There’s a saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. If you’ve ever known parents and children whose viewpoints or behavior are vastly different, though, you might consider that sometimes the tree is planted on the side of a hill, and a fallen apple rolls a long way before coming to rest!
Having looked at what makes a particular hypothetical man righteous, Ezekiel 18 continues, with a description of what his son might be like:
“Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them):
“He eats at the mountain shrines.
He defiles his neighbor’s wife.
He oppresses the poor and needy.
He commits robbery.
He does not return what he took in pledge.
He looks to the idols.
He does detestable things.
He lends at interest and takes a profit.
Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.
Ezekiel 18:10-13 NIV
The righteous father mentioned earlier in this chapter (and discussed in the previous article), has a “violent” son. In many ways where the father was righteous, the son does the opposite (and is therefore unrighteous).
At this point, there may be some people who protest that children should follow their parents’ teaching (if their parents are “really spiritual”, I suppose), and claim that the Bible says so. This relationship is sometimes used to condemn parents whose children have strayed, suggesting that the parents didn’t do a “good enough job” (whatever that means).
For those situations, though, the Lookout (cited below) reminds us that Proverbs 22:6 is a proverb, not a promise. The book of Proverbs in the Bible explains how things generally work, and what wise people should consider when they make decisions, but a proverb is not a guarantee of what will always occur. The Lookout cites examples from the kings of Israel and/or Judah where a son did not follow in his father’s footsteps (for good or for bad).
Here, the consequences of this son’s blatant sin doesn’t seem to be some sort of eternal punishment, or eventual justice (although commentator Matthew Henry suggests otherwise). Instead, verse 13 says, “put to death”. While a couple of translations that I looked at seem to soften this a little bit, this consequence sounds to me like the social obligation of the nation of Israel to apply the punishments that were specified in the law of Moses (i.e., the laws of God for His chosen people at that time).
In Israel, many serious sins were capital offenses, and the nation was expected to execute those who were caught practicing them. This might sound harsh compared to certain modern philosophies, and Jesus has since showed us grace that we often need to show to others. However, sin is a really, really bad thing, and drastic consequences for certain sins help to emphasize the importance of that. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should personally execute judgment on people who sin. That seems to be the role of national leaders and government institutions, like the courts and the rest of the justice system.)
Regardless of who carries out the law, though, an individual’s sins bring about individual punishments.
As a result, what should our behavior be with regard to the principles in this chapter? I’d like to propose the following:
- Let us not abandon the wicked too quickly. God had mercy on them, and we can be part of His plan to redeem them. Or, if we happen to be an unrighteous child, He stands ready to redeem us.
- Let us not become complacent in righteousness. While good works don’t save us, unrighteousness being practiced (by those of us who are Christians) is often a sign that we’re not listening to God’s leading, whether through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, or other ways that He speaks to us.
- Let us not be prejudiced (in either direction) about the parents or children of people that we know to be for or against God. We should still recognize righteousness and sin, but may we respond to both in love, without pre-judging that everyone in an extended family is identical.
- Let us not judge generations that inherit or (as an act of rebellion) take on a life of wickedness. Each can be saved by Jesus Christ, based on their own decisions.
As you may have heard before, God has no grandchildren. Make sure that you are his child, and seek to invite others to do the same.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 21, 2022
- The Lookout, August 21, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.