“The fathers eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge”?
Apparently this was, at one time, a common saying in Israel: “The fathers eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge” (emphasis mine). In other words, the people were saying to themselves: ‘The bad things that are happening to us are our parents’ fault. The chaos that defines our culture; the difficulty we are in; the national strife that has befallen us … they are all the fault of previous generations.’ And, by implication, this proverb also had the effect of saying: ‘These times of difficulty are not our fault. We are doing right … and suffering, undeservedly, for our parents’ mistakes.’
Sound familiar? It sounds, to me, like a typical counseling session:
Patient: ‘Doc, my teeth are set on edge! Do you know what I mean? Everything in life seems bitter and out of control. I can’t control my temper. I eat like a pig. I get sucked into internet porn. I am not sure what to do with myself.’
Psychiatrist: ‘Let’s talk about your past. Your problem, in all likelihood, is that your father ate sour grapes. Your father probably warped you. And your mother probably made you feel guilty all your life. And that is why you can’t control your anger, your eating habits, or your sexual desires. That is why your teeth are set on edge.’
Most of us don’t even need to lie on anyone’s couch to believe these kinds of sentiments. It’s human nature, isn’t it, to blame other people for the messes we find ourselves in. And, while I am not here to deny that some of our parents, our predecessors, and even previous generations of Christians have left messes behind for us to wade through … it is true that most of our problems originate a great deal closer to home. And that is what God was saying to the people of Israel.
Your parents may have influenced you in some terrible ways … and scarred you deeply. But they are not the ones blowing up at your kids. You are. The culture may have put lewd things in front of you all your life, tainting your memory and your sex drive. But the culture is not making you click on that porn site. That is your decision. The church you grew up in may have been light on the Bible and left you stunted in your spiritual growth … but that doesn’t mean you can’t play catch up now.
Again, I do not want to minimize the scars and difficulties that others have left for you. But I do want to point out that your sin problems are just that … your sin problems. And mine are mine. I can’t change the past or the bad influences that may have affected my life. But I can do something about the present. I can walk in the power of the Spirit today. And when I don’t, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.