14 August 2010

Ezekiel 18:1-32

"Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die." (v.4)


You could easily imagine that the Jewish exiles in Babylon would blame 'them', the lucky ones who didn't get deported the first time, for their current plight. But Ezekiel will have nothing of it. They are just as responsible for their situation as anyone else. Ezekiel's message is to all of Israel, not only the present but to the entire historical nation.

Ezekiel raises a question that crops up in several places in the Bible: Are the sins of the parent passed on to the children? He takes three examples: good parent - bad child; bad parent - good child; and more generally, a person moving either way between good and evil. In each case the message is clear and unambiguous. Those who are righteous will live and those who are unrighteous will die, unless they repent.

The Lord God does not want people to die but to live. The holy Lord God wants us to be holy too, but that responsibility lies with ourselves, not with 'them' - the government, our parents - not anyone. How easy it is to blame poor parenting or poor government for social problems without taking responsibility for them ourselves.

The holy Lord God wants us to be whole people, in wholesome relationships. But that means taking responsibility for our thoughts and our deeds ourselves, not blaming someone or something else for our shortcomings. God wants us to respond to whoever and whatever affect us in a way that is both holy and wholesome.

To Ponder

How much are your attitudes and opinions influenced by your parents?

How do we escape from blaming others for what we feel are our own shortcomings?

How much is blaming poor parenting the modern equivalent of the 'sins of the parent' being passed on to the child?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John CA Emmett

John worked as a research physicist in the nuclear power industry before ordination and circuit appointments in Swindon and Bath. He is currently director of programmes and research at Wesley College, Bristol.