The Sins of the Father
So Isaac settled in Gerar. When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say, “My wife,” thinking, “lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance. Genesis 26:6-7
Modern medicine accepts that addiction has a strong genetic component, contributing about 50% of the risk for developing an addiction. From studies on twins separated at birth, it seems that if the parents struggled with chemicals, the offspring are 50% more likely than the general population to struggle as well. There are, of course environmental factors involved too – growing up in a using environment makes one much more likely to use. These factors aren’t the whole story. I didn’t have drug addiction in my genetics or in my childhood, but I found drugs. Still, we know that genetic inheritance and childhood experiences play a profound role in the genesis of an addiction.
So, when one of my children recently turned 21, I had to be painfully honest. When I turned 21, I got really drunk. I regret it. I was developing a problem with chemicals that eventually consumed my life. You have my genes. You are at risk. Even if you don’t get addicted, one poor choice can have devastating consequences. Think about what you want your life to be and make good choices. I know that as I have struggled, my children are likely to struggle.
This principle is displayed in today’s passage. In it, God told Isaac to settle in Gerar. Isaac obeyed, but he didn’t completely trust in God’s protection. Like his father, he feared for his own life because of his beautiful wife. So, also like his father, he schemed to call Rebekah his sister. From the story, it’s apparent that the sins of the father – faithlessness, cowardice, deceit – were passed from Abraham to Isaac.
What’s the lesson for us? First, as children, we must be aware of the flaws we may have inherited. How many times have we found ourselves doing something our parents did, that we promised ourselves we’d never do? Second, as parents, we must recognize the profound role we play in our children’s life choices. We can’t change their genetics, but we can be honest with them about our flaws and we can determine the environment in which our kids develop. We can choose to live in such a way that puts them, not at risk, but at an advantage. We can model for them the kind of behavior that we’d be proud for them to one day display.
Our kids, whether we like it or not, are at risk for living as we have lived – for bad and for good. Daily then, we must ask ourselves what kind of lives are we passing on to them. We give to our children our failures and our successes.