and if the root be holy, so are the branches.”
In order to start at the very beginning in the child’s life to set him apart for God and to establish the Word in him, the parents’ relationship to the Lord must be right. They must be set apart for God and have the Word in them, even before the child’s conception. In order for the child to be holy, the parents must be holy.
The Old Testament is filled with examples of how the fathers’ sins affected the children. Deuteronomy 5:9 records the fact that God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children:
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them (idols), nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”
Malachi 2:2-3 says:
“If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings, yea, I have cursed them already because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold I will corrupt your seed…”
According to this parents are condemning their children when they fail to heed God’s word and glorify the Lord.
Hosea 4:6 points out that if you forget God’s Law, He will forget your children:
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
This may not sound quite fair of our loving God but God is simply stating the facts so we will be aware of the importance of His Word and desire Him above all, if only for our children’s sakes. Deuteronomy 5:29 says,
“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be will with them, and with their children for ever!”
What a statement! Feel God’s agonizing to get people to obey His Word because He knows it is for their good and the good of their children.
God wants man to see the way his actions and attitudes will affect his children’s lives even for 4 generations. But He also wants us to see the remedy for this so that our sins don’t even have to affect the first generation. 1 John 1:9 says:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
God gives us the power to deal with sin and if we obey him He promises us blessing but if we willfully ignore him and refuse to deal with our sin as it occurs in our lives the punishment and the sins will be passed down to our children after us.
In I Kings we see an example of this. It says that there was none as wicked as King Ahab (I Kings 22:25). In I Kings 21:29, it states that because of Ahab’s wickedness, God brought evil upon Ahab’s son’s house.
Another example in scripture shows the bent toward a particular sin being passed down from one generation to another. In the life of Abraham we see his sin of lying passed down through 4 generations. Abraham lied about Sarah not being his wife in Genesis 20:1-13. In Genesis 26:6-11 Isaac lied about Rebeccah not being his wife. In Genesis 27:1-19 Jacob lied to his father about who he was. And in Genesis 37, Jacob’s sons lied to him about what happened to their brother, Joseph. Chuck Swindoll in his book, You and Your Child refers to this as “grandad’s bent” and points out that the bents in our lives toward particular sins must be broken.
Catherine Marshall speaks about this as the “Law of Generations” in her book, Something More. She writes, “We are accustomed to the idea that we pass on to our children a physical inheritance – color of eyes, color of hair, even certain diseases: tendencies toward gout, diabetes, certain skin diseases. Handing down a material inheritance is such standard practice that the laws of every country make careful provisions governing wills, probate, death, and inheritance taxes. I began to ask myself, is it possible that our spiritual inheritance is as real as the others?”
“It soon became apparent that just as we can inherit either a fortune or debts, so in the spiritual realm we can inherit either spiritual blessings or those liabilities (unabashedly called ‘sins’ in scripture) that hinder our development into mature persons. These blessings do not come to us solely by heredity. Obviously they are also passed on by example and by teaching – conscious or unconscious.”1 God passes our sins on to our children but he is a just God and He will pass on our spiritual blessings to our children. Deuteronomy 7:12-13 says:
“Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgements and keep, and to them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he swear unto thy fathers: and he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb…”
God has a plan to bless our children but we have to cooperate with God if we want this blessing – we must keep His Word. God would rather bless than curse and He is a merciful God. He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children for only four generations of those that hate him but Deuteronomy 7:9 says that He is merciful to those that love him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.
Proverbs 20:7 says a just man’s children are blessed after him. An example of this in Scripture is David and his son, Solomon. David was called a man after God’s own heart in I Samuel 13:14. I Samuel 18:30 says David behaved himself more wisely than all of the other servants of the king. Just as Abraham’s lying was passed down to his children, David’s wisdom was passed down to Solomon as I Kings 4:29-34 tells of Solomon’s excellent wisdom. In II Samuel 7 David had the desire to build a house for God. God did not allow David to build it but he honored his desire and blessed Solomon with the privilege of building it.
We must realize our sins or blessings do not affect children only through heredity before they are born. After they are born the parents’ attitudes and actions affect the child by example. The first thing a baby senses is the spirit of his parents. If our spirit is to be right we must be saturated with God’s Word. If we want a holy child we must be holy. We can not lead a child where we have not been. We should be able to say to our children what Paul said to his ‘children’ in Philippians 4:9:
“Those things which ye have both learned, and received,
and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
Paul was their example of a righteous life. We must be our child’s example. If you want your child to respond to authority, then you respond to authority. If you want your child to love, then you love. If you want your child to respect God’s Word then you respect God’s Word.
Andrew Murray wrote: “Education consists not so much in what we do or say but most of all in what we are; and that not only when our children are of an age to see and judge but long before, even before their birth.”2 Seeing the responsibility and affect we have in our children’s lives even before they are conceived, take inventory of your spiritual life. If the first thing a child senses in his parents is their spirit, how will your child be affected?
Take A Personal Inventory of Spiritual Walk!
1. Have you accepted Christ as Savior of your life?
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
2. Are you confessing known sin daily?
Psalm 19:12: “…cleanse thou me from secret faults.”
I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
3. Are you allowing Christ to live His life through you?
Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Colossians 1:27: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
I Thessalonians 5:24: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
4. Are you allowing God to establish His Word in your life?
Psalm 119:174: “I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy law is my delight.”
II Timothy 2:15: “Study to show thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”
5. Are you spending time alone with God in prayer?
Mark 1:35: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day,
He (Jesus) went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
6. Have you set yourself apart for God to glorify Him?
Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord hath made all things for Himself.”
Psalm 16:8-9: I have set the Lord always before me:
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad…”
I Chronicles 16:7-36: David praised and glorified God in this passage. Read it daily
to the Lord as your praise to Him.
1. Catherine Marshall, Something More (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1974), p.63.
2. Andrew Murray, How to Raise Your Children For Christ (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship, Inc, 1975), p. 99.