Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 24.16
16 Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
Reflection: Stewards of Our Faith
By Jacque Jordan
In Deuteronomy 24.16, Moses dictates the law to the Israelites who are learning how to live as a chosen people set apart by God. This law addresses Exodus 20.5, “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 to those who hate me.”
The last phrase, “…to those who hate me,” suggests iniquity is passed down to the third and fourth generations by choice. The Israelites blamed their current exile on the previous generations while continuing to commit the same sins. The Lord was not punishing them on behalf of their parent’s decisions, but judging their present immorality that was shared by their parents.
The Lord gives each person the gift of free will and assurance that he will judge the world in righteousness. We have a human desire to make sense of suffering by assigning blame to others’ sins. We also desire to make exceptions for our own sinful behavior. Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 18 teach individual responsibility for sin. So does Jesus. When his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…” (John 9.2-3) The Lord does not hold His children accountable for any sins other than their own.
We live in a fallen world; sin patterns and the effects of sin are all around us, permeating our culture, family, and workplace. Certain circumstances and interactions are outside of our control and a part of life. The Lord, however, does not judge us by the criteria of the world.
A relationship with the Lord is true freedom. It is not defined by our parents, where we live, or what we look like. We are not responsible for what happens to us. We are accountable for how we pursue God in the midst of generational sin, confusion, cultural pressures, and the suffering of day-to-day life.
The freedom of being judged individually comes with individual responsibility. May we be good stewards of our faith, and have courage to follow the Lord even if we stand alone.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long.
Do not cast me off in my old age; forsake me not when my strength fails. — Psalm 71.8-9
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen 3:21)
Romans 4 (Listen 4:08)
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