Do we deserve to be rewarded or punished for the actions of our ancestors? The simple answer would be no, but it is a complicated idea. One of the reasons for this is the culture of a Legacy.
Why in the world should what my father did to or for someone else affect me? Those were his actions, his choices, not mine. We are different people. For these reasons, we shouldn’t, especially as we grow into a more and more individualistic world. However, part of the world is still group based, and that is where we can begin to see why there is a problem.
Even in an Individualistic nation like America, you can hear people say, “Be careful of what you do, because you are representing us.” That representation means, your actions somehow reflect someone else’s. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is how someone else would act, just watch voters rage about their congressman. The idea still falls in for family because of the idea of a family name. Because the family name is something you associate yourself with, you represent a family, and therefore other members, including heirs.
Another reason for the family thing is that there is a higher connection. You can watch family members yell at each other for every little thing and appear like they are mortal enemies. At the same time, you know you can count them to help each other when the need comes. Sure, as the family gets weaker, this becomes scarcer, but it still exists.
Yet, I feel like the biggest cause is one of tradition that we are just in the middle of transitioning. It used to be that children took on their father’s work. Very rarely would you hear about a son who took a different path. The son of a blacksmith inherited the trade. This was the effect of Legacy. You were not your father, but you picked up where he stopped and kept it going, whether improving or not.
To be fair, this was necessary. It was the simplest method of perfecting a trade that could not be done in a simple lifetime. It took smiths generations and varying circumstances before they developed stronger and better metals. In the very old days, when life was short, and change was slow, generations would certainly been needed to progress.
As for favors, there comes that interesting predicament when a man performs a kind deed, maybe even life changing or saving, but dies before he can be repaid. As the child inherits the legacy, he is the logical choice as to whom to repay the favor. Also, back then, the child was still more likely to follow his father’s example in work and deeds. The “splitting image of his father” would be the perfect representation. But with the good, comes the bad and this is how I think we got this idea of the Sins of the Father