Each One Will Render an Account
1, 2. With whom do we all have an accounting? Regarding what, and why?
NO PERSON can escape rendering an account to God. The great Judge, we are assured, “will make an accounting on the earth.” It makes no difference where we live or what religion we profess, “there is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.”—Rom. 9:28; Heb. 4:13.
2 Whether done in public or in secret, we will render an account for our deeds. All that we do is “openly exposed to the eyes” of the Judge of the universe. We must render an account as to how well we have measured up to the commandments of God: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man. For the true God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.”—Eccl. 12:13, 14.
3. What does the Bible show regarding accountability of children?
3 Children themselves are not entirely free from rendering an account to God. It is true that parents are primarily responsible before God for their children; thus if one of two parents is a worshiper of Jehovah, then any children born to this union are holy in God’s eyes. (1 Cor. 7:14) But it is well to keep in mind that the Bible record shows that God has not closed his eyes to the wrongdoings of children. At one time Jehovah executed a jeering gang of forty-two children by means of two she-bears because these delinquents showed disrespect for Jehovah’s prophet.—2 Ki. 2:23, 24.
4. In view of what is said in the Scriptures, how should parents instruct their children?
4 It is well for parents, then, to instruct their children that they are accountable to God, just as the parents themselves must render an account to God. In ancient Israel children who became incorrigible delinquents suffered according to the will of God by being put to death: “In case a man happens to have a son who is stubborn and rebellious, he not listening to the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and they have corrected him but he will not listen to them, his father and his mother must also take hold of him and bring him out to the older men of his city and to the gate of his place, and they must say to the older men of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he is not listening to our voice, being a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city must stone him with stones, and he must die. So you must clear away what is bad from your midst.” (Deut. 21:18-21) Today God still holds children accountable for being obedient to their parents “in union with the Lord,” as Ephesians 6:1-3 shows: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’”
ACCOUNTABLE AS TO JEHOVAH’S DISCIPLINE
5. For what are parents accountable to God, and so what question arises?
5 After showing that children are not free from rendering an account, the apostle Paul goes on to stress the obligation of the parents before God: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Note that parents are accountable before God to bring their children up, not only in the authoritative advice of Jehovah, but also in the discipline of Jehovah. It is in this matter of discipline that parents sometimes are lax. Though showing loving care and attention, though teaching them God’s Word, parents may fail to enforce Jehovah’s laws. Since parents will render an account for the way they bring up their children, the question arises: What is Jehovah’s discipline?
6. With what does Jehovah’s discipline begin, and why is it so important?
6 Jehovah’s discipline does not necessarily begin with the literal rod. It begins with right parental example. Jehovah sets the perfect example, as does his beloved Son. We are to imitate them, becoming a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “discipline” itself comes from the same root as the word “disciple.” A disciple is one who follows the example of a leader. So, then, discipline has a lot to do with discipleship, for children are to imitate their Christian parents and become disciples of good leaders. By setting the right example, parents aid their children to become disciples of the Lord Jesus; thus example is a means of applying Jehovah’s discipline. Parents may teach their children what is right in God’s eyes, but they can hardly expect their children to be better than the example the parents set at home and elsewhere. Parents cannot practice things that are wrong in God’s eyes and then expect the children to do all the things that are right. This means that at times parents must discipline themselves to ensure that they conform their lives in every respect to the righteous standards of Jehovah’s Holy Word. Then the little ones will not only take in your instruction but see by your example what is the right way to go.
7. (a) How should Jehovah’s discipline be applied? (b) Why should parents not exasperate their children, and how can such be avoided?
7 If parents are to render a good account to God for the way they bring up their children, they must apply Jehovah’s discipline in love but with firmness. This calls for a positive discipline, not a lazy kind in which parents bribe their children into good behavior. Firm discipline means that there will be no parental pussyfooting. The child needs to know what his parents stand for and that they cannot be shaken from Jehovah’s principles by any amount of arguing, wheedling or crying. Though firm, Jehovah’s discipline is applied in love, so that it is consistent, reasonable and righteous. The loving parent realizes that children are not perfect and will make mistakes. If children are badgered by threats of punishment for every little imperfection, little mistake or accident, then they become irritated. Paul said: “Do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Col. 3:21) If children are exasperated by their parents, they become nervously deranged and cannot benefit from reproof. Hence the loving parent, though firm, is reasonable. The child can appreciate reasonableness. Make explanations to the childish mind. Then the child can go along with it, knowing that it is being led in the direction that Jehovah God directs.
8. As shown by Jehovah’s Word, what kind of discipline will sometimes be required, and what will be its benefit?
8 All children of Adam need correction, and at times firm discipline requires the rod, in the administration of pain. “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15) Jehovah’s discipline is thus not a watered-down discipline such as that advised by some worldly authorities who would always hold back the rod. But the literal rod is what is basically meant at Proverbs 23:13, 14: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself.” At times, then, a parent will need to speak to the child by the administration of pain. This pain, God’s Word assures us, is not going to kill the child; but it will have beneficial effects, protective benefits for the child, protecting “his very soul from Sheol.”
PRECLUDING PARENTAL PAIN
9. How is Jehovah’s discipline protective in a twofold way?
9 Jehovah’s discipline is protective in a twofold way: (1) For the child himself and (2) for the parents themselves. Undisciplined, the child might continue in a way displeasing to Jehovah and lose out on life in God’s new world. Undisciplined, the child, by its delinquent conduct, will give pain to the parents. A child cannot be expected to imagine intellectually the anguish and pain he has the power of inflicting on his parents by his misbehavior. Something must be done, then; otherwise a child will bring a lot of suffering to the parents’ hearts and minds. “Anyone becoming father to a stupid child—it is a grief to him; and the father of a senseless child does not rejoice. A stupid son is a vexation to his father and a bitterness to her that gave him birth.” “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.”—Prov. 17:21, 25; 29:15.
10, 11. (a) How may parents avoid suffering pain? (b) Besides the literal rod, what else may be used in applying Jehovah’s discipline?
10 Now, what will prevent the parents from suffering all this shame, vexation, grief and heartache? Why, Jehovah’s discipline. Since delinquency is the logical outcome of a child’s unrestrained actions, “the rod and reproof” are necessary. To preclude the parents from suffering grief and pain, the child must suffer pain. “Chastise your son and he will bring you rest and give much pleasure to your soul.” “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” “Chastise your son while there exists hope.” (Prov. 29:17; 13:24; 19:18) Sometimes parents are reluctant to speak to their children this way, yet parents are accountable to God to discipline their children Jehovah’s way.
11 Not always, of course, need Jehovah’s discipline involve the use of the literal rod. There may be a reproof and humiliation by words of the mouth, the words of the mouth being used with rodlike effect. That the lips can be used in such a way is evident from Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “Shall I come to you with a rod?” As children grow older, the rod of the mouth and the deprivation of privileges may well form much of the discipline.—1 Cor. 4:21.
12. What should be done to ensure that the discipline is “Jehovah’s”?
12 Whether it be the literal rod or the rod of the mouth, let the discipline be administered in such a way that it is Jehovah’s. Young people should understand whose discipline their parents are carrying out and that the parents are not merely pleasing themselves. The child or youth must be made to know that the parents are responsible before God to carry out his discipline. Remember, it is the “rod and reproof.” There should always be a clear-cut explanation as to why the rod is being administered. The child should understand what commandment of Jehovah has been violated, so that the discipline will really be Jehovah’s.
RENDERING AN ACCOUNT
13, 14. (a) What is even more serious to parents than the grief undisciplined children bring? (b) How is accountability to God for applying his discipline illustrated in the case of Eli?
13 Undisciplined, a young person’s delinquent acts will bring grief and reproach to the parents, but, more seriously, the negligent parents will render an account to God. Illustrating that parents, as well as those in responsible positions in God’s organization, are accountable to God for applying Jehovah’s discipline is the case of high priest Eli.
14 As a father, high priest and judge of Israel, Eli was lax in applying Jehovah’s discipline. His two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as officiating priests and so should have been exemplary in their conduct. But not so: “The sons of Eli were good-for-nothing men; they did not acknowledge Jehovah.” The Bible account goes on to show how these sons serving as priests were not content with the portion God’s law assigned to them. These greedy sons also served themselves ahead of Jehovah. Before satisfying their own appetites, they should have offered the fat on the altar to Jehovah; but they put themselves ahead of Jehovah. Their father and high priest apparently gave them no rebuke, so that Jehovah told Eli: “You keep honoring your sons more than me.” In his old age Eli did mildly rebuke his sons but only when their conduct became even more abominable and scandalous: “He had heard of all that his sons kept doing to all Israel and how they would lie down with the women that were serving at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Eli’s sons merited death under God’s law and still he did not apply Jehovah’s discipline by ousting the vile ones from office. Hence Jehovah announced that the influence of Eli’s house was to be destroyed and his sons would both die on the same day. Still Eli did not take disciplinary action against his sons but allowed them to stay in office. Finally, through the prophet Samuel, Jehovah declared: “You must tell him that I am judging his house to time indefinite for the error that he has known, because his sons are calling down evil upon God, and he has not rebuked them.” Eli appears to have indulged or pampered his children from infancy onward; and when his sons’ delinquency became notorious, he, in his old age, mildly remonstrated when he should have taken disciplinary action. Yet neither as father nor as high priest and judge of Israel did he apply Jehovah’s discipline. For this failure God held Eli accountable: “The error of the house of Eli will not be brought to exemption from punishment.”—1 Sam. 2:12–3:14.
15. How may failure to apply Jehovah’s discipline affect a Christian father today, and so how does God view the matter?
15 So accountable are parents in God’s eyes as to whether they apply Jehovah’s discipline that the Christian apostle, speaking of the qualifications for being an overseer in the congregation, wrote: “The overseer should therefore be . . . a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness; (if indeed any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he take care of God’s congregation?).” It is not a light thing in God’s eyes for a father to be negligent in bringing up his children in the discipline of Jehovah.—1 Tim. 3:2, 4, 5.
16. As shown by a newspaper report, what are the fine results of bringing children up Jehovah’s way?
16 When children are brought up in “the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah,” with the knowledge that they as well as their parents are accountable to God, the fine results cannot be kept secret. When a newspaper writer visited the United Worshipers District Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Yankee Stadium in 1961, he observed the many young persons present and wrote an article that appeared on the front page of the Queens County (New York) Post, of August 2, 1961, which said:
“Today when one sees so much juvenile delinquency, so many undisciplined children, so little respect of young for older, so great increase in crime year after year by those 20 years and less, he is suddenly stopped short as he beholds a huge organization made up of hundreds of thousands of families that have no juvenile delinquency problems. And naturally he wonders why. . . . When it comes to their children, Jehovah’s Witnesses get advice from the same book they turn to for advice on every other phase of life—the Holy Bible. . . . Jehovah’s witnesses believe the best way to fight delinquency—is to prevent it. You’re ready to agree when you see the large numbers of young Witnesses of Jehovah who take up the ministry instead of mischief, witnessing instead of wandering and preaching instead of prowling. You perceive that the young people here at Yankee Stadium don’t represent a once-a-year Youth Revival, but a year-round way of life. The world conditions, which make some young people purposeless thrillseekers with an ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ attitude, foster in these young Witnesses a sense of responsibility. They have an assured expectation for something better and a desire to want to share it with their fellow man. They have a very real purpose in life and the importance of it gives them that feeling of worth so lacking in modern youth.”
REMAINING TIME FOR DOING GOD’S WILL
17. (a) As to accountability, what do the Scriptures show regarding the great mass of mankind who refuse to live by Jehovah’s Word? (b) Unless they change, what will be the end of those disobedient to God?
17 Not all persons, of course, are dedicated worshipers of Jehovah God; yet all must face an accounting. If God’s true worshipers are to render an account, what of the great mass of mankind that refuses to do his divine will, keeping on doing the will of the nations? The apostle Peter declares: “For it is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the end be of those who are not obedient to the good news of God? ‘And if the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing’?” Unless they change their course of action ‘the end of those who are not obedient to the good news’ of God will be “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.”—1 Pet. 4:17, 18; 2 Thess. 1:7-9.
18. What must a person stop doing it he wishes to escape “judicial punishment,” and to whom will the ungodly render an account?
18 Today the majority of mankind are indulging in a wild spree of worldliness; but if we want to escape the “judicial punishment” soon to be meted out to them at Armageddon, then, whether young or old, we cannot afford to spend more time doing things such as the apostle Peter describes: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you. But these people will render an account to the one ready to judge those living and those dead.” So the ungodly and those who speak abusively of you for doing God’s will must “render an account” to God’s Judge, Jesus Christ, “the One decreed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”—1 Pet. 4:3-5; Acts 10:42.
19. How should the Christian feel as to the use of time, and why is there no need for despair? But what should be done?
19 For the Christian, the time passed in his life doing the will of the nations has been enough, too much in fact; but he could not help it, having been born in this system of things and not knowing God’s truth. But when one learns the truth from the Holy Bible, there comes a time to change, to turn around and to live by God’s laws. While one may begrudge the time that he formerly spent on doing the world’s will, the strength and energy formerly spent on worldly sprees, there is no need to despair: There is still time ahead of us. But not much. Peter goes on to say: “The end of all things has drawn close.” Seeing that not much time remains for this world, we will want to use the remainder wisely by giving it all over to Jehovah God, for the doing of his will.—1 Pet. 4:7.
JUDGMENT ALREADY UNDER WAY
20, 21. (a) How and on what occasion did Jesus indicate that judgment would be under way at this very time? (b) Upon what basis are people of all nations now being judged by the King, and what is the judicial decision regarding the goats and sheep respectively?
20 Jehovah’s Judge, Jesus Christ, is now on the job; and whether they know it or not, people of all nations are in the process of rendering an account. Looking forward to our day, Jesus related a parable about the sheep and goats, giving this illustration after his disciples had asked him: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” Jesus then spoke his great prophecy regarding “the conclusion of the system of things”; and the parable of the sheep and goats forms the closing words and climax of the prophecy.—Matt. 24:3.
21 How are people of the nations judged by the King, as to whether they are sheeplike or goatlike? By their attitude toward the good news of God’s established kingdom that is now being preached “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) That the judging work would be done while the worldly nations are still going concerns is evident from Jesus’ words: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, . . . all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matt. 25:31, 32) The goatlike people fail to show kindness to the King’s witnesses on earth. The goatlike anti-Kingdom people on the King’s left render an account, and the judgment is: “These will depart into everlasting cutting-off.” But the sheeplike pro-Kingdom people not only treat the Kingdom witnesses kindly, but also accept the Kingdom good news, preach it themselves and give their heart allegiance to the kingdom of God. The sheeplike ones on the King’s right render an account, and the decision is: “Come, you who have my Father’s blessing, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” They inherit everlasting life on earth under the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 25:46, 34.
22. Why are true Christians under special accountability today?
22 Since people’s lives are at stake, the true worshiper of God comes under special accountability today. How so? As to whether he warns those who are doing the will of the nations to turn about and do the will of God, serving his Kingdom interests. The principle is that the person who does not warn the wicked will be accountable to God.—Ezek. 3:17, 18.
23. (a) Considering the time left and judgment now under way, what should all life seekers do? (b) What should be kept in mind, as we hope for what ultimate blessing?
23 With so little time remaining and with judgment already under way, why put off doing God’s will? Children, obey your Christian parents. Parents, bring up your children “in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” You who are just learning God’s truth, use the remaining time wisely and turn from worldliness to the service of God. You who are God’s dedicated ministers, be faithful to your ministry. Since God will bring “every sort of work into the judgment,” let us keep in mind always that our final accounting is not with man nor even with the country under whose government we live. “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. So, then, each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Rom. 14:10, 12) May Jehovah’s Judge “of the living and the dead” be pleased to find our account good and entrust us with post-Armageddon interests and privileges, along with the gift of everlasting life.