Today’s Choices – Tomorrow’s Generation
As each of our kids has fallen in love, we’ve given them what sounded like a strange piece of advice, “Make sure you make a good 200-year choice.” Our choice in a mate will have impact for a long, long time – along with a lot of other family choices.
When you’re deciding who you’re going to marry, you’re actually deciding who’s going to shape your children, who will, in turn, shape their children with what they got from you and your spouse and on and on. It’s that downstream effect of our family choices that God spells out graphically in Exodus 20:5-6.
Right in the middle of the Ten Commandments, God says, “I am the Lord your God…punishing the children for the sin of the fathers 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.”
The consequences of a family’s unrighteous choices will be marking at least four generations. The blessings of a family’s righteous choices will be marking countless generations.
If we could do a little “Back to the Future” time travel to see those who came before us, I think we’d understand strengths and weaknesses, blessings and struggles that are alive and well in our own family today. But that’s all history. The issue for us is what kind of heritage are we starting in motion through our choices today. Those marks – for better or worse – will be there long after we’re gone.
This generation-marking phenomenon is dramatically illustrated in a study of the descendants of two American families. Family One – which, for obvious reasons shall remain nameless – is traced back to a criminal ancestor. Out of 1200 of his descendants, 400 wrecked themselves physically through drugs, drinking, or sexual diseases; 310 were beggars; 130 convicted criminals; 60 of them were thieves; 7 were murderers; and 20 learned a trade – in prison.
A similar study was done on the family of Jonathan Edwards, the great preacher and the early president of Princeton. From him came 100 college professors, 100 ministers, 100 lawyers and judges, 60 doctors, 24 authors and editors, and 14 college presidents. Legacy – the powerful result of one generation’s family choices. It makes the choice of who you date and who you marry so critical – way too important for just your hormones or your attractions to decide. In the words of Genesis 24:44, “Let it be the one the Lord has chosen.”
and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lordhas chosen for my master’s son.’ Genesis 24:44
But this legacy effect is something we have to remember in many of the choices we make. That weakness that sin that keeps flaring up and hurting the people you love – if you and Jesus don’t get it under control – will be hurting generations that follow you. If you settle for a lukewarm faith, that pale substitute for a real relationship with Jesus, that will be what you pass on. If your priorities – how you spend your time, your money, your energy – if they’re on stuff that doesn’t last, doesn’t really matter, then those dead-end streets may be where future generations waste their life, too.
You probably have no idea of the long-range impact of your life – the 200-year-and-beyond effect of the choices you’re making now. Claim for yourself the promise of God that says, “This is My covenant with them, My Spirit who is on you. And My words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever.” (Isaiah 59:21)
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lordyour 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, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:5-6
One legacy I don’t want to mark future generations with is…
To keep that from happening, one thing I need to do is….