SINS OF THE FATHERS By Babatunde Olugboji
This week, seizing the opportunity of Fathers’ Day 2021 on June 20, we’ll start a series on the sins of the fathers, starting with the question: will God visit on a child the transgression of his or her father?
Ezekiel 18 (2-4) makes it clear that God holds each individual responsible for his or her own sin: “The word of the Lord came to me: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.” The implication of this passage is that God deals with each of us as an individual.
By contrast, Exodus 20:5–6 says, “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 of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
So, the answer to the question: do children bear responsibility for their father’s sin, is both yes and no.
First, we’ll address the “no,” meaning there is a biblical argument to be made that children are not responsible for the sins of their dad. God judges the heart of each individual. In both the Old and New Testaments, we witness God interacting with people based on their personal faith. In Genesis, God treated Cain differently from Abel, based on their different actions. The Bible says in Ezekiel 18:30: “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways.”
In other words, each person is responsible for their own sins: “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.” (Ezekiel 18:20) This verse clearly shows that punishment for sins is an individual thing.
John 3:16 says “whoever believes in [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life” Verse 18 of John 3 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Clearly, salvation and its attendant blessings are offered to all, regardless of the actions of one’s father.
Now, let’s begin to address the “yes” to our initial question. A dad’s sin could impact the ability of the child to be blessed. The new field of study known as Epigenetics (the study of how cells control gene activity without changing the DNA sequence) suggests that trauma can leave “molecular scars” on our DNA—and that those scars are passed down genetically to the third and fourth generations.
Relating Epigenetics to the Bible, Adam and Eve’s sin has affected all of us. We are all born with a sinful nature because Adam chose to disobey God. His sin was “passed down” to us. This means that your father’s infractions can land you in a poor place, which is the crux of this series.
This week, we’ll end with this reality: a dad’s sin is not a private issue, it is something that could affect not just those around you, but your children and generations to come.
Have a great week.
Kingdom Dynamics, a weekly column is written by Dr. Babatunde Olugboji, the President, Kingdom House, a non-profit organization in New Jersey, USA.