There is a lot of discussion and debate in the church about and on generational curses. Are they really curses as the result or the sins of our fathers and grandfathers? Are they not really curses but the result of our social environment? Are they the result of heredity and there’s nothing we can do about it? Over the past few months I have heard people talking about things being the result of generational curses. I have also heard people talking about breaking or how to break generational curses. Because of the questions and the things I’ve heard I decided to study what the bible says about them and how to break them if in fact they are real. I wanted to find out for myself.
First let’s get a definition of curse because that is very important in determining if generational curses are from God or some other place and if the scriptures people use to defend generational curses are appropriate.
Here's the definition from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
- an offensive word that people say when they are angry
- magical words that are said to cause trouble or bad luck for someone or the condition that results when such words are said
- a cause of trouble or bad luck
Let’s eliminate the first definition and assume the next two are the definitions used by the proponents that generational curses are initiated by God because of what somebody did at some time.
What Does Scripture Say?
Let’s start with the scripture that most people use as the argument that God is the one who initiates the curse which is has repercussions down through generations. Exodus 20:5 (HCSB) “5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth ⌊generations⌋ of those who hate Me,” Here are some others:
- Exodus 34:7 (HCSB) maintaining faithful love to a thousand ⌊generations⌋, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave ⌊the guilty⌋ unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.
- Numbers 14:18 (HCSB) The LORD is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave ⌊the guilty⌋ unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation.
- Deuteronomy 5:9 (HCSB) You must not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin to the third and fourth ⌊generations⌋ of those who hate Me,
Based on these scriptures it looks like those who say that generational curses are real and biblical, can say that in fact God himself will punish the fathers and the following generations. The word curse doesn’t appear in the verse by the way. The warning that God gives here is part of the Old Testament Law given to the nation of Israel not to individuals.
The sons did what the fathers did which was practice idolatry so the punishment that God promised was felt by the sons, not because they were the sons of men who practiced idolatry but because they continued the practice. The nation could have repented and stopped the practice of idolatry at any time and God would have relented. Here are some examples:
- Judges 3:9 (HCSB) The Israelites cried out to the LORD. So the LORD raised up Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother, as a deliverer to save the Israelites.
- Judges 3:15 (HCSB) Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and He raised up Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed Benjaminite, as a deliverer for them. The Israelites sent him to Eglon king of Moab with tribute ⌊money⌋.
- 1 Samuel 12:10-11 (HCSB) 10 Then they cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned, for we abandoned the LORD and worshiped the Baals and the Ashtoreths. Now deliver us from the power of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11 So the LORD sent Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel. He rescued you from the power of the enemies around you, and you lived securely.
And for good measure here’s the verse right after Exodus 20:5, the one used most often by the generational curse proponents,
Exodus 20:6 (HCSB) but showing faithful love to a thousand ⌊generations⌋ of those who love Me and keep My commands. This time God’s love and grace is to a thousand generations while His wrath is to only the third and fourth generations.
Let’s get back to the reason for my study and this post. Today in the church there is the tendency blame every sin, illness and problem on some sort of generational curse. It is true that sin has consequences and those consequences affect following generations. When a father has a sinful lifestyle, his children are likely to practice the same sinful lifestyle or repeat the sins of the father. There is no question about the fact that heredity and environment do pass some things on to descendants. But is that a curse?
What Did Jesus Say?
Notice Jesus’ response to His disciples when the subject of a generational curse came up:
John 9:1-3 (HCSB) 1 As He was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “⌊This came about⌋ so that God’s works might be displayed in him.
At the beginning of His ministry Jesus said this;
Luke 4:16-21 (HCSB) 16 He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:18 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
Here is what Charles Stanley said about this declaration from Jesus and how to apply it when you think you are caught up in a generational curse.
"No one's childhood is perfect. What we experienced during those years has a profound impact, even into adulthood. Things we saw, heard, felt, and even things we did not feel can affect us later in life.
As one might expect, external influences do help to shape our personality. However, the result is not always predictable. For example, early years full of painful experiences leave deeps wounds in some, but in others, they contribute to the development of depth and perseverance.
Whether your younger years were joyful or painful, it can be valuable to consider what their impact was, back then as well as in the present. You might start by exploring your responses to key childhood events. Next, identify traits that you appreciated in your parents and others--qualities you'd like to nurture in your own life. Finally, think about people with characteristics that impacted you negatively. Ask God for healing and freedom from the patterns you may have developed in response. Then shift your focus to godly attributes you want to exhibit instead, such as peace, grace, and gentleness.
The heavenly Father wants to free you from any negative trends that took root early in life. He can break any unhealthy pattern and replace it with hope and deep satisfaction in Him.
As you explore the effects of childhood experiences, pray to see through a lens of truth. When you recognize ways that others negatively influenced you, pray for strength to forgive and God's help in mending areas of brokenness--whether spiritual, emotional, relational, or mental."
Freedom From Your Past
If you want freedom from your past and after reading this post you are still not sure if you are caught up in a generational curse here are nine steps that can help you discover freedom from your past. These steps are from an article written by Larry Huch founder and senior pastor of New Beginnings Christian Center in Dallas, Texas, and which appeared in Charisma Magazine:
1. RECOGNIZE THE CURSE. In order to get set free and stay free, you have to admit you have a problem. That sounds simple, but we live in a day and age of denial. No matter what has happened to us in our lives, each of us are responsible for the choices and decisions we make. If you really want to be free, you will accept that responsibility.
2. BREAK THE CURSE. As we apply God's Word and power to our lives, and as we choose to walk in righteousness and obedience to God, the chains of bondage will be broken. There are three steps to breaking a generational curse:
3. (1) Give your life to Jesus; the blood of Jesus removes our sin; (2) Fight the battle with spiritual weapons (such as the Word of God and the armor of God); and (3) Regain control over the power of your will. When Jesus shed His blood, he bought back our willpower. Through the blood of Jesus, we can say no.
4. REVERSE THE CURSE. There are three keys you can use to reverse the curse and live in victory: (1) Recognize your enemy. We battle not with flesh and blood. Our enemy is Satan, and the battle is spiritual. (2) Forgive people who have hurt you. (3) Treat causes, not symptoms (for example, insecurity, jealousy or fear).
5. RELEASE THE POWER OF LOVE. To become people whose lives are transformed by the love of God, we must not only get rid of what holds us captive and keeps us in bondage, but we must also be filled up with love--for God, for self and for others. Unconditional love will release blessing. To know more of the love of God in your life, love those who have hurt you, those who have opposed you and those who have sinned against you.
6. DEVELOP A GODLY ATTITUDE. A good attitude does not make everything go perfectly all the time. Matthew 5:45 tells us that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. But our attitude determines whether the rain will water the seeds of our harvest or wash those seeds away. Get serious about where you are going with God by getting your attitude lined up with His Word, having faith and trusting in Him.
7. ALIGN YOUR WORDS WITH GOD'S WORDS. Your words give evidence of your faith, and they should reflect God's good purposes for you. Exchange your negative words for positive words, exchange your negative thoughts for positive thoughts, and exchange your negative actions for positive actions.
8. ACCEPT GOD'S ACCEPTANCE. Jesus didn't come to condemn us or punish us. He came to give us hope that our lives really can be different. We don't have to live under the burdens of pain, hurt, shame or sorrow. All the power in heaven is available to you to set you free from every chain that binds you. Corrie ten Boom said, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still."
9. WALK IN OBEDIENCE. In order to break free from the curses and walk in freedom, you must learn to walk in obedience to God's ways. We don't have to be perfect or without mistakes, but our hearts need to be surrendered and pliable toward God. We need to be moving forward in the things of God every day of our lives. Today's decisions determine our tomorrows. There is a miracle on the other side of your obedience.
You are a New Creation
If you are a Christian and worried about a generational curse rest assured that because of your salvation you are not under a curse. As Paul said in you are a new creation
2 Corinthians 5:17 (HCSB) “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, ⌊he is⌋ a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. How can a child of God still be under God’s curse? You can't be.
Romans 8:1 (HCSB) Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus,”.