In this series we have been studying a Biblical principle found in Scripture often referred to as Generational Curses. First cited in Exodus 20:5 and referenced several times after (Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9 and Jeremiah 36:31), it revolves around the idea that the sin/iniquity of the parents can be be passed down to the children for up to four generations.
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. (Exodus 20:5 NASV)
In our previous article, I discussed how King David’s family was affected by such a curse.
So the obvious question is, what type of iniquity or sin can be passed down?
In the Exodus passage, it states that iniquity of the parents can be passed down, not the sin. While sin refers to the act of sinning, iniquity speaks of a sin addiction.
Since one of the earliest references to iniquity is found in the chapter dealing with the 10 commandments (Exodus 20), this is a good place to start – murder (anger), adultery (lust), idolatry (rebellion), stealing (covetousness) and lying (deceitfulness) are good examples. Other characteristics that may be passed down include alcoholism which is a sin condemned in the Bible.
The Bible also lists curses associated with specific activities such as greed, which is put on people who withheld giving money to the poor (Proverbs 28:27) or robbed tithes from God ( Malachi 3:9).
How do you know if a generational curse is active in your life?
The first stage is to identify any potential areas of iniquity. Are there any sin addictions or secret sins? A Generational Curse will be your greatest secret. The second step is to take the spiritual temperature of your family – are you aware of any sins that seem common in your family? It is not that everyone will be doing it, but it just keeps popping up.
Once you have identified potential sources of generational curses how do you deal with them?
Christ broke the curse
The first step in breaking generational curses is found in Galatians 3: 9-13 where Paul says that Christ redeemed us from all the curses associated with the law.
The breaking of the curse was due to the Romans preferred method of execution – crucifixion.
In Jewish society, people who committed particularly hideous crimes were not only executed, but their dead bodies were hung on trees:
22 “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 NASV)
This resulted in a further vilification and humiliation of the individual as vultures and other carrion eaters disfigured the body. Because they were being savaged in such a vile way by unclean birds, such people were declared accursed.
When the Romans crucified Christ, they chose a method of execution that brought with it the curse associated with being hung on the tree. Consequently, Christ’s death was not only punishment for our sins, but the method of execution broke the curses associated with the law as Christ became accursed us. This included generational curses.
Does this mean that generational curses are impotent — unable to affect the believer? The answer to this question is both yes and no.
Let me explain what I mean.
Salvation is available to the whole world, but this does not mean that everyone is automatically saved. Despite Christ’s work on the cross, people can still go to hell.
Only those who choose to believe Christ will receive salvation.
Healing is also in the atonement (Isaiah 53:5) — Christ’s death on the cross — but is everyone automatically healed?. No we have to believe and in some ways contend for healing.
In the same way, generational curses are legally broken, but they still have the potential to influence families. We are required to appropriate this victory in the same way we receive salvation — by faith.
One vital component of this battle is perspective — we must fight from the higher ground.
We do not ask God to break the generational curse — it is already broken — we must believe this fact and enforce it. This enforcement is accomplished through faith.
If you don’t believe your generational curse is broken, then guess what — it isn’t. Satan will challenge your position in Christ and test how much you really believe it. If the father of all lies can cause you to doubt your victory, then you are prodding down the road to defeat.
Generational curses can appear as thick chains swinging from our necks, but in fact they are only dangling by a thread.
Stop the victim mentality
The second crucial step in breaking generational curses is taking ownership of your sin. While the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel called them to repentance so that they could be restored back to their land.
The people — suffering from what is today described as a “victim mentality — resisted God’s call to repentance. A person suffering from a victim mentality blames everyone else for their problems, except themselves.
Israel’s blame shifting was summed up in a proverb that Ezekiel specifically deals with in chapter 18:2: “The fathers eat the sour grapes. But the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
The subtle message behind this proverb was this: though the fathers ate the sour grapes it was the children who actually tasted it. The Israelis believed that because of the sins of their fathers, they as the children were doomed to suffer the consequences (19).
19 “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. (Ezekiel 18:19 NASV)
Even if they repented, God would not restore them back to the nation of Israel because they were punished for the father’s sinful behavior.
However, in this chapter, God speaks against this notion saying that at any point the children can choose to break free from the generational curse. God prophesied through Ezekiel that each Israelite would be judged for their own sins (vs 18-22) – the key to ending this cycle was taking responsibility for their actions.
God illustrated this point by saying that righteous parents are not judged for the sins of their children — children are judged for their own sins. In the same manner, children of unrighteous parents can choose to live righteously and will not be punished for the parent’s sin.
If they are punished, it is because the children have embraced their parent’s iniquity.
However, by continually blaming their parents for their captivity, the Israelis refused to take personal responsibility for their action, which allowed the generational curse to continue its seditious work.
In his article, “Reading the Paper Like a Biblical Counselor,” David Edgington, an Evangelical Free Church pastor, tells the story of a thief who stole the purse off a San Francisco woman . The crime was witnessed by a local cab driver who pursued the thief in his cab.
After a chasing him for a few blocks the cabbie was finally able to corner the purse snatcher against a wall. However, in the process he broke the thief’s leg.
The thief eventually pleaded guilty to the crime but at the same time launched a $5 million lawsuit against the cab driver for the broken leg. The cab driver’s lawyer grudgingly admitted that the public generally hates these type of lawsuits, but added it is certainly winnable.
Edgington used this story to illustrate the victim mentality that so pervades our a society.
“In a victim society,” Edgington states, “everyone is a victim so consequently no one is guilty. If my bad upbringing “made” me do the crime, then I am not guilty. On the other hand, my parents are not guilty either for the influence they had upon me since they had struggles in their lives too. No one is to blame and no one is held responsible when everyone is a victim.”
The fact was the thief would never have had his leg broken, if he hadn’t committed the crime in the first place. Edgington said, “[the thief] effectively said that he was not willing to stand alone and face the consequence of his sin.”
This is the fourth in a seven-part series on Generational Curses.
More in this series:
- Generational Curses: Part 1 — Inheriting sin?
- Generational curses: Part 2 — For four generations
- Generational Curses: Part 3 — Did King David’s family have a generational curse?
- Generational Curses: Part 4 — Jesus breaks the curse
- Generational Curses: Part 5 — Exposing the secret sins
- Generational Curses: Part 6 — the one condition, forgiving our parents
- Edgington, David, Reading the Paper Like a Biblical Counselor (National Association of Nouthetic Counsel