The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. Numbers 14:18
When Scripture talks about “the sins of the father” (which is often in the Bible) it sounds – in some passages – like God is punishing people for what their ancestors did. In other passages it sounds like God will not punish people for what their forefathers and foremothers did. And in still other passages, those words sound more like prophesy than punishment.
When parents make poor judgements, their children often suffer for it. When grandparents leave a legacy of greed and deception, the next generations often feel generational effects. Trauma specialists say that – when children are traumatized by “the sins of their parents” their DNA actually shifts.
The effects of the generational sin of enslaving people in the United States continues to show up in the fourth and fifth and twelfth generations of the children of historically enslaved people.
Now we (White People) might say . . .
- I’ve never enslaved people.
- My ancestors never enslaved people.
But the truth is that our Founding Fathers built this nation on a system of enslaving people who didn’t look like them.
- 40 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence enslaved people.
- 10 of the first 12 Presidents enslaved people.
- 2 of the 4 Presidents on Mt. Rushmore enslaved people.
Even if your family never enslaved people, our nation’s Founding Fathers and we who look like them have structurally benefited for hundreds of years.
And now we owe for it.
We not only owe for years of unpaid wages throughout years of slavery, we owe for the financial ramifications of failing to offer Black and Brown military veterans the GI Bill, for red-lining, for school segregation, for poll taxes, for two sets of law enforcement practices and sentencing guidelines. We owe for substandard healthcare and substandard schools and substandard parks and recreation resources.
We owe for the everyday sins of 2020. Please read this by former US professional soccer player Lauren Holiday. Lauren – who is White – writes:
Every white person in America owes.
It will be painful and it will probably be bloody. People who are still wealthy because their great-grandparents and great-great-great grandparents enslaved people whose labor made them wealthy in tobacco and sugar cane and railroads will not want to part with their wealth. We will not want to share our structural White privilege and our everyday White privileges.
There are many White people who would rather die than pay reparations.
May God have mercy upon us because most of us (White People) would rather die than pay reparations.
But consider this – those of us who are White People who also say we love Jesus:
The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.
It feels energizing to see this not as “punishment” but as that justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Don’t we want this if God mandates it?
It’s something to consider long after Fourth of July Weekend. (I’m talking to you, Church, in love.)
Image of the national monument Mt. Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota on the land of the Lakota Sioux Native Americans.