What Is the Age of Accountability?

“Then He said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 NLT)

Because responding to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him is generally believed to be an adult decision, the issue then becomes, what happens to a child who dies before they’re mature enough to make that decision? Thus, the issue of the age of accountability.

Since I mentioned the age of accountability in yesterday’s post, I decided to address it today. Depending on your frame of reference, you may never have heard this expression, so let me seek to give explanation as to what it means and why I believe it’s true, even though it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible.

There are, of course, other categories of people to consider in this teaching. For example, a person who, for reason of mental or emotional or even physical imbalance or instability, is unable to understand what it means to yield their life and allegiance to Jesus. These kinds of issues have to be entrusted to the Lord’s wisdom, for as much as we’d like to think we know who can be held accountable for their decisions and who cannot, ultimately, it’s the Lord’s call.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Personally, when I think of the “age of accountability,” I think most often of children. Jesus loved children and used them as examples of what we, as adults, should act and look like as His followers. How so?

What are some child-like characteristics that we ought to emulate in our lives as believers? And even as I contemplate what to write, I realize that some children mature at a much faster pace than others. Also, as a rule of thumb, girls mature faster than boys. My 12 year-old son was going on 6, when my 12 year-old daughter was going on 20. 😊

Consider these general characteristics of young children: humility, vulnerability, sensitivity, submission to authority, gentleness, kindness, tenderness, love, and meekness. You may think of others, but those are the ones that come to mind first for me.

Think, too, of the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Many of these are evident in a child’s life and, if that child comes to the Lord at a young age, can be nurtured and developed much more easily than in an adult.

A rule of thumb I’ve used as a parent and pastor is Baptism. In the Bible, responding to Jesus’ invitation to life and the investment of our lives in His Kingdom, is an adult decision. Infant baptism is not found or taught in Scripture.

When I was a pastor, when a child desired to be baptized, I often had to discern between whose decision it was, the parent or the child? My daughter was about 7 when she expressed interest in receiving the Lord and following Him in water baptism. My son and stepson were a little older, but I left that decision to them.

Baptism is an outward, visible picture of an inward, invisible event. When I was a pastor I baptized by immersion because I believe it’s the clearest picture of what happens in our heart and life. Paul talks about this in Romans 6. When we’re lowered into the water it’s symbolic of being lowered into a watery grave, paralleling Jesus’ dying and being placed in a tomb. Then, like Jesus, we rise to new life in Him, declaring that sin and the grave have lost their hold on us, thus, freeing us to walk in newness of life in Christ.

There are always issues of maturity, home environment, and others, but my rule of thumb is that most children reach the “age of accountability” by around age 12.

I hope this is helpful.

Blessings, Ed 😊

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: