First let’s get a definition for curse because that is especially 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 is the definition fpr curse 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 look at the next two because they are the ones most used by the proponents that say God initiates generational curses because of what somebody did at some time in the past.
Here are some of the scriptures that these proponents use to justify their position.
Exodus 34:6-7 NIV 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, 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 parents to the third and fourth generation.” (emphasis mine)
Numbers 14:18 NIV ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ (emphasis mine)
Deuteronomy 5:9-10 NIV 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 parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (emphasis mine)
Wow if you read these scriptures out of context you would certainly think that God punishes the subsequent generations for something done in the past by their forefathers. However, and it’s a big however, the word curse is not in any of these scriptures. Another key point is that the warning here is to the nation of Israel not to individuals, and it is for the specific sin of idolatry. Any punishment on subsequent generations was because they practiced idolatry themselves, not because they were the children of those who practiced idolatry.
Today in the church there is the tendency to blame every sin, illness, and problem on some generational curse. It is true that sin has consequences, and those consequences affect following generations, but they are not curses. When a father has a sinful lifestyle, his children are likely to practice the same sinful lifestyle or repeat the sins of the father, simply because children often imitate their parents. They do and say what they see their parents say and do.
There is no dispute of the fact that heredity and environment do pass some things on to descendants. I have high blood pressure in part because my father and both grandfathers had high blood pressure. There is medical proof that children of diabetics often have diabetes. Studies also show that some types of depression may be genetic. This is genetics not a curse.
Notice Jesus’ response to His disciples when the subject of a generational curse came up.
John 9:1-5 NIV As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Let me try to end the generational curse argument today.
Jeremiah 31:29-30 NIV “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. (Emphasis mine)
Ezekiel 18:19-20 NIV “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. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them. (emphasis mine)
We all tend to excuse our own bad behaviors, or to shift blame when we make bad choices, and we are suffering the consequences. It’s hard when we are confronted with our own frailty. We all make mistakes, but what do we do after that mistake has been brought to light? If we are honest with God and with ourselves, we can grow in maturity in those moments. Or, like children, we can try to shift blame to someone or something else.
In other words, we cannot justify, rationalize, excuse or project our own actions or sins upon others. The choices we make cannot be justified because of our parents, or our past. We can’t change the past, but the decisions we make each day determine our futures.
There may have been sour grapes along the way, yet the decisions we make each day can’t be excused by the past. Let’s stop making excuses and projecting our frustrations on others. Life is too precious and short to be wasted away.
As a new creature in Christ, you're not bound by the actions of others. Regardless of past relationships or circumstances, we are all responsible for our own actions.
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!