A False Proverb Refuted

A very poor holy man lived in a remote part of China. Every day before his time of meditation in order to show his devotion, he put a dish of butter up on the window sill as an offering to God, since food was so scarce. One day his cat came in and ate the butter. To remedy … More


The people of Judah believed they were being punished for the sins of their ancestors and not their own. This proverb that the children were suffering for the sins of their fathers had been circulating in Jerusalem and Babylon (vv. 1-2). While there are cumulative effects of sin by a group (Mt 23:35-36), the Lord declares that each individual is accountable for his own sin. The people are incorrect in saying that judgment has taken place because of their father’s sinfulness (vv.3-4). All individuals have an equal responsibility to God. It is only the one whose life is characterized by sin that will die.

If a man is just, he is just before God by virtue of a regenerated life (vv. 5-9). From his innermost being, such a man will seek to live a life of outward righteousness. One of the ways this reflects itself is by outward observance of the Law. This wicked son of a righteous father cannot have his life spared because of his father. (vv. 10-13). His personal life is the factor that calls for his death.

Family traditions were very important to the Jews but God made it clear that people should not follow a tradition of sin. (vv. 14-18). Although we often suffer from the effects of sins committed by those who came before us, God does not punish for someone else’s sins, and we can’t use their mistakes as an excuse for our sins. Each person is accountable to God for his or her actions.


Although my family is a powerful influence on my life, my actions are not determined by them. No matter what type of family I came from I must never choose to follow a pattern or practice of sin, but must choose to believe in God and obey Him.

Ezekiel 18:1-18 (English Standard Version)

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