Have you been following the Occupy movement? Here in the U.S. we are now in a national debate about government responsibility (taking care of our neighbor, fixing corporate greed, etc.) verses individual responsibility (looking out for one’s own self).
Both cases can be made from the Bible, I suppose, but today let’s just look at the Bible’s case for individual responsibility. Let’s look at Ezekiel 18:1-32.
Here is its most quoted line: “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2). To paraphrase, and personalize: “I’m suffering because of what other people have done to me.”
You have to admit that there is truth in that saying, “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” The knife of corporate life, for instance, cuts through generational lines. The economic practices of one generation presses upon the next. Our national debt does not end with those who initiate it.
And so it can be with the ripple effect of sin. Abused children abuse, lazy parents beget lazy households, arrogant parents produce arrogant kids, a foul mouthed parent teaches the same speech patterns to the child.
Ezekiel knows this, but there is more to the story when God enters the picture. From God’s point of view, the social consequences of sin do not excuse an individual from personal responsibility.
God gives to his children enough of what is needed to overcome sin patterns we inherit.
Ezekiel declares this from the Lord: “Therefore, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Get a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezek. 18:30).
There is great news in this. You are not stuck in the sinful ways handed to you by anyone. God himself is into the Occupy movement—he wants to occupy you. And, when that happens any sour grapes that others have eaten in front of you will leave no bad taste in your mouth (Ezek. 18:3).
Now that’s something to Celebrate!