Is a person responsible for the sins of their children?

Published 8:33 am Friday, March 16, 2018

Are parents responsible for their children’s personal relationship with God after they leave the home? If they are, then what impact does this have on Elders and the requirement of their qualifications?
The answer to the first part of this question is simple. We read in Ezekiel 18:20 KJV, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father; neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Therefore, whether they are in the home or not, children who are of an accountable age are responsible for their own sins. So we see that a parent is not responsible for their children’s personal relationship with God after they leave the home.” We must however understand that parents are responsible to teach their children concerning the will of God. Paul said, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV). See also (Col. 3:21). While parents are to direct their children towards God, the obedience is the child’s responsibility.
The apostle Paul helps to discover the answer to the second part of the question. Paul said, “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6 KJV) See also (1 Tim. 3:4-5). In Titus, Paul simply teaches that an Elder is to have believing children. However Paul qualifies his statement in 1 Timothy when he said, “One that ruleth well his own house …” It seems evident that Paul concludes an Elder must have believing children in his own house, children who in subjection with all gravity.
The intent of the question seems to be, “Is an Elder disqualified if his children become unfaithful after leaving the home?” The obvious answer is no. Properly understood, an Elder is one who trained his children in such a way that they became believers while living in the home. If he has, and he meets all other requirements he then is qualified to serve as an Elder. Because a child has become unfaithful after leaving the home does not take away the fulfilled responsibility of the Elder. Regardless of the actions of his children the Elder has still fulfilled the requirement of having believing children. When we make the qualification about the children we do harm to the scriptures and the intent of the command. The command is about the men who serve as Elders and not their children.
(Tony Hoss is minister at Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton. He can be contacted at 737-2287 or by e-mail at

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