A few years ago a Christian missionary said this to me about a Christian family I was well acquainted with, “…that family is suffering from that disease for many generations since they are under curse.” This implied a presence of unrepentant sin or unbelief. Because they are Christian, unbelief in Christ could be eliminated.
From what was observable to plain sight, at least two people from that family, one who passed away and another who is under the clutches of that deadly disease, cannot be termed blatant sinners; instead I can honestly affirm their goodness.
The Bible does indicate generational curses in Exodus 20:5, 34:7; Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 5:9 and Lamentations 5: 7. If we concede that generations would be adversely affected because of the sin(s) of one or a few people belonging to that family, the question lingers rather bitterly in our minds as to why God would punish an innocent person for a sin that he/she did not commit.
It seems perfectly reasonable if the person who sins, and remains unrepentant of that sin, dies. But the death of a person (offspring / child) who hasn’t sinned, especially when the children do not practice the sins of the ancestors, seems perfectly unjust and unreasonable. If this were to be true, then God seems very unjust.
Punishment of the innocent for the sins of the parent / ancestors is grossly unjust. Only an unjust and a heartless God would punish an innocent child for the sins that he/she didn’t commit.
The Bible, on the contrary, teaches that God is loving and merciful, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103: 8, NIV et al.). The God of the Bible is also a God who loves both the good and evil for HE, “…causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5: 45, NIV).
If God loves both the evil and the good, HE would not punish the innocent for the sins they did not commit. In fact, the Bible posits a just God within the context of generational curses, “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” (Ezekiel 18: 20, NASB).
The context of Ezekiel 18: 20, found in Ezekiel 18: 2, is “generational curse.” God, in this chapter, clearly states that the children will not suffer because of the sins of parents, “What do you people mean by going around the country repeating the saying, The parents ate green apples, The children got the stomachache? “As sure as I’m the living God, you’re not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer. Every soul—man, woman, child—belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another’s”” (Ezekiel 18: 1-4, MSG). Thereby, God demolishes any notion of generational curses.
In face of an explicit assertion that the person who sins will only die and not the child who does not practice the sins of the father, we confidently claim that generational curses does not exist in the lives of God’s people. Therefore, it is clear and concrete that if the child does not commit the sins of the parent, then the child remains unaffected by the sins of the parent.
But this is not it. We need to explain the verses that indicate generational curses. Christian theologians have already explained it rather reasonably. If a parent is a chronic liar it’s more likely possible that the child would resort to lying. If a parent is an alcoholic, then it’s more likely that the child could also be an alcoholic.
But that’s not it. When children consciously repeat the sinful practices of the parent, it is imperative to note that the child who sins, sins on his/her own accord.
However, when parents’ sins are consciously repeated by the children, do we say that generational curses are active? In other words, can we invoke generational curses when the children commit the sins of the parent?
Before we proceed further we need to bring a certain distinction into picture. Within our context, let’s analyze the state of a Christian family and not a non-Christian family.
Being born into a Christian home does not imply that the child is a Christian. The child does not become a Christian because the parents are Christians. The child becomes a Christian when he/she consciously repents of sins and believes only in the Lord Jesus as God and Savior.
Therefore, when a person believes in the Lord Jesus, every curse, including the generational curse, is broken. The generational curse that every person suffers from is the curse of sin that is communicated down the generations.
The Bible teaches us that the generational curse of sin is broken when a person believes in the Lord Jesus, “You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone….. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right…” (Romans 5: 12-19, MSG).
Thus we are simply left with this – the person who sins shall die (from an eternal perspective) provided he/she does not believe in the Lord Jesus. If he/she believes in the Lord Jesus, then they will live, and live eternally.
Can we appeal to generational curses when children commit the sins of the parent? While we ask this question, we also need to examine if there are children in the non-Christian households who do not commit the sins of the parent.
Presence of children who do not commit the sins of their parents among the non-Christian households is an indication that generational curses are virtually non-existent.
Consider this argument in a theoretical sense, if generational curses are valid, then shouldn’t it first affect the non-Christian households for the simple fact that they do not believe in the Lord Jesus? But if there are instances where non-Christians households are not affected by generational curses, then is it not utterly ridiculous that the God of the Bible would punish HIS children, the Christians, despite their belief in HIM?
Can we appeal to generational curses when families are plagued by genetically heritable diseases such as diabetes (type 2), certain heart diseases, Early-onset Familial Alzheimer Disease (eFAD) etc? Not at all, for verses such as Ephesians 1: 3 (Christians are blessed with every spiritual blessing), Colossians 1: 13, 1 John 5: 18 teach that those who believe in Christ have been delivered from darkness and satan cannot harm them.
If you think about it, generational curses can be deviously used to wriggle out of many an unpleasant situation. For instance, if we want to get out of a particular relationship, and if we find a particular disease lingering in that family for generations, we could simply cite our unwillingness to be a part of that family that is plagued by generational curse (disease), and wriggle out of that relationship. Generational curses then seems to be a legitimate Christian means to abandon relationships. But this is a deceitful act even by the corrupt standards of this world, let alone the high moral standards defined by the Bible.
So to conclude, the Bible does not provide me with reasons to believe in generational curses. Hence the notion of generational curses is utterly invalid, and those who proclaim it are merely revealing their biblical misunderstandings. Amen.