We read of God’s calling upon Samuel’s life in 1 Samuel 3.  Samuel was the child for which Hannah had prayed for ever so earnestly.  Once she finally birthed Samuel, she dedicated him to the Lord and to serve under Eli who was the priest (1 Sam. 1:26-28) who had blessed her concerning her ability to conceive a child (1 Sam. 1:17).

“Please, my lord,” she said, “as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD.  I prayed for this boy, and since the LORD gave me what I asked Him for, I now give the boy to the LORD.  For as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD.”  Then he bowed and worshiped the LORD there.  -1 Sam. 1:26-28

Eli the priest was leading Israel’s worship at this time, but it was apparent that his sons unfortunately would not continue his legacy.  At the time when God was calling Samuel to minister, He was also rejecting Eli’s sons to follow in their father’s footsteps.

Take a look at 1 Sam. 3:10-18 to see how God help Eli responsible for his children’s sins:

10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” 

15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”Did you notice that God considered Eli responsible for his sons’ sins?  Eli’s sons are classified as “wicked men” (1 Sam. 2:12) and not wicked boys.  They were adult children who were defiling the worship of God (1 Sam. 2:12-17), committing sexual immorality (1 Sam. 2:22), and practicing evil (1 Sam. 2:23).  You would think that their adult status would complicate Eli’s responsibility.  But God still held this father responsible for their adult children sins.

You are probably thinking: surely God wouldn’t hold a parent responsible for their adult children’s sin?  You are basing that on feelings which are subjective and unworthy of being trusted.  Can a parent make an adult child truly stop sinning?  No.  But Eli seemed to be passive in this and not do anything about it – and that was the problem.  The problem wasn’t that the children were sinning.  The problem was the children were sinning and the parent was not addressing it.

It’s not that foreign of a concept, is it?  Do you see parents overlooking their children’s sins?  It’s rampant.  Think for a moment that type of sins that parents watch happen and never address.

Eli was in trouble with God for a mistake many parents make today: intervention omission.

No matter the age of Eli’s sons, God held him responsible for neglecting to address their sinful lifestyle.  Other families in the Bible experienced conflict when one’s children decided to reject following God.  Jacob suffered hardship (Gen. 34:30) and heartache (Gen. 37:33-36) because he was ignorant concerning his sons’ deceptive dealings.  Job was known for sacrificing extra offerings just in case his children had sinned or cursed God (Job 1:5).  Church leadership in the New Testament was restricted to only those men who were able to “manage his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity” (1 Tim. 3:4; cf. 3:12; Titus 1:6).

As parents, we are called to address the sin in our children’s lives.  As we help them grasp the gravity of sin, we are creating boundaries in their lives to bring them stability and holiness.  If we are to mold our children in such a way that they desire holiness, we must teach them to fear God, honor parents, and respect boundaries.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.