“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” – Exodus 20:4
When we were raising our kids back in the ’70’s and 80’s the parenting method de jour was centered around experiencing “natural consequences” which many child psychologists advocated as the best way for children learn the difference between good and bad behavior. Put your hand on a hot stove, for example, and by getting burned you’ll remember not to ever do that again, that was the theory. Made sense to us, so like many parents during that era we adopted the idea, or at least we included it in our arsenal of parenting methods, along with a mix of others including – heaven forbid!! – the occasional dose of corporal punishment. Right or wrong, somehow by the grace of God our kids turned out all right anyway.
In the words of the late American writer and politician Harry Browne, “Everyone will experience consequences of his own acts. If his acts are right, he’ll get good consequences; if they’re not, he’ll suffer for it.” If he is correct, then understanding consequences is not only important for young children, but equally important for adults. The decisions we make, the actions we take, how we respond, what we say and how we say it, everything we do creates consequences – good or bad, immediate or long term. And consequences not only impact us, many times they also impact others around us.
In presenting the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai God included a warning about the depth of consequences that will occur for obedience versus disobedience. The iniquities of the father, He explained, will be visited upon the children into the third and fourth generations, but those who are righteous will be blessed to a thousand generations (per my own interpretation and paraphrase of Exodus 20:4). That may not mean that God is going to necessarily zap us for our disobedience, but one way or another we will likely suffer the “natural consequences” from it.
“Everyone will experience consequences of his own acts;” and those who have learned to pause and consider such consequences – good or bad, immediate or long term – before choosing to act, they are the ones on the cutting edge of wisdom. We should pay attention to them.