Spiritual Formation

Why I Don’t Believe in Generational Curses

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I don’t believe in generational curses. The concept comes from the following scriptures:

Exodus 20:5

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 34:6–7

6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Recently, I received and email from someone who had received counsel from someone who operates in this kind of theology:

“I met with a christian counselor yesterday and it was a nightmare. she asked if i was saved, born again… of course the answers were yes. then she asked about my father, my daughters father,and scolded me for being so independent as to have a baby alone. she said i was  prideful  and then read something from deut… that i cant remember but it said i was cursed and my child was cursed and that I had to break all the generational curses , that God hasnt heard any of my prayers because my daughters is cursed . I told her this event happened long ago and that i was saved for many years now.  i mentioned that i wasnt close to my father and she said that will also hold God back from healing (name withheld). that i had to go to his grave and put flowers and forgive him for not being close to me.  then i told her that I found a way to get attention from men as a substitute for what i didnt get from my father ( im sure you get my meaning)  and she said that was witchcraft!  She said, ‘you created this whole mess’”

This is an Old Testament legalism that was overturned with the advent of Christ!

The concept of the generational curse rests on the view that the iniquities of past generations are visited on us today and that we need to denounce them, bind them, be delivered from them in order to be blessed. Even one’s birth in the womb! However, this teaching ignores Ezekiel 18:1-20, 30-31:

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “ ‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. 

5“Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right. 6He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or lie with a woman during her period. 7He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. 8He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. 9He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord. 

10 “Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things 11 (though the father has done none of them): “He eats at the mountain shrines. He defiles his neighbor’s wife. 12He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things. 13He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. 

14 “But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things: 15“He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife. 16He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. 17He withholds his hand from sin and takes no usury or excessive interest. He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. 18 But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people. 19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. 

30 “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

Here’s Jeremiah 31:29-34:

29 In those days they shall no longer say: “ ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The concept is confused to begin with. The idea in the Old Testament was that God would visit the sins of the fathers on future generations. The passages above declare that that practice ended with the new covenant. But today, those who teach that generational curses are real paint pictures of Satan being the one who holds God’s saved children under a curse. When did Satan get such authority? How can he have authority that is stronger than the blood of Jesus?

Theologically speaking, the idea that a saved person must also do a number of acts in order to truly walk in freedom undermines the power of salvation. Either the blood of Jesus is sufficient to set us free from the laws of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2), or it is not. If it is not then we are still under the law.

Does this mean that there is not a significant work to be done at times to be free from the enemy who wants to oppress the children of those whom he has successfully controlled in the past generations? Not at all. But that work must proceed from the realization that through faith the saved children have already been washed and freed from sin.

Remember this: Satan is merely a fallen angel. He’s not God nor does he have the attributes that only God can have (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence). He must use his resources strategically because they are limited. Can he observe a family over the generations and detect weaknesses or proclivities to certain sins that he can use strategically to hinder a child of God? Sure. But he does not have the authority to hold someone else’s sins against you. Nor does he have any legal claim on you!

1 John 1:7 (ESV): 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

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