Ramifications of our actions on future generations

By Johnny O. Trail — People tend to show off what they have.  When I took General Business in high school, we talked about a concept called “conspicuous consumption.”  Conspicuous consumption is defined as “expenditure on or consumption of luxuries on a lavish scale in an attempt to enhance one’s prestige.” (Bing online dictionary). The idea is that a person purchases or possesses certain items to show off their wealth.

Maybe the Judahite king, Hezekiah, wanted to show off this wealth when he entertained certain emissaries from Babylon. Isaiah 39:2 says,

“And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.”

One learns through a study of the Old Testament that his willingness to show off his wealth dooms Judah.

The foolishness of showing off

When one considers the future of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians, it becomes apparent that there were things Hezekiah did not consider.  When Isaiah learns of his foolish behavior he offers a foreboding, menacing prophecy.  Isaiah 39:5-7 reveals,

“Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

Invading Babylonians would eventually take people, possessions, and wealth away from Judah.

Satan knows

By showing these emissaries the contents of his treasure room and the wealth of his nation, he opened himself up to foreign interest and conquest.  Satan knows about the things you treasure.  Just as a predator studies his query, Satan knows about your strength and weaknesses.  1 Peter 5:8-9 says,

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:  Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

Satan is seeking an opportune moment to take advantage of you.

Since Satan is aware of our treasures, we must make sure that our treasures are “otherworldly” in nature.  Matthew 6:19-21 says,

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

If Christ is our treasure above all else, Satan does not have a foothold in our lives.

No concern for the future

While Hezekiah did not have to worry about problems in his age, his comment reflects no concern for future events.  Isaiah 39:8 says, “Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.”  His comments are somewhat reminiscent of “appeasement” policy.

Just as Hezekiah hoped for an appeasement of tensions with the Babylonians in his age, we sometimes try to act in a moderate way when it comes to our Christianity and worldliness.  James 4:4 says,

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

One cannot have one foot in the world and one in service to God and expect to please the Master.  Matthew 6:24 states,

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

The actions of Hezekiah, in part, doomed future generations of people from Judah to the Babylonian yoke of bondage and domination.  Sadly, we do not often consider the ramifications of our actions upon future generations of people.  As a marriage and family therapist, we talk about issues that sometimes originate with families of origin.

Dysfunctional patterns

It seems ironic, but families tend to repeat certain behaviors.  If one comes from a family where abuse is present, they tend to marry into an abusive situation.  If one comes from a family where alcoholism is present, they tend to marry into a similar situation.  To these people, it seems “normal.”  This is not to say that one cannot change their circumstances, but this is what tends to happen—people continue to repeat dysfunctional patterns.

While we are not inevitably doomed to commit the same mistakes of previous generations (Ezekiel 18.20), every person suffers from the consequences of sin.  Ultimately, God would use the Babylonians as a chastening rod against Judah for their sins.  Ezra 5:12 says,

“But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.”

Their intrigue over Judah might have been strengthened by their knowledge of the treasures that existed in Jerusalem.

Just as Hezekiah was not concerned about the future, many people in our age take no though about what comes next.  The epistle of James points this out.  James 4:13-15 says,

“Go to now, ye that say, To day or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

Eternal destination

Contrary to this reasoning, we should be concerned about the future for a multitude of reasons.  Our eternal destination hangs in the balance of the decisions we make today.  The way we raise our children will have an impact on the church and our society.  Moreover, the way we train them will have implications upon where they will spend their eternity.

While Hezekiah did some good things in his lifetime,  he made some serious errors in judgement by showing Babylonian emissaries his treasure.  We should learn from his mistakes and not create similar problems in our lives.


For more future thinking about eternal destination, see Richard Mansel’s book, The Most Important Question.

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