God Respects the Family Arrangement
WHEN a child is born, the friends and relatives gather around and remarks are heard, such as: ‘He’s the image of his father!’ or, ‘He looks just like his mother!’ Sometimes the likeness to the other parent is not so obvious in physical appearance but becomes evident later on in the child’s personality traits. Truly, it is with us today just as it was with the first man Adam, who, the Bible relates, “became father to a son in his likeness, in his image, and called his name Seth.”—Gen. 5:3.
In the matter of parenthood and parental rights Jehovah God has been very constant. He gave parents the privilege and power to bring forth children in their own image and likeness. Yes, and more than that, he allows them to bring up their children in the way they desire. And regardless of the fact that some parents have neglected their children and some have even brought them up to be fighters against God, he has not taken their children away from them and given them to others to care for.
Certainly this is just and reveals great forbearance on God’s part. No one can justly complain that God deprived him of training his children in the way he wished. And no person who has failed to teach God’s principles to his children can rightly complain about the distress that the bad conduct of his (or her) children brings. Negligent parents cannot sidestep the principle that “a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.”—Prov. 29:15.
YOUNG CHILDREN ARE NOT SINLESS
All the children of mankind, although inheriting some desirable traits from their parents, also inherit some undesirable ones. And, without exception, all have been born sinful as a result of their original forefather’s losing his status with God through disobedience. The Bible tells us: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Rom. 5:12.
Through sin, ‘missing the mark’ of God’s standard of perfection for him, falling short of the glory of God, which he should have reflected, Adam failed to pass on perfection to his children. So the entire human race was affected. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Rom. 3:23.
Thanks to God’s undeserved kindness, the ransom sacrifice of Christ can remove the sin in which one was born. The individual must, of course, be of an age to accept God’s provision for himself. But what of children not yet old enough to exercise such faith? They are not sinless. The psalmist David said: “Look! With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:5) So, how does God deal with them? He deals with these children through the family arrangement. Why? And how does this principle operate?
Jehovah believes in the family arrangement and has made the family the basic unit of earthly society. The place, meaning and function of the family originate with him. He is the Father “to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name.” (Eph. 3:15) He gives the family dignity and status. The father in the family is head, the mother is helper, and the two together have divinely given responsibility for the children’s control.
PARENTS ACCOUNTABLE FOR CHILDREN
Very young children who have not reached the age of responsibility are almost altogether the product of their parents through inheritance, with, additionally, the training and environment provided by the parents. Accordingly, God holds the parents responsible until the child reaches the age of responsibility for his own decisions and acts.
What the parents do as to their relationship with God therefore affects the entire family. Just as the law of men calls the parents to account for the acts of their minor children, so does God. If a child commits a crime, damaging property, the father can expect the police to be knocking on his door to bring charges against him and require that he pay for the damage. Why, then, should not God likewise hold parents responsible for the acts of their young children?
FAR-REACHING RESULTS OF PARENTAL TRAINING
The right or wrong acts of parents or the right or wrong training they give can reflect on the children’s children, even on great-grandchildren. For example, when the generation handling world affairs gets embroiled in a war it greatly affects future generations, just as has been the case in the aftermath of World Wars I and II.
Because God does grant the parents the right to bring up their children without his interference he can describe the results to parents who follow his laws and those who do not. He said to Moses: “I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation, in the case of those who hate me; but exercising loving-kindness toward the thousandth generation in the case of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Ex. 20:5, 6) There can be no doubt about it: Children brought up in the wrong way are almost sure to practice bad things and receive the recompense due for their actions.
However, when Abraham’s descendants later turned to idolatry and other wickednesses they were taken into captivity by enemy nations. In fact, from the exile in Babylon right down to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. the Jews were constantly under the domination of pagan world powers, first Babylon, then Persia, Greece and Rome. Descendants for many generations felt the weight of the sin of their ancestors.
This principle proved true in pagan nations also. At the building of the Tower of Babel, the people that had broken away from the worship of Noah’s God, Jehovah, were split up into various language groups, and nations developed from them. Their offspring later found themselves “alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, and [they] had no hope and were without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12) Only those who have turned away from the bad course of their forefathers, forsaking paganism, have come to know God by taking up worship of him.
A case in point, of judgment of young children along with their wicked parents, is that of the Canaanites. Because of their long history of the deepest corruption their young children were executed along with them, at God’s command, when the Israelites occupied the land.—Deut. 7:1, 2.
All this shows that God attributes merit or demerit to the young children of a family, based on the status of the parents. Is anything required of the parents, other than being worshipers of the true God Jehovah? And is anything required of the young children? Also, what about families where only one parent is a worshiper of Jehovah and a disciple of Jesus Christ? These questions will be discussed in the following article.