Do Not Sin Against the Child

By Mike Willis

The story of Joseph has been a favorite story of all generations. There are many lessons to be learned from it. At one point in the record, Reuben rebuked his brothers for their mistreatment of Joseph some 22 years earlier. He said, “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required” (Gen. 42:22). The concept of “sinning against the child” caught my attention. There are many ways men can be guilty of sinning against their children. Here are some of them:

1. By refusing to get them medical treatment. Some Pentecostal religions teach modern day “faith healing.” Many of these Pentecostals are sincere people who try to live what they believe. Some have refused to give their children medical treatment because of their belief that going to a doctor manifests a lack of faith in God. On some occasions, the children have died.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that a blood transfusion is a violation of the Bible prohibition against eating blood (Acts 15:29). Taking a blood transfusion is no more eating blood than have a kidney transplant is eating kidney. Nevertheless, some Jehovah’s Witnesses have refused to allow a doctor to give their child a blood transfusion. One some occasions, their children have died. Both of these examples show parents sinning against their children by not providing adequate medical treatment.

2. By abortions. If we can agree that depriving a child of medical treatment is a sin against the child, we should have no trouble seeing that hiring a doctor to kill an unborn baby is a sin against that unborn child. In America, over 1.5 million babies a year are killed by parents who are “without natural affection” (Rom. 1:31).

3. By child abuse. Other parents sin against their children by physically abusing them. From time to time the newspaper recounts some parent beating his child until the body is bruised and bones are broken. Pictures of small infants who have been the victim of parents who beat them unmercifully, and sometimes even killed them, are shown on TV and in the newspaper from time to time.

Sometimes children are used to satisfy perverted sexual urges. In homes where live-in lovers are present or step-fathers are rearing the children, there is a higher incidence of sexual abuse. Sometimes wicked men satisfy their perverted lust with mere babies.

Other parents abuse their children verbally. Many a child enters adulthood with a low self-esteem and many mistaken concepts of what it means to be a spouse and parent because their parents have verbally abused them. They are emotional cripples who may never fully recover.

I suspect that the preceding forms of sinning against children are rarer among Christians than the next ones will be.

4. By spoiling them. Many parents spoil their children. Here are some ways this is done:

a. ByJailing to restrain them. Eli was condemned for his conduct toward his children because he failed to restrain his sons (1 Sam. 3:13; 2:22-24,29). The Scriptures command parents to provide discipline for their children. The Proverbs teach: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. . . . The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. . . . Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Prov. 22:15; 29:15,17).

At one time or another, most of us have been around children whom the parents did not restrain. I have seen mothers try to “talk” their children into obeying them, rather than using the rod to drive the foolishness out of them. This conduct is justified by saying, “I love my children too much to spank them.” If such a parent truly loved his children, he would see that allowing one’s child to grow up with the character traits he was manifesting was unhealthy. These children grow into undisciplined adults who expect to get their way by throwing “tantrums.” Parents who fail to restrain their children sin against them.

b. By spoiling them. We sometimes spoil our children by giving them too much. The spectacle at Christmas giving may illustrate what I mean. Parents and grandparents provide their children and grandchildren with such expensive toys today, that there is little appreciation shown for them. I remember one Christmas when my daddy gave me a red wagon. I remember the guilt I felt because I knew how much it had cost him. Needless to say, the wagon was precious to me and I took good care of it.

In contrast to that attitude, children open their presents on Christmas morning with little or no appreciation for what they have received. The parent who is watching the child open the present may try to coax the child into saying “thank you” for the gift. The child is only interested in going on to the next gift, regardless of how much the giver sacrificed to give the gift. When Christmas morning is over, there is little appreciation for what was received because we have given our children everything he wants and many things he never had occasion to desire. By giving our children everything they ever want, we deprive them of learning to appreciate what they have. Too, we do not allow them to learn the valuable lesson of working to earn what they want.

c. By teaching them that the world revolves around them. Some parents spoil their children by making them the center of everyone’s attention. They grow up thinking that the whole world is there to satisfy their wants. I have visited in homes where the adults could not carry on a conversation because of the constant interruptions by the children. The parents never stopped the child saying, “You go off to play while we talk.” Instead, the children controlled the entire situation. Perhaps that is why another generation spoke the adage, “Children are to be seen and not heard.”

Truly this generation is not doing a very good job of teaching their children the respective places of adults and children. Consequently, there is little respect shown for the elderly. I have seen elderly men and women stand while a child sat in the best seat in the house, without the parent ever telling the child to get up so the older person may sit down. Moses wrote, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). We shall not improve our society by ignoring divine law.

5. By provoking them to anger. Paul said, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21). Parents who provoke their children to anger sin against their children. By “provoking to anger” the Lord did not mean that momentary emotional reaction which occurs when spanking a child. He was describing that deep-seated anger and bitterness which build up in a child through improper correction. We can be guilty of provoking our children to anger by constant fault finding, unjust comparisons with siblings, too harsh a punishment, inconsistent punishment, etc.

6. By not teaching our children good work habits. Paul said, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). If my children have not learned good work habits so that they can provide for themselves by the time they leave my house, I will have sinned against them.

7. By not teaching them how to be saved. I have a responsibility as a parent to teach my children about God (Eph. 6:4). If my children reach adulthood without knowing what to do to be saved, I will have sinned against my children. Even as a parent takes the time to teach his children how to drive a car (sometimes at great risk of life and limb), he should also teach his children how to live so as to please God.

Many parents are sinning against their children by not teaching them the right priorities. Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). What do we teach our children when we allow them to miss worship to attend ball games, go on a date, stay home to watch TV, work at McDonalds, and such like conduct? Are we guilty of teaching our children that nearly anything takes priority over worshiping God? If so, we are sinning against our children.

8. By not setting a good example before them. Jesus taught Christians to be the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). There is no part of the world so precious as our children. They should see a good example of what being a Christian is by our lives. Parents who tell their children, “Do as I say, not as I do,” sin against their children. The children, who are such good imitators, learn to do as their parents do. What influence am I going to have on my children if I curse, drink, smoking, watch filthy movies, gossip, murmur and complain, etc.?


Our children are a sacred inheritance from the Lord (Psa. 127:3). As with any stewardship, let us be faithful to the Lord with that which has been entrusted to us (1 Pet. 4: 10). Failure to do this will cost us severely, not only throughout eternity, but even in this life. The wise man wrote, “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother. . . . He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy” (Prov. 17:21). To guard ourselves from this earthly sorrow, let us not “sin against the child.”

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 4, pp. 102, 117-118
February 20, 1992