with the words and the reference that they have effectively memorized it in some form already. I have included in the list 1 John 4:9-12 which conveys some similar messages but is probably less familiar to most folks. This particular example highlights another approach I took in that the passage I chose to include contains four verses instead of only one!
In the list below I give the scripture reference, the passage of Scripture, and some short commentary of reasons why it made the list. All the passages are taken are from these translations: the New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), and God’s Word Translation (GW). I selected from these translations because they are all quite readable. Obviously you can memorize them in whatever translation you prefer.
Scriptures to Memorize
Isaiah 43:1-3a, NLT
1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior …”
This passage is interesting because it is technically written to the nation of Israel. The promises, however, ring true when lined up with other scriptures and can be powerful when read with your own name plugged in. I especially like these verses because they give a reason not be afraid: The God of the universe says “you are mine!” It also gives a nice example of parallelism so common in Hebrew poetry and uses a very strong word (ransom) to describe what God has saved us from. Inclusion of this passage led to my removal of the beautiful Romans 8:38-39 from the list.
Ephesians 4:29-32, NIV
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Okay, this passage is amazing! First of all, it mentions every member of the trinity! The message is so clear and so pertinent! Words matter! Sin grieves the Holy Spirit. No to anger in its various forms. Yes to compassion and forgiveness. Why? Because God forgives us through the work of Christ!
Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
This passage establishes core doctrines regarding salvation, beautifully addresses the faith/works conundrum, and caps it off with a powerful declaration that long ago, God planned for us to do good! The fact that the latter concept is addressed here is what caused me to omit Jeremiah 29:11-13 from this list.
1 Peter 5:5-7, GW
5 Young people, in a similar way, place yourselves under the authority of spiritual leaders. Furthermore, all of you must serve each other with humility, because God opposes the arrogant but favors the humble. 6 Be humbled by God’s power so that when the right time comes he will honor you. 7 Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you.
This passage in an example of one that specifically addresses “young people” and in a different list might be replaced with a verse that addresses pride or anxiety. It’s pretty neat that this passage addresses both pride and anxiety and gives reasons why to avoid each of them. It also introduces the verb “serve” which is a steady theme in the Bible.
Ephesians 5:15-18, NIV
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,
These verses are included in the short list for young people because of its clear instruction regarding substance abuse. And pretty neat that it doesn’t just say “don’t” but also “instead”. We also get introduced to one role of the Holy Spirit and conveys an urgency that can be helpful for a young person who mistakenly believes their time on earth has no end.
Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT
26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”[a] Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
These are verses with only a few words but they convey several truths: we have an enemy, letting anger control you gives that enemy a foothold, feeling anger is not a sin, dwelling on anger or letting it control you is a sin.
Psalm 119:9-11, NIV
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
This was one of the last ones I included and it narrowly beat out 1 Corinthians 10:13 as both, at some level, address the concept of temptation and sin. I opted for this passage because it brings into play the idea of purity as something of importance and explains the role of scripture and scripture memory in that.
Proverbs 3:5-6, GW
5 Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
I used the alternate reading for the final word because I love the idea of a rugged road literally straightening out before you. If a young person will learn that their own understanding can be limited and that God is trustworthy that can truly straighten out the confusing path they are asked to walk! It was difficult to choose between these verses and Matthew 6:33. Although they are different they were similar enough that I opted not to include both.
1 John 5:14-15, NIV
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
1 John 4:9-12, NLT
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
This is my “replacement” for John 3:16. This passage states clearly the role of Jesus in salvation and goes on to suggest how we should respond. It emphasizes the central concept of love.