“What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” (Ezekiel 18:1-4)
The proverb to which the Lord refers is what the people of Judah in exile in Babylon felt: they were being punished for the sins of their fathers and ancestors not their own. The sins of Judah had reached their peak in Ezekiel’s generation. The punishment was well earned, for the sins of the fathers had repeated themselves in the children. They did not realize the extent of their own sin. They had no idea that they had done wrong, no clue that what they were still engaging in their detestable idolatry and immorality.
The underlying motivation for making such a statement was that the Lord was unfair and unjust. The same statement about God being unjust and unfair is often made today. Why should we suffer for sins committed by others? The Lord, however, is fair and just. He judges each one separately according to his own deeds and sins, not the sins of others, though we often suffer because of the sins of others. In addition, we all tend to repeat the sins of those we respect, fear or emulate such as parents, other family members, teachers, celebrities, and politicians. They are supposed to set a godly example for us but often lead us astray.
In the Kingdom of God, no one can blame someone else for their sinfulness nor for the punishment it brings. Faith with its accompanying repentance and righteousness will remove the ultimate penalty of eternal separation from God. Those who refuse to repent, who continue in wickedness and excuse their sins as “lifestyle choices” will find only condemnation for their sinful ways. It is up to the church to be prophetic and warn them of the danger before it is too late.