Was my father responsible for my sins?
Some Christians believe that the sins of our fathers are passed on to their children. From what I read scripture tells us that it is not true.
Let’s start at the beginning of the controversy;
Exodus tells us; Exodus 20:5 “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”
Exodus 34:6-7 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
People that believe sins are passed on to the children use these scriptures to back up their claim. However, when I read scripture in context I found that these verses have a different meaning. When I read something that does not make sense or seems to go against God’s principles I must search for clarity by studying all scripture.
When I read on in scripture I found that Exodus 20:5 and 34:6-7 mean that the sins the fathers commit will affect their children to three and four generations. The children will not be punished for the sins of their fathers but will suffer the consequences of their father’s sins either directly or indirectly. If the children follow the sins of the fathers they will suffer directly. But even if they don’t they can still suffer because of the effects it has on others that in turn affect them (negatively).
Example; Jeremiah 16:10-13 states; “Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ Then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and have not kept My law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’”
But as I study on I learned that God puts to rest the notion that the father’s sins are passed on when He (strongly) states; (Ezekiel 18 makes it clear that God holds each individual responsible for his or her own sin) Ezekiel 1 through 4 say, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent, as well as the child—both alike, belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.”
Also; Deuteronomy 24:16 says “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin” and that “The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself”
And; Ezekiel 18:20; The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
I have personal insight to this controversy. My father was a terrible sinner and I was around to see and hear the sins he committed first hand. I was too young to know they were wrong and no one told me any different so I learned and remembered.
I then grew up and carried on the sinful traditions of my father and did not think of the consequences because I thought this is what life is. However, I did suffer serious and lasting consequences (as I found out in scripture that there would be) that still affect me today.
I also know that I did not inherit the sins of my fathers because I believe scripture. And scripture tells me that I am responsible for my actions. I could have changed things but I chose not to. I always had a choice but to many times I let my feelings decide for me and I now know that my feelings come from my flesh if not infused with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. When I was (and am) tempted there is a way out (1 Cor. 10:13) but I chose the sin. When I was given more than I could handle I did not turn to God for help, I tried to handle it myself. Which in turn made me suffer more consequences.
I am responsible for all the sin, bad decisions, selfishness, and all that is wretched in my life. I also know that what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable (Ph. 4:8) in my life comes from God and not my own hand. I can’t change the past but I can improve the future. And I am trying.
So if you are in the situation I was in it is not too late to change. I encourage you to study scripture without preconceived ideas as to what scripture means, take responsibility for your actions and don’t blame others or circumstances, allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help you, guide you and show you the way out.