In today's passage, we have a perfect example of why a text should not be taken out of context.
Let me explain.
Consider the possible sermon, lecture or theology that could be spun if the listeners only heard this passage of scripture:
The soul who sins is the one who will die.
The orator could use this to truly berate and condemn his audience. She could speak of the wrath of God and lead people into despair. This kind of biblical interpretor would be doing God and God's people an injustice.
The emphasis in the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel is God's graciousness. God explains that a parent is not responsible for the sins of his or her child; and a child is not responsible for the sins of the parent.
It goes on to say that an unrighteous person can turn from their unrighteousness and be forgiven.
In the culture of the exiles, this is incredibly good news! The sin of idolators in exile would not transfer to their children. Their children would not die in exile but return to their land.
Though the children bear the sorrow and the culture of the generations who have gone before them, they are not under the "generational curse" any longer. In like manner, a parent should not be held responsible or have to carry the shame of a child's unrighteousness.
And there is always the clause about forgiveness.
But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live.
Until we die, there is always the hope of forgiveness. In fact, God, like a good parent, does not want to punish, but always hopes for repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
I am grateful that this tallying of righteousness is not up to me. I am even more grateful that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me.
Without grace, I'd not only be dead, but during my life, I would be a nervous wreck!