Don’t let economic despair become an excuse for sloth

God told Ezekiel the prophet to forbid what had become a common phrase at the time:

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of children are set on edge’? As long as I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb will no longer be used by you in Israel.’” Ezekiel 18:1-3 ESV)

This text has provoked all sorts of theological debates about eternal salvation and the justice of God’s covenant. People have wondered if God is announcing a new way of dealing with people. I strongly doubt it. In fact, most discussions of this passage seem to ignore what is going on. It is actually a simple and straightforward experience that many people, including secular people, have to deal with. Moreover, it applies directly to the temptation we face in an economy that has been damaged by forces beyond our control.

Our parents spoil us.

In Ezekiel’s day, the land of Israel was invaded because of God’s judgment and the Israelites were deported. It was the end result of generations of people committing grave sins and refusing to repent when the prophets warned them of national disaster from God.

So now the national disaster victim generation blamed their parents.

Weren’t they right?

Yes, there was an element of truth in their assertion. But they used this statement to ignore the call to repent of sin. They blamed their parents for not repenting, yet used the behavior of their ancestors to justify their own refusal to repent. But, as history and Daniel and Esther show, even the economic devastation of exile did not end God’s mercy and love. There was still time, while they lived, to avoid another disaster. God could preserve people by His own judgment.

So when Christians face an economic catastrophe brought on by generations of bad decisions, how should they respond? Give up or get to work? I hope the answer is obvious!

It’s easy for people to use past real (or imagined!) bad behavior to justify later bad behavior. For example, it is easy to use the economic scarcity caused by irresponsible debt to justify more irresponsible debt. When Americans begin to believe that their generation will be worse off than the previous generation, that belief can be debilitating. It can cause paralysis, as well as justifications for this paralysis.

The Bible encourages people to trust God and to correct their lives in accordance with His revealed will. To assume that it is “too late” has a false appearance of humility that hides a will to continue to follow one’s own path.

It may be too late to have the life you expected, but that’s no excuse for engaging in behavior that will make the future even worse. And taking such steps can be a leap of faith. May God grant it to all of us.

Mark Horne has served as a pastor and worked as a writer. He is the author of Victory According to Mark: An Exposition of the Second Gospel, Why Baptize Babies?JRR Tolkienand Solomon says: Guidelines for Young Men. He is the executive director of Logo Sapiens Communications and the author of SolomonSays.net.

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