Although the term ‘age of accountability’ is not used in the scriptures, I think most of us realize the intent of that phrase. It is used to indicate when a person becomes accountable before God…the age when one must answer to God for his sins. Is it when a boy or girl becomes 12 years old that they become responsible to God? Where does the idea come from that says the age of accountability is 12 years old? I can only assume that some have taken that age to indicate one is accountable before God because the Lord Jesus was found teaching in the temple when He was 12 years old.

You can read that account in Luke 2:41-52. It is odd that some would take this incident to show that we become accountable to God at this age, when in fact, the Lord Jesus was amazing the religious leaders with His knowledge of the scriptures. We read in Luke 2:46-47, “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” I think we can agree that the Lord Jesus was way beyond an age of being accountable at this points, so as to be an example for us to consider about our responsibility before God.

Some have suggested that the age of accountability could have been around 20 years old because this was the age when young men in Israel became accountable to serve in the army of Israel as we read in Numbers 1:3, “From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.” I think we can also agree that to consider that no one is accountable before God until they are 20 years old is pretty irresponsible. Surely, all able minded people can understand the existence of God and our responsibility to Him.

Some have even suggested that the age of accountability comes at an extremely early age. We read in James 4:17, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Some say that as soon as a child can discern between right and wrong, they are accountable to God for their sins. I suggest that this is not true. A young infant can understand when they are doing something they should not, but that does not mean they are able to comprehend the existence of God and their responsibility to Him.

We understand this age of accountability is based on one’s ability to comprehend and respond to God’s message of salvation. A person becomes personally accountable when he or she reaches a point where they have the spiritual and mental facility to grasp the realization they are sinners and will have to answer to God for their sins. This does not mean they are not sinful before that point, but only that they have not reached a place where they can understand their guilt and come to the Lord Jesus for salvation.

Let’s read Romans 1:18-20, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

When a person realizes they have sinned against God, then they become accountable to God for those sins. Some may learn this at a young age, some may come to understand this later. Some, because of mental deficiencies, may never reach that age of accountability. The Lord knows our hearts and He knows our mental capabilities. God’s creation speaks to us of His existence. That means we see evidence of God all around us. If we are old enough and mentally capable of knowing God, then we are responsible before God to come to Him for salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you can read these words and understand them, then you have reached that age of accountability before God. (CC) (555.6)