I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of the number of self-help books I find every time I go to the bookstore.

It is true that there is a need for people to improve themselves. In fact, we could all use a bit of honing of our persona at some level. It isn’t that we don’t need it; it’s the level of it that has gotten out of control.

The Bible warns us in several places that we are a product of our family tree and that there isn’t too much we can do about it. The most obvious case of this I can think of is Esau and Jacob. Strange to some, God said He hated Esau while Esau was still in the womb, while Jacob He loved. That doesn’t speak too profoundly for the self-help industry – does it?

Often throughout the Old Testament, children were judged for the deeds of their parents or grandparents, to the level that they were killed simply because of the close ties they had with the guilty.

To our modern sensibilities, this seems unfair and unnecessarily harsh. We think of individuals as islands that can only be judged by their own actions. Yet so often, when it comes to judging the actions of those who do wrong, we say they were a product of their environment or their family lineage. Yet, how can you have it one way without the other? Either you are a result of your ancestry, or you aren’t.

Many see the New Testament as the beginning of a new age, one where a person is now judged on their own merits, where the old ways of judging were superseded by a new covenant.

I’m not so sure.

For one thing, what is one of the first things mentioned about Jesus in both Mathew and Luke?

It’s the lineage of Jesus, a lineage that is chock-full of people who ended up making some of the best long-term decisions we know of from ancient history. He came from good stock, one might say. This included both sides of His “parentage” in case Joseph’s was ever to be scrutinized.

 Then let’s look at Jesus’ disciples. Oddly there are three sets of brothers among them. There are Peter and Andrew, James and John, and Jesus and James. It sounds like the individual wasn’t as important as the lineage – doesn’t it? When half of the disciples were closely blood-related, it kind of puts a fork in the idea that we are individual islands, judged only on our own merits.

Then there is John the Baptist, who of course, is a first cousin to Jesus.

I say all this not to discredit the self-help industry completely; rather, it is a warning to those who think they can completely remake themselves: and it is also a reminder that our decisions do not only affect us.

We are a link in a very long chain, a chain that stretches long past our time here. So, choose wisely – your progeny is counting on it.