2. Negative Generational Influences
As part of the giving of the 10 Commandments, Moses told Israel that sins and their affect could be passed on the succeeding generations (Exodus 20:4-5). This does not mean that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors nor does it mean that we don’t have the power and responsibility to make right choices today. However, there is no doubt that behaviour ‘tendencies’ can be passed on from generation to generation, for good or bad, and the enemy likes to take advantages of this.
Our sin affects our family and others (see the story of Achan in Joshua 7). An example of this belief is also found in the story where the disciples assumed that a man born blind may have experienced this as a punishment for his parent’s sin (see John 9:2).
Here's an amazing historical example - A Tale of Two Families ...
Around the beginning of the 20th century, a study wasdone on two well-known American families of the 19th century.
Max Jukes was an atheist who married a godless woman. Some 560 descendants were traced. Of these:
- 310 died as paupers.
- 150 became criminals, 7 of them murderers.
- 100 were known to be drunkards.
- More than half the women were prostitutes.
- In all, the descendants cost the U.S. government 1¼ million 19 century dollars.
Here we clearly see the possible roots of destructive behaviours in families. What negative influence through the bloodline – for those who hate God!
The good news is that the blessings of God are also passed on from parents to the next generation. What a wonderful heritage and inheritance children can receive from godly parents.
Jonathan Edwards was a contemporary of Max Jukes. He was a committed Christian and married a godly young lady. Some 1394 descendants were traced. Of these:
- 295 graduated from college, from whom 13 became college presidents and 65 became professors.
- 3 were elected as U.S.senators, 3 as State Governors and others sent as ministers to foreign countries.
- 30 were judges.
- 100 were lawyers, one the dean of an outstanding law school.
- 56 practised as physicians, one was the dean of a medical school.
- 75 became officers in the army and navy.
- 100 were well-known missionaries, preachers and prominent authors.
- Another 80 held some form of public office - 3 were mayors of large cities.
- One was the comptroller of the U.S.treasury and another became a vice-president of the United States.
- Not one of the descendants of the Edwards family was a liability to the government.
Generational influences are very real and very powerful – for good or for evil! However, they can be broken. The good news is that no matter what your family background, you can start a new generation! Through Jesus Christ we can begin a new godly generation no matter what our family tree is like (2 Cor.5:17).
My own family is an example of this (see my dad's recent biography). We can ‘set up’ the next generation for success in God, although we cannot make their choices for them nor be responsible for those choices.
P.S. The findings related to Max Jukes and Jonathan Edwards have been published in many forms (see for example a sermon about Jonathan Edwards by Leonard Ravenhill), although I discovered recently that this story has been questioned (see Jukes-Edwards Story). Nevertheless, the principle does remain true.