The Truth about Generational Curses

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Truth About Generational Curses

By John David Brown and Crusade Church Doctrinal Council

© 2012

A New Teaching

A relatively new teaching based on an old idea has been gaining popularity in modern Christianity. The idea is that a Christian may suffer under a curse passed down from family members of previous generations. The teaching is that in order to be set free, the curse must be identified and its power must be broken.

Many high profile preachers are proclaiming the power and prevalence of generational curses. The list of those espousing this teaching reads like a whoís who of the most influential Christian Leaders of America today: Tony Evans, Joyce Meyers, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, T.D. Jakes, and Kenneth Copeland, to name a few.

Because of the saturation of the generational curses doctrine, chances are that you have been influenced by it, even if you havenít heard of it by name. As Christians, our faith rests firmly on the person of Jesus and the teachings of the Holy Bible. Therefore, the question that a Christian must ask about any teaching is, is it Biblical? Does what I am hearing square with Scripture?

Prove All Things

The Bible clearly warns us against relying on our own reason to determine what is good and what is evil. In fact, relying on human reason instead of Godís plain instruction is what brought sin and death into the human family in the first place. As it says in Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." And in Jeremiah 17:9, ""The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Given our proclivity toward deception and the prevalence of false teachings, the New Testament is filled with warnings to carefully scrutinize what you hear in light of the Bible. As the Apostle Paul admonished the church at Thessalonica, ""Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.""( 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)

So, we as Christians donít suppress preaching under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, nor do we take teachings lightly. Rather we, as Paul instructed, carefully examine teachings in light of the Word, holding fast to the truth, and discarding all that is false. In this way we follow the example of the Berean converts,""Ö for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things {the things that Paul was teaching them} were so."

 

What Is A Generational Curse?

As a phrase, generational curse seems straightforward enough. A generational curse, according to proponents, is a spiritual bondage, or curse, that is passed down from one generation to the next. Essentially, Christians may find themselves powerless to overcome some stubborn sin or the victim of a seemingly intractable pattern of failure because one of their forbearers sinned and brought a curse which God is visiting on them.

This can take many forms. Perhaps a Christian man finds himself in the grip of an addiction to pornography. Viewed through the lens of the generational curses doctrine, he may in fact be cursed with the spirit of lust because his great-grandfather was promiscuous. Likewise, a Christian woman may find it difficult to submit to her husband. Under the paradigm of generational curses, she may be cursed with the spirit of matriarchal witchcraft because her great-grandmother was a practicing witch.

Perhaps a Christian is seemingly unable to properly give and receive love. This could be an unloving spirit that attached to the family because of his grandfather physically abused his father. The permutations are virtually limitless. Alcoholism, poverty, anxiety, rage, obsessive/compulsive disorder, may all manifest themselves in the life of a Christian based on generational curses.

The Cure

The cure is always to identify the source of the curse and break its power, although there are variations in methodology. Some call for deliverance services where spirits are cast out of the Christian. Most, however, follow a formula of confessing the identified curse and verbally renouncing it to break its power.

The Rationale

The basis for this teaching is two-fold. The first part of the foundation is a description God gives of Himself in Exodus 20:5, "ÖI, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generationsÖ"

The second part is based on simple observation. We observe that there seem to be patterns of sin and failure that trace through family lines. We notice that children of alcoholics tend to become alcoholics, abused boys tend to become abusive husbands and fathers, abused girls tend to marry abusive men, children of jailed fathers tend to repeat the cycle of criminal behavior, and so on.

Putting this bit of scripture together with this observation, proponents of generational curses reason that a Christian may be bound by a spiritual curse from God because of their father, grandfather, or even great-grandfatherís sin.

 

The Formula

Notice the formula for reaching the conclusion that God spiritually curses Christians for the sins of their forbearers. First, a partial truth is cited. Second, an observation is made. And finally, human reasoning is applied.

The same formula was employed to deceive Eve and lure mankind into disobedience to God. God had given a plain instruction not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or death would surely follow. In light of such a clear command and such a serious consequence, how did the Devil snare Eve?

He cited a partial truth, she used observation, added reason, and in one fell swoop, sin, pain, and death were brought into the human family. Genesis 3:1-7, 1""Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" 4 The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate."

In his subtlety, Satan said you wonít surely die; but you will be like God knowing [literally declaring] what is good and evil. That is a partial truth. Eve could indeed decide for herself what was good and evil, although disobeying God would certainly end in death. To the partial truth, Eve added observation, seeing that the fruit was good for food and a delight to eyes. Finally, she reasoned that it was desirable to make her wise, and she fell into the snare of deception and sin.

The Importance of Context

Before Jesus began his earthly ministry, He was drawn into the wilderness and tempted for forty days. At the peak of His physical weakness having fasted the entire time, Satan came to try and draw Him into sin as he had with Eve and Adam. Though he was still subtle, his tactics had not changed.

After Jesus repelled his first two temptations by quoting from Scripture, Satan resorted to presenting a partial truth. He actually quoted scripture out of its context to entice the Lord into sin, "And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,' 11 and, 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"(Luke 4:9-12)

Satan was quoting Psalm 91:12 which assured Jesus that if He fell, His father would send angels to catch Him. Jesus recognized, however, that Satan was taking it out of context. He wanted Jesus to doubt His identity and put His Father to the test. To answer the devil, Jesus simply put the psalm in context by quoting a balancing scripture from Deuteronomy 6:16 which warns us not to tempt God. The broader context helped make the meaning of the psalm plain. God will catch you if you slip, but it is wrong to intentionally jump.

A Closer Examination

In keeping with Paulís instruction to carefully examine teachings, and being aware of Satanís devices, letís take a look at Exodus 20 with the context restored. The portion of scripture cited to support the idea of generational curses is actually lifted from the Ten Commandments. In particular, it is a part of Godís commandment not to worship idols.

"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Exodus 20:4-6)

This is a clear commandment, donít worship idols. The consequence, however, is less clear for those of us who speak modern-English. God warns that he will visit the iniquity of the fathers on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him. Before we examine what visiting iniquity means, let us note the clear object of the warning.

Whatever visiting iniquity means, it is happening to those who hate God by disobeying His commandments. The generational curses doctrine asserts that this applies to Christians. However, God plainly says that He will show lovingkindness to, not visit iniquity on, those who love Him and keep His commandments. Clearly, a Christian loves and does not hate God, and so according to the text receives His lovingkindness, not the visitation of iniquity.

The word translated iniquity in this passage means punishment for sin. The word translated visit means to administer or see to. So here, God is saying that He will administer punishment on those who worship idols. To be clear, who does God say that He will punish? Those who hate and disobey him.

What about the third and fourth generation? Under the reasoning of generational curses, this is taken to mean that the punishment is passed down from great-grandfather, to grandfather, to father, and to son. The scripture, however, makes no reference to passing the punishment down.

In the time that this commandment was given, men lived to be about one hundred and twenty years old. Men married and began to have children at about thirty years old. So, at any given time, four generations lived side by side. That means that when Israel was punished for worshipping idols, it was brought upon the great-grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers, and sons who were committing this sin.

Broader Context

We donít have to guess at the meaning of Godís warning in Exodus 20, we can simply read the scripture to see how He dealt with Israel. At the very moment which God was writing this commandment on a tablet of stone for Moses to take down to the people, Israel was committing idolatry. They had sacrificed some of the gold jewelry gained from the Egyptians and given it to Aaron who fashioned a golden calf. As they celebrated a festival to this idol, God told Moses to go down immediately to the people who had defiled themselves.

"Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control ó for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies ó 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. 27 He said to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.'" 28 So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, "Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord ó for every man has been against his son and against his brother ó in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today." (Exodus 32:25-29)

We see that God visited the punishment for breaking His commandment against idol worship on everyone who did not repent from their sin and run to Moses when he called them to the gate. The wages of their sin was death, which was no doubt visited on fathers to the third and fourth generations. The punishment was not visited on any of those who were for the Lord and came to Moses at his command. In fact, those who dedicated themselves to the Lord received a blessing that day, not a punishment.

Sadly, the nation of Israel never really ceased from this sin of idolatry. The witness of Scripture is that they would continually turn to idol worship, God would repeatedly warn them to repent, they would stubbornly refuse, and then God would punish them.

Notice, Judges 2:11-15, "Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, 12 and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. 14 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies."

In fulfillment of His word, God had shown great mercy and favor to thousands of those in Israel while Joshua and the elders lived and the people loved the Lord. After Joshua and the elders died, however, the people began to hate God by worshipping idols. As a result, God kept His word and visited the punishment of plunder and slavery on them.

Even in the midst of Godís punishment, however, He showed favor to those who loved Him and kept His commandments. When Israel was punished by being taken captive by the Babylonians, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faithful. For this reason, the Lord was with them and delivered them through difficult trials, eventually elevating Daniel to a lofty position in Nebuchadnezzarís government.

When Israel would repent and cry out to God, He would deliver them. This cycle repeated until, at the time when Jesus began His ministry, Israel was under Roman occupation.

The pattern of scripture is consistent and clear. God did not pass down a spiritual curse through families of those who loved Him. He did punish those who hated Him and worshipped idols- including Great-grandfathers and great-grandsons- by delivering them into slavery. Unwitting victims of these judgments didnít have to discover their forefathersí sins and renounce them to be released from bondage. Sinners simply had repent and cry out to God for forgiveness, and He delivered them.

 

God Is Not Unfair

The teaching of generational curses may be relatively new, but it is based on an old idea; namely that God punishes people for other peopleís sins. In fact Israel so often accused God of punishing children for the sins of their fathers, that it became a proverb in the land. "The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the childrenís teeth are set on edge," they would say.

As a response, God inspires the prophet Ezekiel to write an entire chapter of the Bible to set the record straight. It would be well for you to read Ezekiel 18 in its entirety, but for the sake of economy we will examine the most relevant portions here.

"As I live," declares the Lord God, "you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore. 4 "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die." Vs. 3-4

Here, God is fed up with the misrepresentation of His character. He tells Israel to stop saying that He is unfairly punishing children for their fathersí sins. He points out that He alone is the Creator, and therefore all life is His. Then He says that He is just, punishing individuals for their own choices.

"But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, 6 and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period ó 7 if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, 8 if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, 9 if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully ó he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord God.

"Then he may have a violent son who sheds blood and who does any of these things to a brother (though he himself did not do any of these things), that is, he even eats at the mountain shrines, and defiles his neighbor's wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore a pledge, but lifts up his eyes to the idols and commits abomination, he lends money on interest and takes increase; will he live? He will not live! He has committed all these abominations, he will surely be put to death; his blood will be on his own head. Vs. 6-13

You may think that God is being a little tedious by laying out such a lengthy explanation of His judgment. Clearly it is necessary, however, given that His enemy, Satan, is constantly trying to convince people that God is arbitrary, vindictive, capricious, and unjustly plays favorites. Even today it seems that we are prone to think of Him that way.

Therefore, in revealing His justice, God is making an air-tight statement that He holds each person personally responsible. He goes to the trouble of showing how He handles each generation. If a father loves Him and practices obedience, he is blessed. If his son hates and practices disobedience, he is punished.

"Now behold, he has a son who has observed all his father's sins which he committed, and observing does not do likewise. "He does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife, or oppress anyone, or retain a pledge, or commit robbery, but he gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, he keeps his hand from the poor, does not take interest or increase, but executes My ordinances, and walks in My statutes; he will not die for his father's iniquity, he will surely live. "As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was not good among his people, behold, he will die for his iniquity."

"Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity?' When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live. "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself."" Vs. 14-20

This is very clear and concise; in short, God is not unfair. He holds each person responsible for his own decisions, blessing those who love Him, and punishing those who hate Him to give them an opportunity to repent.

In truth, only one person has ever born the punishment for the sins of another, and that is God Himself, in the person of Jesus. His justice is so absolute, so unyielding and true, that He could not just capriciously wink at our sin and sweep it under the rug. No, His justice demanded that the penalty be paid.

His mercy and compassion, however, were so perfect and unwavering that He would pour out His wrath on His own Son, so that we might be forgiven and blessed.

Jesus Became The Curse

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us ó for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"

The curse, or punishment, proscribed in the law is the wages of sin. Deuteronomy 28 spells out at great length Godís blessings for practicing obedience, and His punishment for practicing disobedience. Of course, ultimately, the penalty for sin is death. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

When Jesus laid down His perfect, righteous life, He completely absorbed the wrath and punishment, the curse, for our sin. There was nothing withheld. He drained the cup of humanities vilest most depraved sin to the dregs. So hideous was the sight of all sin, that His Father turned His back on Him, and for the first time since before there was time, the Father separated from the Son, as Jesus cried out in utter anguish, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!"

So intense was Godís wrath for sin that Jesus was beaten beyond recognition as a man. Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 detail the brutality of the beating inflicted on the Lord. All of His bones were disjointed. His flesh flayed open, hung in quivering ribbons, exposing His organs. People could not bear to look upon His visage, so savage and severe was His punishment. His sacrifice was sufficient, covering all sin, leaving no wrath, no curse, unabsorbed or unbroken.

For those who repent from sin, and receive Jesusí sacrifice, and practice love and obedience to Him, there is no curse, no condemnation; only freedom and blessing.

A New Creation

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Because of the sufficiency and completeness of Christís sacrifice on the cross, it covers every sin, cleanses every stain, heals every wound, and yes, breaks every curse for those who repent and are saved. By faith, our old identity as a guilty son of Adam under the penalty or curse of death for breaking Godís commandments, is buried under the baptismal waters. We emerge from that watery grave with a brand new identity: son of God, completely innocent of sin, blessed and highly favored. We are like the three Hebrew children, emerging from the furnace without even a hint of smoke.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

When we choose to walk in loving obedience to Godís commandments, we no longer walk-that is to say live-according to sinful desires in our flesh, our senses. We are now empowered by the Spirit to walk in newness of life, overwhelmingly conquering sin. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."( John 8:36)

If we do slip and fall into a sin, as the Apostle Paul explains in Romans 7, it is no longer we who sin, but the cadaveric spasms of our former self who was crucified with Christ. It is not our practice, as born-again Christians, to break Godíís commandments; but when we slip and fall, Godís grace is there to catch us, just as Psalm 91:12 indicates. Yet, as Jesus rightly noted, we doníít tempt God by jumping into sin.

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)

Conspicuous Absence

Our faith, as Christians, is founded on the Word of God, the apostolic faith handed down to the New Testament Church, and the example of Jesus, our Lord. From the beginning Satan has attempted to draw Christians away from that foundation through subtle heresies and false teachings. That is why we must fight against every falsehood, and pattern our beliefs after the example in the Bible.

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 3-4)

It should not escape our notice that Jesus never, not one time, identified a generational curse on a person, and led them to renounce it and break its power. Likewise, there is not a solitary example of the New Testament Churches holding deliverances for generational curses. We have no Biblical instruction, no authority to do so.

Summing Up

The generational curses doctrine does not stand under Biblical scrutiny. It is built on a proof-text coupled with human reasoning. The clear consistent testimony of Scripture is that God is perfectly fair, holding each person responsible for their own choices, neither punishing the innocent nor absolving the guilty. Christians are not accursed because Jesus became the curse in His death on the cross so that Christians could receive the blessing of His unblemished perfection and eternal life. The old guilty man under punishment for sin dies at baptism. The new innocent man under Godís blessing and favor emerges from baptism. There is no example of Jesus or the New Testament Church teaching or practicing the breaking of generational curses

Intercessory Prayer

Letís turn our attention now to the doctrine, or teaching, of intercessory prayer. Literally, the word intercession is comprised of two parts, inter-meaning between, and cede-meaning to step or come. Putting the two together, the meaning is to come or step between someone and God in prayer. This carries the idea of assailing, or making urgent requests of God on behalf of another.

The proponents of intercessory prayer view intercessory prayer as a calling or anointing from God. They see their role as that of a mediator, stepping into the gap between a just God and sinful people. While there are many Biblical examples, indeed mandates, of Christians earnestly praying on behalf of others. There is a subtle, but important distinction between offering petitions and standing in the gap, or becoming a mediator.

Moses, Ezekiel, Joshua, Samuel, Jeremiah, Job, Daniel, and many others in the Old Testament stood before the Lord and made requests on behalf of others. Each one of these men is part of the Christian Church, included in the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, for their faithfulness. Obviously God moved them to faithfully pray for their brothers and sisters. But did any of them intercede, stand in the gap, mediate, or propitiate on behalf of others?

As faithful as they were, none of the aforementioned saints could stand in the gap for someone else, because each was guilty of his own sin and required a mediator himself." There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, not even one."(Romans 3:12) Again, "Ö all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodÖ"(Romans 3:23)

"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for allÖ" (1 Timothy 2:5-6) As much as we strive to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord, we all fall short of the required perfection to intercede for another. Our righteousness, apart from Jesus, is dingy indeed against the backdrop of Godís absolute Holiness. "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy ragsÖ" (Isaiah 64:6)

So we see that, while it is right for all Christians to earnestly and faithfully pray on behalf of others, we can in no way intercede for them. We ourselves have a gulf fixed between our deeds and Godís Holy standard. We can in no way step into that chasm for someone else. On the contrary, we often donít know what to pray.

"In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."" (Romans 8:26-27)

 

 

Points of Truth Ministries