I am a Christian woman who is very distressed over my 19-year-old son who has suddenly turned to underage drinking and sexual fornication. Have I committed these sins against him, by not using wisdom with whom he was hanging around? Will God hold me accountable for my son's rebellion? I am weighed down heavily by this. I am afraid God will punish me thoroughly. Please help!
I cannot say if your son's behavior became bad because of the way you brought him up or if it was despite the way you brought him up. I don't know the situation since I don't know either of you.
In general, the Bible states that each person is responsible for his own choices.
"Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.
But if a man is just and does what is lawful and right; if he has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor's wife, nor approached a woman during her impurity; if he has not oppressed anyone, but has restored to the debtor his pledge; has robbed no one by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing; if he has not exacted usury nor taken any increase, but has withdrawn his hand from iniquity and executed true judgment between man and man; if he has walked in My statutes and kept My judgments faithfully - he is just; he shall surely live!" says the Lord GOD.
"If he begets a son who is a robber or a shedder of blood, who does any of these things and does none of those duties, but has eaten on the mountains or defiled his neighbor's wife; if he has oppressed the poor and needy, robbed by violence, not restored the pledge, lifted his eyes to the idols, or committed abomination; if he has exacted usury or taken increase - shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
"If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise; who has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor's wife; has not oppressed anyone, nor withheld a pledge, nor robbed by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing; who has withdrawn his hand from the poor and not received usury or increase, but has executed My judgments and walked in My statutes - he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live!
"As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, robbed his brother by violence, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.
"Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?' Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:4-20).
A righteous man can raise up a wicked son. A wicked man can raise up a righteous son. We see this all the time. You can find families that every advantage in the world -- some of the children turn out to be good and some bad, even when they are raised by the same parents. You can find families which are horrible and miserable, yet some of the children are good and some are bad. Generally, good and righteous people tend to raise good and righteous children -- but not always. Generally, wicked people tend to raise wicked children -- but not always. The fact remains that ultimately each person is responsible for his own decisions.
Having said all of this, we must recognize that just because an individual is considered to be a righteous person, it doesn't follow that he is a good parent. King David is highly praised in the Bible, but many of his children were wicked. The Bible even tells us why. Concerning his son Adonijah, we learn, "And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, "Why have you done so?"' (I Kings 1:6). Think about it:
- Cain, Abel, and Seth had the same parents
- Ishmael and Isaac had the same father
- Esau and Jacob had the same parents
- Eli was basically a good man but raised wicked sons
- Samuel was a righteous man but raised wicked sons
Does God hold parents who did a poor job raising their children responsible? Well, he held Eli responsible. "Then the LORD said to Samuel: "Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever"" (I Samuel 3:11-14).
It has been my experience that in the vast majority of cases I have seen where children turned out poorly, you can almost always find parents who did not do their duty properly. I know from the Bible that exceptions exist, but I haven't run into one personally. And as I stated at the beginning, I cannot comment on your particular situation -- only you and the Lord know.
One thing I can point out. It is very rare for a child to "suddenly" turn bad. Generally, the hints are there all along, but the parent ignores the warning signs, or excuses poor behavior as not be significant enough to warrant action, or just doesn't want to have conflict and backs off.
The past cannot be changed. The only thing you can do is face the present. So what are you doing about his behavior? Is he still living at home? Are you paying for his college education? In other words, even though you know he is living in sin, are you supporting him and his sinful lifestyle? If so, you are just as guilty as he in regards to his sins, "who, knowing the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:32). While you can't fix the past, you can put an end to showing approval for his sins.