One time there was this young father who would come home after a hard day’s work, he’d eat dinner, and then he and his little son would go for a walk. And every day when they passed by the house of a certain neighbor, the man would pick up a rock and throw it at the neighbor’s house as his young son watched. This went on for years from the time the little boy was toddler. Every day the boy and his dad went for a walk, and every day the dad would throw a rock at that neighbor’s house.
One day, when the little boy was about six, he asked his dad about it. “Daddy.”the little boy said, “Why do you throw rocks at that house?”
“Because.” the dad answered, “I hate the people who live there! I hate them all!” And that was all the dad ever said. He never talked about it again. He never told his son why he hated his neighbor so much. Their daily routine continued.
About a year later, the little boy was out riding his bicycle around the neighborhood. He happened to ride by the neighbor’s house. His dad was still at work, it was early afternoon. He stopped his bike and got off. He remembered all the years that he and dad had walked by that house and he remembered all the times his dad would stop and pick up a rock and throw it at the house. He didn’t understand why, but the little boy felt an anger welling up inside of him. Not once in all those years did the father ever encourage his son to throw a rock at the house, but the little boy figured if his dad hated the people who lived there, it must be for good reason. His dad was never wrong! And since dad hated those people so much, the little boy decided to hate them too. So of his own will, without ever being told to do so and without really knowing why he was doing it, the little boy picked up a rock and threw it the neighbor’s house. In that moment, the dad’s hatred had passed to his son.
In that fictional account, the dad passed a legacy to his son, a legacy of hatred.The little boy had watched his father express his hatred for the neighbor until one day, the father’s hatred became the little boy’s hatred. Whether we realize it or not, we will leave a legacy to our children. It should be the hope of every Christian that our legacy will be one that reflects our faith in Jesus Christ. But if we’re not careful, the legacy we leave our children will be whatever vice, prejudice, hatred, or attitude they see in us. To our sons and daughters, we are far more transparent than we realize. Even though we’ve been saved and the Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, there is still a battle going on between the flesh and the spirit.
I’m not questioning anyone’s parenting skills. I’m not telling anyone how to raise their kids or suggesting that we must live perfect lives in front of our kids because none of us can do that. We’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes. And some days are more of a challenge than others. I’m simply saying our kids and grandkids will learn much from us just by watching and listening, and we may not always be aware of it. Remember Jacob from the book of Genesis? He was a deceiver who in turn was deceived by his own sons. Eli the high priest from the book of 1 Samuel had no regard for the gifts the people offered to the Lord, and neither did his sons. David’s sons may have learned a thing or two from their father’s behavior. And then there was the succession of wicked kings over the northern kingdom of Israel. Many of those kings had watched their fathers in action.
There were some exceptions. On the plus side, Saul’s son Jonathan didn’t share his father’s hatred for David. But on the down side, Samuel’s sons did not follow the Lord as he had. The exceptions are few and we shouldn’t count on being an exception. While there’s no guarantee our kids and grandkids will emulate a God honoring lifestyle, it’s almost a cinch that they WILL imitate any ungodly behavior or attitudes they witness. That’s the sin nature at work. Even so, if we make the commitment to live for Christ and to live in a way that honors His name, the odds will be in our favor. Sure, we’ll mess up at times. But our children will be far more likely to love their neighbors as they love themselves, than to pick up rocks and throw them at their neighbor’s houses!