It was a beautiful sunny evening. All of my work was done, Betsy was home from school, our cooler was packed, and we were off to the park. We were all looking forward to spend this lovely evening grilling some hotdogs, splashing in the water, enjoying the breeze off the lake, and just spending time as a family.
But like an unexpected rear-end collision, all our plans for a fun evening were smashed in a single moment. As we were carrying our cooler and towels and toys toward the picnic tables, a couple of my kids acted up… they broke some of our family no-no’s.
Their actions took less than two seconds. It was just between two of them. But the entire family was affected. We turned around and headed home. No hotdogs on the open grill, no beach time, no after-dinner walk on the trails.
Two made a mistake, but all suffered because actions have consequences.
Isaac Newton said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We often think of this when, for instance, in a game of billiards the cue ball hits another ball. The energy from the cue ball is transferred to the other ball, moving it in the direction it was struck. Sometimes we might be tempted to believe that the only two balls affected were the cue ball and the ball that was struck. But that is not correct. Since those two balls have now been moved to another position on the table, their new positions now affected the entire table—the entire game is now different because of action and reaction.
There are consequences for our actions. And almost always those consequences are felt by someone other than the one who acted. Sometimes the consequences are pleasant and sometimes they are painful or even disastrous.
In Old Testament history, we see good consequences. King David was a righteous man, one who loved God and obeyed God’s commands. About 300 years later King Hezekiah sat on the same throne of Israel. When the Assyrian army was headed toward Jerusalem, Hezekiah prayed and asked for God’s help. God responded, “I promise that the king of Assyria won’t get into Jerusalem, or shoot an arrow into the city, or even surround it and prepare to attack. … I will protect it for Myself and for My servant David.”
And we see bad consequences. There was a wicked king of Judah named Manasseh. He is not only one of Judah’s longest-reigning kings, but he is also widely regarded as Judah’s most wicked king. Yet in his lifetime, his kingdom seemed to prosper. And even though his grandson Josiah turned away from evil and turned toward God like no other king ever had done before, just four years after his death Jerusalem fell. King Jehoiachin was defeated and all of Judah was carried off into exile by Nebuchadnezzar as a consequence of Manasseh’s sinful behavior.
Our kids that acted up wrote notes of apology which they read to the family (as we ate our hotdogs at home) and we all forgave them. And we had a nice evening playing around the house. But the evening still had the tinge of regret for what could have been.
Our choices today will have consequences tomorrow. Our actions always affect more than just ourselves—they affect everyone close to us. The people in Hezekiah’s day were grateful for the blessed consequences of David’s right choices. The people in Jehoiachin’s day were grieved for the disastrous consequences of Manasseh’s wrong choices.
What about you? What will your descendants feel about the consequences they are experiencing because of your choices today? It’s up to you, and it’s for them, so live right today.