I believe in generational curses.
Now, as a Southern Baptist pastor, and a Calvinistic / Reformed one at that, this statement may prove shocking. So, let me explain.
I do not believe in generational curses the way some of my Pentecostal friends do. They propose that not only do certain sins or sinful propensities run in families (with which I agree), but that current generations are actually being punished by God for the sins of past generations (with which I disagree).
The idea of a “generational curse” comes from Exodus 20:5, which states: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”
On the surface, it may appear God is saying He punishes children for their parents’ or grandparents’ iniquities, particularly the sin of hating Him. Of course, a careful look at the text shows us that God says He “visits” not “punishes.” Thus, just using the actual words of the text itself, the main teaching is that indeed iniquities run in families! Sinful dispositions are in our genes, friends. For those understanding the Doctrine of Total Depravity, this comes as no surprise. Sin has infected every part of us as human beings, including our genetics and DNA. So, it should shock no one that when watching our children, “the apple does not fall far from the tree,” as we oft repine. Thus, the text mainly teaches us about what I call Sin Cycles in family lines. These can be easily observed. More on that later.
Going a step further, however, and employing the Principle of “Scripture interprets Scripture,” we must soundly reject the idea of God punishing current people for past people’s sins. Why? Because Ezekiel 18 directly addresses that faulty interpretation of Exodus 20 among the people of Israel. The Israelites of Ezekiel’s day interpreted Exodus 20:5 in the same way some Christians do today, and God strongly refuted their interpretation. They claimed they were being punished by God for the sins of their ancestors (18:1-2). God’s answer is given in verse 4, and again in verse 13, yet again in verse 17, once more in verse 20, and several times more in the chapter.
“The soul who sins shall die.”
Simple. Clear. God punishes each person for his or her own sins. And, don’t we all have enough heaped up iniquities to rightly call down God’s wrath on us now and forever? Why would God need to punish us for someone else’s sins when we have so many of our own? That is the lesson of Ezekiel 18. Hear God’s mercy-saturated conclusion:
“Therefore I will judge you . . . every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions lest iniquity be your ruin . . . Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn and live” (vv. 30-32).
This matter of breaking the sin cycles handed down to us by ancestors, teachers, peers, politicians, pastors (yes, sadly), and others is recurring in the Bible. Think of the Book of Judges! Consider the words of God via the Prophet Jeremiah when he was explaining why God’s judgment was about to fall: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them” (Jer 9:13-14).
You see, dear Christian, we have been taught many things by many people, not the least of which are our parents and family members. Treasure the good things passed down (good as defined by God’s Word). Trash the unbiblical things or bad habits or sinful cycles. Cry out for God’s grace to powerfully move your heart and life, so that you can have His strength to break those sin cycles in your own homes. Do whatever it takes, by the grace of God’s Spirit working through His Word, to break the damaging cycles. For God’s glory and the good of your marriage / home, break the cycles!
Some of us have learned divorce from our parents. Children of divorce, of all people, should hate it and be crying out for grace and doing whatever it takes to break this ruinous cycle in their own marriages! Divorce is an especially difficult cycle to break, too, as borne out by research showing that second marriages fare even worse than the first, third worse than seconds, and so on. But, in Christ, “where sin abounds, grace more than abounds.”
Some of us have learned poor communication or little to no communication. Closing off from your spouse is just another form of running and hiding . . . handed down to us all by our first parents in Eden. If marriage is to express the intimacy between Christ and His church, then what place could hiding and running and sewing fig leaves possibly have in it?
Some of us have learned abuse, whether by alcohol or drugs or physical harm or demeaning words. God help those of you who have seen and experienced this cycle to find healing in Jesus and to be given mercy to break this cycle.
Some of us have learned workaholism. Some have learned materialism. Some have learned humanism (self-centeredness which claims so many supposed “rights” to be happy and get our way). Oh the things we have learned! Oh the sin cycles that we must break in Jesus’ name!
Every spouse carries baggage into his or her marriage. Some of the luggage glorifies God and should be treasured and retained. But, because we are fallen children of Adam, much of our baggage must be jettisoned by the sanctifying grace of God. And, this is true not just of “hand-me-down” baggage, but also because of suitcases we all pick up along life’s journey, as well. Every generation of believers must examine baggage and cycles using the lens of Scripture to discern what stays and what must go.
May God give all His redeemed people a strong desire to fight for and live the vision of Romans 8:1, which reminds us “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Christian husband, lay the baggage down at Jesus’ feet. Do it once, and again and again as you fight for God’s glory in your marriage and home.
Christian wife, beg for grace to break the sin cycles you have both inherited and picked up willingly. Trash what dishonors your Savior and King. Do it today, and every day thereafter until you see His face.
Jesus, help us identify and own our baggage. Show us the sinful cycles we must break in our lives so that we can live each day in the power You give to “walk in the newness of life.” Help us, Holy Spirit, to “put to death the deeds of the body” that we might live as “sons of God.” Thank you, dear Savior, for bearing our filthy luggage on the cross, so that through total trust in You, we might not have to experience your wrath. Thank You, Father God, for “visiting” our iniquities on Your Holy Son, making Him a curse for us, so that we might receive the blessed promises that only Jesus deserves. Amen.