“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. ‘But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord God, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’ ” (Ezekiel 18:20-23).
Do a parent’s actions affect their children? Without a doubt most of us would agree that parents have a strong influence upon their children. The way a parent nurtures and disciplines a child has a huge impact upon that child’s life. However, does this then mean that a child has no say in the direction of his or her own future? Is the child not accountable for his or her own choices?
As Ezekiel continues his ministry to God’s people who had already been taken captive to Babylon shortly before the ultimate fall of Jerusalem, God’s people had begun to blame their problems on the actions of previous generations. God makes Ezekiel aware of this: “The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, ‘What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge”?’ ”(Ezekiel 18:1-2). In other words, the Israelites were saying their father’s actions were affecting the children and the children were suffering the consequences of their father’s sins.
Furthermore, because the Israelites believed this, they accused God of not dealing with them fairly. They felt God was punishing them for their father’s sins. Through Ezekiel, God says to them, “"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?” (Ezekiel 18:25, cf. v.29). As the opening verses above indicate (Ezekiel 18:20-22), God states that He does not hold the children accountable for the sins of their fathers, but rather He hold each soul accountable for their own actions: “ ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. 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’ ” (Ezekiel 18:3-4).
God states that a child has the power to either follow parents example or not (Ezekiel 18:14-17). God calls upon each of His people to consider their own ways and turn to Him: “ ‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord God. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God. ‘Therefore turn and live!’ ” (Ezekiel 18:30-32).
I praise God that He is both just and fair. He doesn’t hold me accountable for the sins or my parents or my children. He gives me the power to choose my own actions and the course of my own life. He has no pleasure in the death of one who dies. Today, I will turn to Him and live!
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).