In the church today, there is a widely-known concept floating around known as the generational curse. The generational curse is defined, by those of the church who teach this, as God’s judgment/punishment for an ancestor’s sin, passed down from generation to generation. In simple terms, it’s seen as “inherited punishment.” But, is this concept biblical? Many people will read passages like Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; and Deuteronomy 5:9 and yell out, “Yes!” However, when these passages are looked at within their proper contexts, we get a resounding, “No!”
In Exodus 20:5, one of the first Scripture passages I mentioned above, God says, “…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” (emphasis added). Now surely, on the surface, this seems to say that God punishes future generations for what past generations have done. However, when we dig deeper, we find that God gave this warning because sin’s effect—in this case, the worship of idols—would be passed down from generation to generation.
Children, as we know, because we were once children, learn by seeing. Therefore, when a child witnesses a lifestyle of sin (like idol worship), he/she is likely to mimic that lifestyle; then their child will likely mimic that lifestyle, and so on. So then, the punishment they (the children) receive is not unjust; it is not because of the sins of their ancestors. It has been handed down because of the sins—like the sins of their ancestors—they themselves have committed. (Note: If a person does not sin against God, but walks uprightly, that person, regardless of what their ancestors did, is not punished. Only those who oppose God are punished.)
Let’s go to Ezekiel 18 to get confirmation on this matter. In verse 2, God asks Ezekiel, “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?” He then says, “As surely as I live, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to Me, the parent as well as the children—both alike belong to Me. 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.” (vv. 3-4, 20).
So you see, the generational curse, or inherited punishment, concept is not biblical (God is not unfair). Everyone, God said, would die and be held liable for their own sin. Again, each of us is liable for our own sin. There’s good news, however, for those who repent and accept Christ as Lord and Savior, and that is, we no longer have to bear the weight and guilt of our own sin. He, through His selfless sacrifice on the cross, has done it for us. Isaiah tells us, in chapter 53, verse 5: “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Spiritually healed.)
So, sisters, with these things noted, we see that before we simply accept things as factual, we must learn to check the facts. Like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true,” we must examine everything we hear, read, and are taught in light of the Word of God.
What the church has deemed as “generational curses” today, is really not curses at all, but simply a matter of learned behavior. The adults, who are supposedly under a “curse”—whether they believe it or not—are simply imitating the behaviors they saw displayed throughout their childhoods—some consciously, others subconsciously. (Note: As for the bodily diseases being passed off as a “curse” because several past ancestors acquired, or suffered from, the same disease, unhealthy lifestyle choices, our environments, sin, and the simple fact that we live in a fallen world must be taken into consideration. [And, of course, God is sovereign over it all.])
That said, sisters, I want to leave you with this: The person who has repented and submitted their lives to Christ cannot be under any kind of curse. John 8:36 tells us, whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Therefore, let us stop believing the lies of the enemy, and take hold of the freedom given us in Christ.
For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. –Psalm 100:5
P.S. The consequences resulting from a relative’s sin may be felt by future generations. But generations are never vindictively punished for their relatives’ sin(s). God is just (fair).