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Does God punish the whole family for a parent's sin?

To listen to Nancy's answer recorded from Moody Radio click here.

Many believe that the answer is “yes” because of verses like Exodus 20:5. "You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.” This verse is referring to the sin of worshiping other gods that often involved the whole family. Sometimes even the sacrificing of their children at the altar of false gods by abusing them and in some cases burning them. Also, there were times when the sins of the nation of Israel received God’s judgment that lasted several generations.

The correct biblical view, is in Ezekiel 18:20, "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." Your sin is on you. No one made you sin you chose to sin. However, one person's sin can cause much suffering. Though others are not responsible for another’s sin, they can certainly be harmed by it.

Kids who model a parent’s bad behavior, though, can reap the same consequences as the parent.

For good or bad, children model parents. If a parent models a particular sin and does not call it out on himself or embraces it as being good, a child may more easily carry out that same sin without knowing it is a sin because it is natural to them. Why do children stay away from the church and their faith? It is because they have witnessed the greatest hypocrisy that is not at school or with friends, but in their own homes.

Suppose a parent sins without anybody knowing it and it produces guilt. If someone is daily experiencing guilt, it will spill over into family relationships by increased stress, impatience, anger and anxiety.That behavior does not go unnoticed and often results in children who believe that there is something wrong with them for a parent to act that a  way. It will create tension in the family and children will also begin to show signs of anxiety which often leads to more serious emotional dysfunction.

1 Corinthians 12:26, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Christ died to pay the penalty of sin, which is a beautiful thing because we have all sinned. We all need Jesus in our lives as our Savior and our Lord because life is hard and often seems unfair. Jesus told us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others as ourselves, even those who have hurt us. When we forgive others that don’t deserve it (in our eyes), we free up our mind to choose not to think about  those people and things that hurt us. God commands us to forgive. It is not for the perpetrator that we forgive, it is for us to be free of anger and anxiety. God is the one who will deal with those who hurt us and He chooses the consequences of their sin.

2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Mark 9:23 “And Jesus said to him, ‘All things are possible for one who believes.”

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

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