by Dr. Jack Hyles
“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”
“But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”
II Kings 14:6
“But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin.”
II Chronicles 25:4
“In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.”
Jeremiah 31:29, 30
In Bible days, they had a little proverb they often used: “The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. “ Jeremiah said that this statement was not true. He said that whoever eats the sour grapes is the one whose teeth are set on edge.
“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.”
Every man in the world has some light concerning Jesus Christ. Everybody on the face of the earth can look up to the sky and be told that there is Somebody Who made them. If a person dies without Christ, he goes to Hell. How can a person go to Hell who has never heard about Christ? Because he rejects the light he has. He looks at the stars, moon and sun, but does not accept the light declared by the heavens.
The heavens say there is a God, and anyone who does not believe it is rejecting the light he has. If he accepts the light that he has been given, God will give him more light. As long as he continues to accept what light he has been given, he will continue to receive more light until someday he hears the Gospel. You can go to Hell without ever hearing the Gospel because you reject the light that you have. That reveals some things to me about God’s expectations of man.
1. Every man is responsible for himself. It is not your fault if anybody goes to Hell. You are not going to answer to God for anybody that goes to Hell. Every man is responsible for the light he has received.
2. Some are more responsible than others. Revelation 20:13 says that at the great white throne judgment “…and they were judged every man according to their works.” There will be degrees of punishment in Hell according to the works of a man. Some are more accountable than others.
“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to Hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”
Matthew 11: 21-24
God is saying that Sodom will be treated better in the judgment than Bethsaida and Chorazin because they had more light than did Sodom. I wonder how America is going to be treated in the judgment. If you die and go to Hell from America, you will suffer more than a person who died and went to Hell from the city of Sodom, which was destroyed by fire. Every man is responsible for himself, but some are more responsible than others. If you go to Hell, I am not responsible for your going to Hell.
What about the people who fail to warn someone about Hell? Are they not responsible for that person going to Hell? They are responsible for not telling them or warning them. The lost person is responsible for going to Hell because he rejected the light that he had. Ezekiel said that if you see your brother in his sin and do not warn him, his blood is required at your hands, but he will pay for his sin. Every man that goes to Hell chooses to go to Hell. The sin that you and I commit is the sin of not warning the lost. That means if you never win a soul, you are still supposed to go soul winning. People sometimes say to me, “Brother Hyles, I went out soul winning, and I witnessed to ten people and did not have any success at all.” Yes, you did because you obeyed the command of God. The Bible says our job is to warn them, but if we do not warn them, we are not responsible for their going to Hell. We are responsible only for not warning them. I am not going to answer to God for someone going to Hell; I am going to answer to God for not warning that someone of Hell.
Let me apply this to Christian people. If a child goes bad, it is his own fault. It is not the fault of an unsaved parent. It is not the fault of his being molested. It is his own fault for going bad. If you were molested, the one who molested you will answer to God for his sin. You will answer to God for not turning out right. You will not stand before God some day and give an account for someone else’s sins. You will give an account for your own sins. If I do not preach the truth, I will stand before God for not preaching the truth. I will not give an account to God for the sins of those who were under that preaching. If we never warn you, you still have a conscience. If we never warn you, there is still a Bible. We are not responsible for someone turning out bad. We are responsible for not warning them. Actually, our sin is that of disobedience.
In this day and age, everybody is a “victim.” You say, “I am a victim of my environment. I am a victim of my parents. I am a victim of my church. I am a victim of my preacher. I am a victim of society.” No, you are not either! You are responsible for yourself, and those of us who teach you and train you are not going to answer to God because you did not turn out right. You are going to answer to God for that. If we do not train you, we will answer to God for being disobedient. Now, that means that I am responsible to warn you, but as far as responsibility is concerned, these two are not related.
“The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
The book of Ezekiel was written while the Jews were in captivity. They were slaves in the land of Babylon. They were blaming the sins of their fathers for their being in Babylon. They were in Babylon because they sinned, but they tried to blame their fathers. God said, “As I live…ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.” God said their teeth were set on edge because of the sour grapes they ate! “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The one who sins is responsible. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
A lady who is not a good wife blames her father because he molested her. No, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” God does not put reservations on His commandments. God does not say, “Thou shalt not steal unless you live in the ghettos.” God does not say, “Thou shalt not kill unless you have been depressed.” God does not say “Thou shalt not commit adultery unless you have grown up in a family that has been immoral.” You are going to give an account of yourself to God.
“Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”
Ezekiel 18:19, 20
God told His people that their proverb was wrong, and they were not to use it again. God said that the soul that sinneth shall die. This entire country is built on the misconception that we can blame someone else for our sins or for the conditions our sins bring into our lives. God said that the one who was going to die is the one who has sinned. The smartest and most beautiful being in the universe other than God Himself came and tempted Adam and Eve. The Bible says, “…by one man sin entered into the world.” Eve blamed the Devil, but God placed the blame right back on Adam! God did not say that it was by Satan, but that “…by one man sin entered into the world.”
It does not matter how many enticements to sin you encounter; you are going to answer for your sin. If a young person goes to a party where a group of kids are drinking alcohol, and that young person decides to take a drink, it was not because of the peer pressure of the others that he took a drink. It is because that teenager chose to take a drink. That young person must answer for that sin, not those who may have pressured him into sinning. They will answer for their own sin.
Parents are not responsible for whether or not their children turn out right. They are responsible to train them. That is what it says in the Bible. The child himself is responsible for his decisions as to whether to do right or to do wrong. Parents are responsible to obey God by training their children. I have parents come to me brokenhearted over something that has happened in the life of their child. Perhaps an unmarried daughter has gotten pregnant, or a son has gone out and done something horrible. Those parents are carrying guilt for the choices made by the child. Those parents are responsible only for whether or not they taught that child what was right and wrong. The parents are in no way responsible for the choices made by that child.
Parents are not responsible for a child who grows up with no character. Parents are responsible for not teaching their child good character. Children must give an account for themselves if they lack character. In other words, the parent will not give an account for the child.
Young people who are not properly trained are still supposed to turn out right. If their mom and dad never read them a verse in the Bible, if they never prayed for them one time, or if they never took them to Sunday school and church, the young people are still responsible for turning out right. Parents with a daughter who gets pregnant out of wedlock are not responsible for the choices that daughter made. They have not failed if she does wrong; they have failed only if they did not teach her to do right. Her choices are her responsibility, and she will be help responsible for them. She is responsible for getting pregnant. Parents, you are responsible for training, and if you get punished for anything, it will not be because she is pregnant. It will be because you did not train her. You are going to answer to God for not training children, but not for their messing up their lives with their own choices. Whether you have done your best or not, you are not responsible for the results. If you have not done your best, you are responsible for the sin of wrong input but not the output.
3. The degree of responsibility is determined by the degree of light. You can make it easier for people to do right or easier to do wrong, but the final decision is theirs. Your sin is not in their turning out bad, but in not training them. We need to quit putting the blame on somebody other than ourselves for the decisions we make. If your parents have committed any sin, it is not that you do not have any character. They are not responsible for your having character. You are responsible for your having character. They are responsible for teaching you right. If they do not teach you right, you still have enough light to know it is wrong to lie, cheat, not work for your living, or be lazy. You do not have to be taught to work.
Anybody knows to be on time, be honest, be pure, or be decent. It is not your daddy’s fault if you do not have character. He will not answer for your sin of not having character. He will answer for his sin of not training you. If you are not a good worker, it is not your parent’s fault. If you are not a good wife, it is not because you were molested. God puts no conditions on His commandments. Look in the mirror, and you will find the person to blame if you have no character. If you are not a good wife, husband, father or mother, it is no one’s fault but yours.
The final decisions in our lives are ours. If a vacuum salesman comes to your home and puts on a high-pressure sales presentation, it is your decision whether or not you choose to buy his vacuum cleaner. You did not buy that vacuum cleaner because he was a high-pressure salesman. You bought that vacuum cleaner because you chose to buy the vacuum cleaner. The responsibility for your actions rests upon you.
You do not riot and loot because of your environment. You do so because you chose to do so. Those people in Los Angeles who rioted and looted their city did so because they chose to steal. It is not the fault of the people who mistreated them. The people who mistreated them will answer to God for mistreating them, but not for the looting. You cannot blame your environment for the choices you make. We live in a generation that believes everybody is a victim. You are not a victim of circumstances. You are a victim of yourself. Parents, the thing you want to do is to do your best. If you do your best, then you have no sin to answer to at all. If you do your best, that is all God said to do. If you did not do your best, you still are not going to answer for other’s mistakes and choices.
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”
The key word here is the word “visit.” That means if you sin as a father, your sins are visited upon your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, but they do not have to invite your sins into their lives. My father was a drunkard. As long as he lived in our house, we had the smell of liquor or the liquor itself in our house. I can still see my mother taking a bottle of whiskey out in the backyard and breaking it on a rock. I have never tasted any kind of alcoholic beverage. If I had become a drunkard, it would not be my daddy’s fault; it would be my fault for choosing to drink.
There are many pastors around this country who think they have failed because they did not have all the success others have had. If a man of God stands behind the pulpit of God, is filled with the Spirit and preaches the truth of God, he is not a failure. I talked to a man in my church who teaches a Sunday school class. He has three children, and not one of them turned out right. He faithfully had them in all the Sunday school departments—the nursery, the primaries, the juniors, and all the way through. He taught them the Bible, he took them soul winning, he loved them, and he spent time with them. He came to me and tried to resign from teaching Sunday school. His reason was because of the fact that his children had not turned out as he had trained them. The children made their choices. He had done what he was commanded to do. It was not that man’s fault that those three children made the choices they did. It was their own fault.
Anything that God commands you to do, you can will to do it. If you are an unhappy person and do not rejoice, it is not because your mother was an unhappy person; it is because you have chosen to be unhappy. God commands you to rejoice. When you are not rejoicing, you are disobeying the command of God. You could do it if you chose to do it. God says to be content. If you are not content, it is because you have chosen not to be content, not because you inherited the genes from your parents. They may have handed it down to you but you did not have to reach out and take it. They may be responsible for handing it down to you, but you are responsible for taking it.
Realize that you draw a line around the sin that people commit. They may lead you toward wrong, but they are responsible only for leading. Your father may be guilty of the sin of leading you toward wrong, but if you do wrong, the sin of doing it is yours. He is not going to answer to God for your doing it. He is going to answer to God for leading you to it. We ought to do the very best we can to obey God, get the Gospel out, train our children, train our young people, preach the truth, and try to make our young people become good, solid Christian young people, but if they do not, it is not our fault whether we train them or not. If we do not train them, it is our sin for not training them. If they turn out wrong, it is their sin.
As an older preacher, Billy Sunday, stood at the pulpit to preach when somebody put a newspaper in front of him. The headline of that paper told about his son, Billy Sunday, Jr., who had been arrested in a bar for being drunk. Was Billy Sunday responsible for that son drinking that liquor? No! Billy Sunday was perhaps the best Christian of his day. The only thing he could be responsible for was not obeying God in teaching his son. I happen to think that he did teach his son. When the judgment comes, that son will answer to God for his own decision to drink that liquor. All we can do is do our best.
Have you ever noticed in the Old Testament some of the greatest Christians did not have much success? Jeremiah preached a lifetime and did not have very many people converted. Isaiah was stoned. These men were the great prophets of the Old Testament. God sent some men just to warn. Was it Jeremiah’s fault because Israel went into captivity? No! He warned them. Was it Ezekiel’s fault because Israel went into captivity? No! He warned them. Was it Isaiah’s fault because Israel went to Babylon? No! He warned them. If these prophets had disobeyed and not warned them, the people that chose to sin are still responsible for their sin. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
The sin I have committed is not partaking of the sin that you committed. The sin that I have committed stands on its own. You will be responsible for what you do. There is not one person who can point to other people and say that it is their fault for something he chose to do. We are all accountable for the choices we make.