Understanding two seemingly contradictory scriptures teaches me an amazing lesson on my responsibility to others.
Deuteronomy 5:9-10 …for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
Ezekiel 18:19-20 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
One scripture tells us that the iniquity of one is punished through many generations another tells us that the father is not responsible for the iniquity of the son, neither the son responsible for the iniquity of the father. What I think these are saying is that when one man is unrighteous, he does not teach his children properly and thus one man can lead many generations astray; each man bearing the responsibility for his own wickedness. On the other hand, when a son has done what is lawful and right, he does not bear the iniquity of his father.
Ezekiel 18:26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. 27Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
Although we all are responsible for our own choices whether righteous or wicked, there does seem to be a responsibility for others. It seems to me that a man who turns to or from righteousness not only affects himself but his children and his children’s children. While an individual bears responsibility for his own actions, I think a person who turns away from righteousness has some responsibility for the chain reaction he/she sets in motion . Ezekiel 26:20, tells us that when a son is righteous, no longer does he bear the iniquity of the father (he has been righteous in spite of that bad example of his father) and no longer does the father bear the iniquity of the son (the son has broken the chain of the fathers wickedness). The son’s good choices not only will affect his children and his children’s children, but it also seems to affect his father as well. His father no longer bears the responsibility of many generations lost because of his son’s faithfulness.
What this teaches me is that I have a responsibility to others; not only to my children but to those around me that I might influence for good or bad. Just as my example to my children and what I teach them can affect many generations, can my influence on others have the same affect? When someone has wronged me, do I easily forgive or do I hold on to a grudge. Would my example of forgiveness and love change another’s heart and another’s path for good? What of my bad example? Is what I profess to be, a Christian, consistent with the example of Christ? Would another who does not share my beliefs or who is not strong in their faith be inspired by me or would my example turn them away from Him? How many generations might be affected by the changing of one heart?
If we are all here on earth with the same goal to live with God in heaven, then it seems that part of my responsibility is to help others get there. If God is the God of the spirits of all flesh (Num 16:22) then we are all brothers and sisters of that same God.
Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother… ?
When I judge, criticize, withhold forgiveness, or am offended, I am doing nothing to help my brother or sister return to our father, in fact my example or actions may even hinder them. I have thought much on this concept and how it applies to me. When someone offends me intentionally or not, it is hard not to be offended yet there is something that tells me that if I truly loved my neighbor, I would be more concerned about their soul than the offense given. If I gave back love in return for offense, how many hearts would that soften? If I truly worried about my example as a Christian, in how many ways would I be different?
Luke 12:48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
I feel I have been given much; a testimony of Christ, a love for the scriptures, and a knowledge that God loves me. I feel in my heart that the Lord expects more of me!