Have you ever felt as if your child is paying for your past mistakes? Does this guilt keep you from moving forward in life? My dad knows this feeling well.

When the doctor told us that my brother had cancer, my dad was beside himself. Dad belongs to a generation that looked down upon men who cry. But on that day, he couldn’t stop bawling.

Dad blamed his genetics. His parents and younger brother died of cancer. And now his son was dying.

He told me that God was punishing his son for his past mistakes. He blamed himself as a parent. He felt helpless.

Even after the two years since my brother’s death, my dad remained inconsolable.

If you ever felt that level of hopelessness in your life, you can begin to understand this odd proverb from Ezekiel:

What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? (Ezekiel 18:2 NRSV)

The saying comes from the belief that life is one vicious cycle of moral decay. Each generation is worse than the last.

It says that your child will suffer for sins and mistakes you make as a parent. And you can’t do anything to stop it. Yet Ezekiel has a big problem with it:

As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. (Ezekiel 18:3)

God has no use for cynicism. And neither should we.

What good is it to be pessimistic? What good is it to believe that good cannot happen in your life? What good are you as a parent if you allow your child a life without hope?

Ezekiel is telling us to stop being negative. Stop being cynical about life! Stop believing that there is no hope for the next generation.

Instead focus on what you can give your child. Give them direction in their life. Teach them a sense of self-worth. Provide them with firm footing to stand on and a purpose greater than themselves.

But how can I do this? Let me tell you how: point your child towards God.

Help your child discover God in his life. Help her build a relationship with him. Without God, what else is there?

Without God, your child has no real hope:

When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die.(Ezekiel 18:26)

But when you point him or her towards God, you save your child’s life:

When the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. (Ezekiel 18:27)

As parents of faith, God is the best gift you can ever give.

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