Sat, Apr 22nd - 10:52PM
Exodus 34:7 "...he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
As Christians most of us have heard this phrase. This statement can be very difficult to accept. I was having a discussion with a non-Christian classmate the other day, and he brought up this issue. Are children held responsible for the sins of their fathers? It is important to note that passages like this one in Exodus are balanced with passages such as the following one from Ezekiel 18.
4"Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine The soul who sins will die.
5"But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness,
6and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period--
7if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing,
8if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man,
9if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully--he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord GOD.
10"Then he may have a violent son who sheds blood and who does any of these things to a brother
11(though he himself did not do any of these things), that is, he even eats at the mountain shrines, and defiles his neighbor's wife,
12oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore a pledge, but lifts up his eyes to the idols and commits abomination,
13he lends money on interest and takes increase; will he live? He will not live! He has committed all these abominations, he will surely be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.
14"Now behold, he has a son who has observed all his father's sins which he committed, and observing does not do likewise.
15"He does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife,
16or oppress anyone, or retain a pledge, or commit robbery, but he gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing,
17he keeps his hand from the poor, does not take interest or increase, but executes My ordinances, and walks in My statutes; he will not die for his father's iniquity, he will surely live.
18"As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was not good among his people, behold, he will die for his iniquity.
19"Yet you say, Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity?' When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live.
20"The person who sins will die The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
In order to reconcile these different passages, one must understand the difference between consequences and punishment. The Bible says in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Death is the eternal punishment for sin. This is the punishment of which God forgives us if we ask it of him. However, God does not, at least not often, remove the worldly consequences of sin. These worldly consequences are things like speeding tickets, fines, jail, bad reputations, broken relationships, etc. These worldy consequences are the punishment that is visited upon the children for generations. A child is obviously affected when his or her father is sent to prison for a crime. However, the child will not be eternally held repsonsible for his or her father's sin. His or her soul is not condemned to death because of the father's sin. I think this is something we as Christians lose sight of at time. There are many instances were we are too quick to condemn a child or give up on a person because of their family or their reputation. For example, we should not condemn a parent for their child's wickedness. Or a husband or wife because of their spouse's sin. We need to remember that each person is only responsible for his or her actions. Besides this, people are responsible for their actions to God, not to people. We have no place to judge because we cannot know what has occurred in someone else's soul. We would misjudge people based on their appearance. Only God can know people well enough to judge them.