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“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”
— Exodus 20:5
I have never understood this verse, never been able to reconcile it. How is it right? How is it that a loving and generous God would punish His children and future children for some decision an adult made? It’s simple – He doesn’t.
Recently I had an epiphany regarding this statement. God does not set out to destroy His children; in fact He seeks loving relationships with them. He offers us the choice to follow Him, to serve Him. It is those choices though that can move us further and further away from God and it is through those choices that we teach our children.
When they are young, children soak up information like a sponge. They watch everything and try to mimic as much as possible. Whether we want the job or not, as parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children the way God would. When those things do not occur, we are sinning.
So, does that mean God will punish those children whose parents have sinned? Absolutely not. What it means is that we pass on our knowledge, our way of being parents, our way of teaching to our children. Our choices can affect us so deeply they can impact our children for years to come. This is what the verse in Exodus means.
Love your children. Treat the well. And, more importantly, teach them about all the wonderful things they experience instead of damaging them with a life of poor choices.