While there are a lot of ideas on where we should cast the blame, a lot of which is simply conjecture, the Bible offers answers in the book of Judges on who is to blame.
The people of Israel had a problem. They would be good for 40 years, following God. Then something would happen and they would turn away from God.
“Then the Children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers… they played the harlot with other gods…” Judges 2:11-17
Right after Joshua and the elders died, the people of Israel seemed to forget everything they had learned. But the problem really started much earlier, while Joshua and the elders were still alive. In chapter 1 we see that the People of Israel didn’t do what God had told them to do.
“But they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland… but the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites… Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean… Nor did Ephraim… Nor did Zebulun… Nor did Asher… Nor did Naphtali…” Judges 1:19-33
You get the point.
The wayward generation’s problem actually started with the generation before them not doing what God had told them to do.
Listen to how God responds to Joshua’s generation.
“I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers: and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shalll tread down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be throns in your side, and their gods shall be a share to you.'” Judges 2:1-3
God makes two promises here: “I will not break my covenant with you,” and “I will not drive them out before you.” Notice that he hasn’t abandoned Israel. God is a god of His Word. He cannot go back on His promises, but He can make new promises. Notice how God uses disobedience as a tool. Instead of swooping in and doing what man could not, He uses their defiance as correction and instruction.
When we find ourselves asking why the next generation is so sinful we should reflect on this principle.
Generations defy God because the generations before them were sinners.
That seems harsh, but it is a reality. This isn’t an excuse to blame our parents for the sins we have committed. It’s a call for each generation to take responsibility for their own actions and focus on pursuing Christ. We were not called to judge a generation because our generation was better. We were called to preach Christ who was crucified for every generation.
This isn’t to suggest that the generations before us were complete failures, but to simply state that every generation fails in some way. My old boss and good friend calls them ‘Father Wounds.’ Everyone has them. Even if you are the best father in the world, you will wound your kid in some way that they will resent you at some point. We need to remember that we are not perfect when we approach the next generations. We need to remember that, fundamentally, we weren’t any different when we were developing.
I think that is why Paul tells us to remember where we came from.
“Therefore remember that… at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13