“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate [disobey] me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
When I first began studying the bible, I found this verse to be very troubling. If God was Love, why would he punish me for something my ancestor did? While I am not a theologian, I have come to suspect that this verse and others like it may actually be a warning against the consequences of sin. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19
In other words when Adam disobeyed God, man fundamentally changed—bringing death and disease into the human experience. God does not necessarily punish us directly. Our actions bring about consequences, whether good or bad, which affect not only us personally but those around us and the generations to come. These consequences are in accordance with the laws of nature designed by God, albeit currently in a fallen state.
Did you know that your environment and what you eat can affect your genetic expression, and even that of your descendents? This also means that what your grandparents ate and experienced may affect you today. The reason is found in the epigenome*, in other words “above the gene.”
“It is like the software to DNA’s hardware, and is comprised of chemical marks and switches that lie along the length of the double helix and help turn the expression of certain genes on or off. New data indicates that the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer is influenced by persistent adaptations to prenatal and early postnatal nutrition.
In fact, only a single genetic or epigenetic event is required to alter the function of an imprinted gene. This genomic imprinting plays a vital role in the genesis of human diseases and behavioral disorders.”
The implications of these findings are staggering, in that once again science supports Holy Scripture and the writings of Ellen White. The decisions we make with regard to our bodies, education, environment, social circles, and spiritual life directly affect our children’s chances for success or failure in this world as well as God’s kingdom. When we willfully disobey the requirements of God, we separate ourselves from him and hurt our unborn generations. On the other hand, there is hope:
“And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:18
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
1 Corinthians 6: 19-20
The Bible calls us to be good stewards of our time, money, body and environment. Not only because we belong to God, but because it is beneficial. He loves us, and through his word, teaches us how to thrive. When it comes to health, people often don’t consider the gravity of their choices because “it’s their body” and “it doesn’t concern others.” Science now indicates otherwise. It’s something to think about seriously, because we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.
“The unhealthful practices of past generations affect the children and youth of today. Mental inability, physical weakness, disordered nerves, and unnatural cravings are transmitted as a legacy from parents to children.” E.G. White
All things considered, it is very important to remember that this is not the complete picture, but only a small part. However, it is food for thought…
*An epigenome consists of a record of the chemical changes to the DNA and histone proteins of an organism; these changes can be passed down to an organism’s offspring. Learn more>>
The Ghost in your Genes – BBC Horizon: (5 part series)
“It may get to a point where they realize that you live your life as sort of a guardian of your genome. You have to be careful of it because it’s not just you. You can’t be selfish. You can’t say I’ll smoke or do whatever, because I’m prepared to die early. You’re also looking after it for your children and grandchildren.”
Additional Resources for Epigenetics: