God's Message to me:
"What do you people mean by going around the country repeating the saying, The parents ate green apples, The children got stomachache?
"As sure as I'm the living God, you're not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer.
Every soul - man, woman, child - belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another's.
"Imagine a person who lives well, treating others fairly, keeping good relationships -
doesn't eat at the pagan shrines, doesn't worship the idols so popular in Israel, doesn't seduce a neighbor's spouse, doesn't indulge in casual sex,
doesn't bully anyone, doesn't pile up bad debts, doesn't steal, doesn't refuse food to the hungry, doesn't refuse clothing to the ill-clad,
doesn't exploit the poor, doesn't live by impulse and greed, doesn't treat one person better than another,
But lives by my statutes and faithfully honors and obeys my laws. This person who lives upright and well shall live a full and true life. Decree of God, the Master.
"But if this person has a child who turns violent and murders and goes off and does any of these things,
even though the parent has done none of them - eats at the pagan shrines, seduces his neighbor's spouse,
bullies the weak, steals, piles up bad debts, admires idols, commits outrageous obscenities,
exploits the poor " - do you think this person, the child, will live? Not a chance! Because he's done all these vile things, he'll die. And his death will be his own fault.
"Now look: Suppose that this child has a child who sees all the sins done by his parent. The child sees them, but doesn't follow in the parent's footsteps -
doesn't eat at the pagan shrines, doesn't worship the popular idols of Israel, doesn't seduce his neighbor's spouse,
doesn't bully anyone, doesn't refuse to loan money, doesn't steal, doesn't refuse food to the hungry, doesn't refuse to give clothes to the ill-clad,
doesn't live by impulse and greed, doesn't exploit the poor. He does what I say; he performs my laws and lives by my statutes.
But the parent will die for what the parent did, for the sins of - oppressing the weak, robbing brothers and sisters, doing what is dead wrong in the community.
"Do you need to ask, 'So why does the child not share the guilt of the parent?'
The soul that sins is the soul that dies. The child does not share the guilt of the parent, nor the parent the guilt of the child. If you live upright and well, you get the credit; if you live a wicked life, you're guilty as charged.
"But a wicked person who turns his back on that life of sin and keeps all my statutes, living a just and righteous life, he'll live, really live. He won't die.
I won't keep a list of all the things he did wrong. He will live.
Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn't it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right - really living?
"The same thing goes for a good person who turns his back on an upright life and starts sinning, plunging into the same vile obscenities that the wicked person practices. Will this person live? I don't keep a list of all the things this person did right, like money in the bank he can draw on. Because of his defection, because he accumulates sin, he'll die.
"Do I hear you saying, 'That's not fair! God's not fair!'?
If a good person turns away from his good life and takes up sinning, he'll die for it. He'll die for his own sin.
Likewise, if a bad person turns away from his bad life and starts living a good life, a fair life, he will save his life.
Because he faces up to all the wrongs he's committed and puts them behind him, he will live, really live. He won't die.
"And yet Israel keeps on whining, 'That's not fair! God's not fair.' "I'm not fair, Israel? You're the ones who aren't fair.
"The upshot is this, Israel: I'll judge each of you according to the way you live. So turn around! Turn your backs on your rebellious living so that sin won't drag you down.
Clean house. No more rebellions, please. Get a new heart! Get a new spirit! Why would you choose to die, Israel?
I take no pleasure in anyone's death. Decree of God, the Master. "Make a clean break! Live!"
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)