I heard once that a piece of the last batch of Tootsie Rolls is included in each new batch. So, a Tootsie Roll that we snack on today could theoretically have a small part of the very first batch in it.1
Regardless of how you feel about this trivia, it is true that some things are passed down from one generation to the next. DNA gets mixed and matched from our parents, to make us (and our siblings – even if some of them seem like they are from an alien planet). Traditions are passed down from parents and grandparents. Weird laws get made and sometimes persist long after they are no longer applicable.
Not everything in one generation should be given to the next, though. Read this passage for an example:
“Then I warned their children not to follow in their parents’ footsteps, defiling themselves with their idols. ‘I am the LORD your God,’ I told them. ‘Follow my decrees, pay attention to my regulations, and keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the LORD your God.’
Ezekiel 20:18-20 NLT
When one generation stumbles, through addictions, selfishness, misrepresentation of God’s Word, or any one of a number of other sins, it is important to break this cycle. If children are raised with a skewed viewpoint of God and His plan for humankind, they must be taught the truth, helping them to understand what knowledge – implanted in their forming minds – is correct, and which is incorrect. This can take multiple forms:
- For those (of an older generation) who have wandered away from the path that God set out for them, but later realized the error of their ways, they have a responsibility to admit their previous failures, reverse course (repent), and ensure that those who are watching their behavior understand what is good, versus what is bad.
- For those (of a younger generation) who watch previous generations struggle with specific challenges, they have an opportunity to make a change not only for themselves, but also for future generations. Honest mistakes from the past can be corrected, and willful patterns of sinful behavior can be replaced with righteousness.
However, to achieve either of these, we must have an objective standard against which we can measure what is right and what is wrong.
In many circumstances, though, I’m afraid that it is popular to make subjective decisions about what should be changed from the previous generation. Teenagers seem to seek out ways to rebel against their parents, often choosing clothing and music styles that are as opposite as they can find. Those facing the negative consequences of their parents’ bad choices want to do something different, just to see if it will produce a different result. Some people, set on justifying their own behavior, define a worldview that serves mainly just proclaim that whatever they want to do is OK, and the more people that sign on with them, the less uncomfortable they all feel.
When our reference point is other people – whether “pretty good” or “really bad” – we will always be like a batch of Tootsie Rolls, though, carrying over someone else’s virtues and vices (or, doing the opposite without determining which is better). Without a clear definition of each, we end up being at least somewhat like the last “batch” (the previous generation).
In the passage from Ezekiel above, the standard given by God is His own instructions. Those who seek righteousness are not called upon to gauge what behavior has the best impact on society, nor to do what feels right. Instead, the benchmark is what God has instructed (which reflects His own holy nature), and yielding authority in our lives to Him. Note that God doesn’t purport to be one choice among many for those wanting to take the right path in life. His ways are not only the definition of correct behavior, but He has demonstrated throughout history (both in large groups, and in deeply personal blessings to individuals) that He loves people, and offers those that follow Him a life that is superior to any man-made configuration.
So, if you see others living like Jesus, and promoting His teachings, take a little bit of what they have for yourself (see 1 Corinthians 11:1). And, as you study the Bible, find those (especially Jesus) who live complete and honest lives, walking as God directs them; then, learn from that and invest those good examples into your own decisions. But, if your examples (both those around you, and your own history) don’t measure up to God’s perfect standards, throw out that batch of bad experiences and start fresh with God. While God can use even the worst events of our past for good, that doesn’t mean we should continue living in evil.
Make sure you’re re-using a good batch! The choices you make today may very well be what others will take from you for themselves.
- Surprisingly, the official Tootsie Roll web site confirms this practice: https://www.tootsie.com/candy/tootsie-rolls/tootsie-rolls. I’m not sure what I think of that, but I’ll probably still enjoy their chewy chocolate taste in the future. ↩