There is a theory about three generations. It has been applied to sociology, family, business, human rights, atomic particles, leadership, psychology, and other areas. It differs somewhat depending on what area it is applied to, but in summary the theory states that by the third generation there is such decay from the original that it is no longer sustainable or recognizable in comparison. Here are some quotes about three generations:
Three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves. (Andrew Carnegie)
Three generations of imbeciles are enough. (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
Rich People plan for three generations. Poor people plan for Saturday night. (Gloria Steinem)
It takes as long as three generations of hard work, three generations of sacrifice to correct the wrong! (Eric Jerome Dickey)
It's very strange that most people don't care if their knowledge of their family history only
goes back three generations. (Douglas Coupland)
Mark you, if you give up spirituality, leaving it aside to go after the materializing civilization
of the West, the result will be that in three generations you will be an extinct race; because the backbone of the nation will be broken, the foundation upon which the national edifice has been built will be undermined, and the result will be annihilation all round. (Swami
Psychologists suggest that we must reach back at least three generations to look for clues
whenever we begin untangling the emotional legacy of any one family's history (Elizabeth
There are some illustrations of three generations in the Bible. According to Genesis 4:25-26, it was the third generation of man that began to call on the name of the Lord. It was three generations after Noah that the tower of Babel was built (Gen 10:1-10). The patriarchs of Israel were three generations – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God was called the God of these three generations thereafter. There were three kings of Israel – Saul, David, and Solomon, before the nation was divided (1Sam 8-1Ki 12). The book of Judges is the chronicle of the spiritual roller coaster Israel rode after Joshua and before the kings. Chapter 2 is a summary of this pattern. It was the third generation after Moses that began this pattern of backsliding from God (Jud 2:7-19). The generation of Americans that fought World War 2 has been called the greatest generation. We are now three generations removed from them and living in a society far removed from their values.
There are interesting observations to make about the first three generations of the nation of Israel which illustrate important lessons for us. All three generations had fertility problems. Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel were all barren, and had to receive miracles to conceive. This is particularly important because God’s covenant with Abraham was mostly particular to his direct descendants. It is as if God wanted to make it clear right from the outset that man in his natural ability cannot establish the promises of God. As Jesus said, “…for without me ye can do nothing (Jn 15:4-5)”. God changed the name of Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:5). Abram means high father, and Abraham means father of many nations. The Lord also changed the name of Jacob to Israel (Gen 32:28). Jacob means deceiver or supplanter, and Israel means power as a prince with God. These name changes illustrated their new identities with God. God did not change Isaac’s name because He named him that before Isaac was even conceived (Gen 17:19). Other people later also had their names either changed or given by God. Abraham showed aggression in his pursuit of the blessings of God. Isaac wanted the blessings of Abraham, but he did not want to contend for them (Gen 26:14-22). Jacob attempted to use deceit and manipulation to get Abraham’s blessings (Gen 25:28-34, Gen 27, Gen 30:27-43).
There is also the danger what can be lost in one generation. The last prophecy in the Old Testament speaks of this danger. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse Mal 4:5-6).” One generation of poor parenting can cause great damage. That is why there is such an intense attack on the Biblical family structure and in particular on fatherhood. The devil knows the devastating impact this has on marriages, children, society, and even the church. The effort to redefine these foundational institutions is nothing other than an attempt to enslave and destroy souls. The great majority of problems in the world today can be directly traced to poor parenting and fathering in particular. It is not the responsibility of the government or even the church to impart Biblical values to children. It is the job of parents. While other people and institutions should certainly assist parents in this great responsibility, none can replace them. Although the World War 2 generation was called the greatest generation for the sacrifices they made, they failed to transmit their values to their children. 20 years later society saw the counterculture which is still wreaking great damage as it continues to attack and descontruct Biblical, foundational values. We need God to send a revival of the family.