When I talk to parents, one of my favorite scriptures to discuss is Ezekiel 18. It's so good because the proverb starts with a statement about sour grapes. Since I talk about it so often with parents, maybe God wants me to really understand it or He just wants me to repeat its valuable truth. It is an outstanding family, relationship and personal responsibility section of God's Word.
It's My Family System!
So, what is the big deal about that proverb?
You can understand it better if you picture it. Create a mental picture of a father and children in a room. The father is eating some sour grapes, but the sour grapes do not bother him at all. At the same time, the children look at him and pucker their lips and say, "Yuck, those grapes are so sour!"
But, they aren't even eating the grapes!
God explains what is happening as you read further in verses 4 - 18. A short paraphrase is about a father, son, and grandson. The father did everything right, but he had a son that did everything wrong, and the son had a grandson who did everything right.
When you get to verse 19, the people ask a normal question - "Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?"
Why that question? Because Exodus 20:6 is clearly part of the teaching to the Jewish people and to us. It tells us that the "sins of the father will be passed to three and four generations." That is and was taught in the Jewish culture and families because it is straight from the Law.
Yes, the sins of the family system will hurt the kids and the next generations, but God is stating something EXTREMELY important for everyone that thinks they are a victim of and want to blame their family system for how they turned out. Exodus 20:6 is true, but so is Ezekiel 18:20 - each person is responsible for their own decisions.
What About You?
Ezekiel is speaking to the Israelite people who are in exile. Of course, they believe they are there because of the sins of their fathers. Therefore, they are blaming their parents for their exile.
Yes, their parents sinned against God but God says they need to get into reality about their own decisions. "The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." (Ezekiel 18:20).
God says through Ezekiel - WAKE UP - you are responsible for your own behavior. You can try to blame it on others but it will not do any good or change your responsibility for your own sin!
How often do we hear, "You are not to blame" or "It's not your fault."
Marketers use that phrase all the time to get you to think it is the product you are using, that's the problem. We say things like:
- "If my family system hadn't been so messed up, I wouldn't be doing these things."
- "If I had been a better parent, my kids would not be doing those things."
Yes, you may have grown up in a sick family system. Yes, you may have been a lousy parent. BUT - you are responsible for the decisions YOU make, not for the decisions other people make. Nothing good will come from blaming others for your bad thinking, actions, and feelings.
No, you are not responsible for the decisions your child makes - they are. No, you are not responsible for your family system, you are responsible for making good decisions about your life.
Be the best Godly parent you can be, provide God's truth and a home that gives your children the best opportunity to grow in the Lord. But, the child is responsible for the decisions they make. Those are their decisions, not yours whether they are good decisions or bad.
That's Not FAIR!!
Now, if I am a bad parent, God will hold me accountable and I will suffer consequences now and at the Judgment seat of Christ. And, no matter how good or bad your situation, you are responsible for your decisions. You can try to blame your parents for being a bad parent, "Well, that's NOT FAIR! Other people didn't have to put up with what I did."
While that may be true, God knew that you would say that and gave you His answer in Ezekiel 18:25-29. God is interested in your choice now. The past is OVER and God will deal with you on what your decision is right NOW. God is the great "I AM" and He wants you to focus attention on what you do right NOW.
If you want a good relationship, start with yourself. Look at your own actions. That is what God tells us in Ezekiel 18! God reveals His truth to everyone and if you do not make decisions in line with His truth, you will suffer for it.
And, if you turn from unrighteousness to righteousness you will be blessed. Your decisions today make the past and the future somewhat irrelevant, because you can only deal with NOW.
That is God's point in the last part of Ezekiel 18 - if you have a past filled with sin, decide to do what God asks of you NOW. If you have a past filled with following God, decide to do what God asks of you NOW. NOW is what's important, not how you or your family system have been.
I am responsible to make right choices right now. Do what is right - RIGHT NOW!
PURSUING THEIR BEST - Freedom in Relationships