Our Heavenly Father's example should be the standard by which we live. Yet, these days it appears that we think we know better than Him. Not really?! Consider the area of responsibility — in specific, regarding children. Now, for the record, this is an article addressing Christians. The world, quite naturally, could care less about any Biblical example (see 1 Corinthians 2:14, a mark of the unsaved is an indifference to God's word). Incidentally, I know that I'm going to be treading on toes here. It's dangerous business talking about how people raise children, even when done with generalities. As soon as anyone sees their self in this, the quick response is, "who does he think he is in telling me how to raise my kids?!" The bottom line response is this, it's not what I say — it's what God says that matters. Wherein it appears to be any of my opinion, please disregard. Wherein it is God speaking, heaven forbid that we disregard.

Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (NIV)

What is responsibility? A dictionary definition reads:

responsibility n. 1. The state of being responsible or accountable. 3. Ability to meet obligations or to act without superior authority or guidance.

The related word "responsible" sheds more light...

responsible adj. 2. Having capacity to perceive the distinctions of right or wrong.

As such, these definitions are correct from a humanist standpoint, but as I've already said, this is from a Christian perspective. In that light, a definition of responsibility could be condensed to this.

responsibility n. 1. Christian. The state of being responsible or accountable to the God ordained order of authority. 2. Ability to meet obligations or to act without immediate human authority or guidance.

Likewise, "responsible" should be so defined...

responsible adj. 1. Christian. Having capacity to perceive the distinctions of right or wrong as defined by God.

Consider many Christian homes today where children are given responsibility that is undeserved and unearned. The common thought is that children should be exposed to circumstances that require them to be responsible before they are ready for that responsibility. Specific circumstances abound: Children exposed to music, television shows, and movies, all filled with thing that are morally and spiritually objectionable, but the child is supposed to be responsible enough to know what is right and wrong. The common response here is, "well there's only a few bad things in [fill in the blank]." This, in fact, doesn't change the issue at hand. Even if there's only one objectionable thing, it is placing the responsibility of determining whether it's right or wrong on the child. Circumstances in many school classrooms call for the same responsibility being placed on the child. Again, the common response is, "they'll be better for it, if they make it through rather than being sheltered from the real world." This too, doesn't change the issue of placing improper responsibility on the child.

Proverbs 14:16 A wise man fears the LORD and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless. (NIV)

Even the secular world knows better than this in some areas. Consider the business world. Is the fresh out of high school grad placed at the executive level of a corporation — "because it would be good for him if he makes it through." The fact is – barring the occasional exception – the harm that would befall the corporation, and subsequently the employee himself, would outweigh the remote benefit that someone would hope to gain. Time and again, it's been shown that the best way is to place that new recruit under someone else's authority until they have demonstrated their ability to exercise increasing responsibility. Those that don't show increasing ability are not granted more responsibility. Time is not necessarily a factor here either. If the employee has been there for twenty years and has shown himself to be irresponsible, he's not going to automatically get the promotion to a job entailing great responsibility.

Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. (NIV)

Back to our children. Little Jane has been told what is right and wrong by those in responsibility over her – namely her parents (or so we could hope). She has had no, or little, opportunity to prove herself capable in those areas and she is placed into situations requiring her to be responsible for determining right and wrong. Should we be surprised when she messes up? Who's at fault? It's those that placed her in that situation. They alone were the ones given that responsibility. A common cry these days is that parents can't be responsible for what their children do, but that's not completely true — they've been given their responsibility by God. If we fail to train our children to be responsible, the buck has to stop with us.

Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Today many have turned this verse into... "Expose a child to all the ways he shouldn't go, and when he is old he might have learned to turn from it." The actual wording is usually, "My Johnny knows better than that — he can be a witness to those other kids." Sadly, those other kids usually end up being the really influence on little Johnny.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (NIV)

When is a child not a child? When they no longer think like children. That means that they have shown themselves to be responsible through demonstrating ever increasing responsibility. This takes time. Time under, and guided by, those who are responsible. I have met some 13 year-olds that are far more responsible than other 17 year-olds (and some teens that are more responsible than adults!). Too often, parents who have even attempted to teach responsibility to their children when young, somehow think that when their child becomes a teen they are miraculously completely responsible. (And, yes most teens seems to think they are, but this perhaps shows how irresponsible they actually are.) Those that have truly learned responsibility will tell you that they have much more to learn — always from those placed in authority over them and ultimately from God Himself.

Proverbs 1:5 ... let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance... (NIV)

Those who think they have arrived are a danger to themselves and potentially others. If your teen has shown that they can't make responsible decisions, placing them in a position to make more irresponsible decisions doesn't help them. Their irresponsibility has shown you where you need to give more instruction, rebuke, correction, AND discipline. All this before you give them another opportunity to prove themselves responsible. To do it any other way is to reward irresponsibility. Responsibility is (and must be) earned.

If your teen has
shown that they
can't make
placing them in
a position to
make more irresponsible
 doesn't help them.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. (NIV)

Looking to Scriptures, from Old to New Testament, we see multitudes of examples showing the importance of teaching responsibility — and beginning at a young age. Abraham, the man of faith, was reminded of that task by God...

Genesis 18:19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just... (NIV)

We need to instruct children continually in God's ways — this is the only way they will learn true responsibility. Abdicating that responsibility to others, much less those not holding to Christian beliefs (or those person and things blatantly incorporating immoral or godless views), courts disaster.

Deuteronomy 4:9-10 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (NIV)

Deuteronomy 6:4-8 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (5) Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)

This passage (above), in Deuteronomy chapter six, makes it clear that parenting – training them to be responsible – cannot be an occasional or part time job. Adding any "but" here is to say that you know better than God.

Psalms 78:3-4 What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. (4) We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD (NIV)

Patient training and instruction in the Lord's ways, along with the parental wisdom that comes from experience, is the only prescribed way to teach responsibility. (In addition this training leads them towards God and godly ways — see 2 Timothy 3:13-17). Parents can quickly exasperate their children by throwing them into situations they are unprepared for and then holding them accountable for the end result.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV)

Is responsibility important? Consider Jesus' parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Each person was given to according to his ability. What they then did, or didn't do, was judged (by the Righteous Judge) according to these abilities. God expects us to be responsible according to our abilities, why should we expect children to be responsible beyond their abilities and wisdom. To do so is to become unjust judges — especially when we chastise them for falling short.

Isaiah 1:16-17 ... Stop doing wrong, (17) learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed... (NIV)

The last example this article will consider is church leadership. God has clearly defined the marks of responsible leadership. If the individual does not meet those characteristics, God has said they are not to be placed into positions of responsibility over His people. Any church that ignores these standards does so at their own peril, and reaps what they have sown. So too any parent with children. Where the church is to build godly leadership through teaching responsibility in God's children, the parent is to do the same with their children. Is it any wonder that one of the qualifications of spiritual leadership is raising children well?...

1 Timothy 3:1-6 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. (2) Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (3) not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (4) He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (5) (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) (6) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. (NIV)

Before God, and by His word, let's start being responsible.