We all heard the phrase, “The devil made me do it.” As ridiculous as it sounds, people throughout history have pinned the blame for their sins on other people. “He or she made me do it” sounds about as silly as “the devil made me do it.” Ezekiel wrote at length about people bearing responsibility for their own sins. God said, “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4 ESV).
Throughout the Bible, fathers had a responsibility to teach their children in the Lord. Parents were expected to instruct children, and teach them God’s law. But through Ezekiel, God makes it clear that the father is responsible for his own sins, and the children are responsible for theirs. Ezekiel gives an example of a son who sees the sins of his father and does not do likewise. The son walks in righteousness while the father continues to sin. Ezekiel says, “As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity” (Ezekiel 18:18).
Guilt by association does not hold up with God. Neither does unjust accusation. God always prefers repentance. The person who sins is not doomed if he repents: “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, she shall surely live; he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:21). The reverse of that is true too: “But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed for them he shall die” (vs. 24).
It’s important for us to teach our children to be responsible for their own actions. They cannot shift blame. At the same time, we need to demonstrate to them that we are responsible for our own sins too. And that God loves repentance! His grace and salvation are wonderful!