Are Children Sinners?

Published 8:42 am Friday, April 20, 2018

By Al Earley

Contributing Writer

Paul makes a sweeping statement about humanity in Romans 3:23. He writes, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Is that true? If so, when does it become true? When do we, as humans, start sinning? Do we start after we are past the age of innocence, around 10-12 years of age? Can we start sinning before that? Do we start in our elementary school age years? Do we start when we are toddlers?

Email newsletter signup

I heard a story from a young woman who related that when she was around three she had a favorite hobby. She loved to hear the cat squeal. The louder the better. So, to provoke the cat she would sneak up on it and stomp on its tail. Her family loved the family cat. Other than the little three-year-old girl the cat lived in cat paradise. Then there were those days when the full weight of a three-year-old would come crashing down on the cat’s tail, and it would squeal as only cats can do, and there would be a very entertained three-year-old, and a perplexed mother. The young lady related that she never got caught until decades later when she confessed her hobby. Was the little girl sinning? Was what she was doing evil even though she didn’t know it was a sinful pleasure? The Bible makes it clear that we are born with a sin nature. Therefore, we are capable of sinning at conception, because that is what happened to humanity when Adam and Eve committed the first sin eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and rebelled against God, desiring to be like God (Genesis 3).

Many parents don’t like to face the fact that little Johnny is a sinner. He seems so innocent, so pure, so good! But the fact is little Johnny is completely self-absorbed, and incapable of caring about the needs of others. Parents would do themselves a great favor by accepting that children don’t need to be taught how to lie, cheat, and steal. Their sin nature makes this a very natural skill they figure out on their own. We need to teach them, as we do ourselves, honesty, integrity, humility, grace, kindness, and the other signs of Christian maturity the Bible challenges us to uphold as we mature and desire to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).

It is so important that we realize that our natural bent as children and adults is toward sin. We need our faith in Jesus Christ, and the power of His forgiveness from sin to set us free from the guilt and shame that our sin nature constantly brings into our lives. There is a story about an Eskimo fisherman who came to town every Saturday. He always brought his two dogs with him. One was white and the other was black. He taught them to fight on command, and all the town’s folk loved to gather to watch the fight, and bet on who would win. Whether it was the white or black dog the fisherman was always the big winner after the bets were cast because he knew who would win.

A friend was curious how he always knew who would win, and asked how he did it. He said, “I starve one and feed the other. The one I feed always wins because he is stronger.”

This story about the two dogs helps us better understand the inner battle we fight in ourselves as believers in Christ. We have two natures within us, both struggling for mastery. Which one will dominate us? It depends on which one we feed. If we feed our spiritual lives and allow the Holy Spirit to empower us our life in Christ will thrive, and we will be ready for the tests against our sin nature. If we feed our passions, lusts, and temptations then we will easily slip into sin and evil, whether we recognize that is what we are doing, or not. (story taken from The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham. Dallas: Word Publishing, c. 1988, pp. 92-93).

Do you think it is true that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory? Are you doing anything or talking to anyone who will help you know the power of sin in your life or just pretending you are basically good? Who do you trust to have such conversations with? Our sin nature is not to be feared as long as we can be honest with ourselves, and give our lives to Jesus Christ as the Savior of our souls. (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see