What Is a Generational Curse and Are They Real Today?

Clarence L. Haynes Jr.
| Contributing Writer
2020
9 Oct
Little girl afraid while parents yell

A term that is often heard in Christian circles is the term generational curse. I am not sure if people who are not Christians use that terminology or at least I have never heard it if they do. Many people may wonder what exactly is a generational curse. Some even go a step further to ask are generational curses real today? The answer to that question is yes, but maybe not in a way you may have thought.

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Little girl afraid while parents yell

What Is a Generational Curse?

To begin with I want to redefine the term because what people often describe as generational curses are really generational consequences. What I mean is that what is passed down is not a “curse” in the sense that God is cursing the family line. What is passed down is the consequence of sinful actions and behavior. Thus, a generational curse is really a function of sowing and reaping passed down from one generation to the next. Consider Galatians 6:8:

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

The generational curse is a passing down of sinful behavior that gets replicated in the next generation. A parent doesn’t just pass down physical attributes but also spiritual and emotional attributes as well. These attributes can be seen as a curse and in some respects they are. However, they are not a curse from God, meaning he put them on you, they are a result of sin and sinful behavior. 

What Is the True Origin of Generational Sin?

To understand the origin of generational sin you must go back to the beginning.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

The generational curse of sin started with Adam in the garden, not with Moses. Because of Adam’s sin we are all born under the curse of sin. This curse causes us all to be born with a sinful nature which is the true catalyst of any sinful behavior we exhibit.  As David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).

If left to its own devices, sin will run its course. If it is never dealt with, it will end in eternal separation from God himself. This is the ultimate generational curse. However, when most people talk about generational curses, they don’t think of original sin. So, let’s consider all of the previous information and formulate a complete answer to the question are generational curses real today?

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Little girl afraid while parents yell

Where in the Bible Do We See Generational Curses?

A lot of focus and thought surrounding the question of whether generational curses are real today comes from Exodus 34:7.

“Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”  

When you read this in isolation, it is understandable when thinking about if generational curses real today to conclude yes, based on this Scripture verse. However, I want to look at what God said just before this:

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).

How do you reconcile these two different pictures of God? On one hand, you have a God who is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. On the other hand, you have a God who seems to be punishing children for the sins of their parents. How do you marry these two images of God?

The answer brings us back to the principle mentioned in Galatians. To the one who repents, God forgives. To the one who refuses they set in motion the sowing and reaping of sinful behavior. That is what gets passed down from one generation to the next. 

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Are Generational Curses Still Real Today?

As you can see, there are actually two answers to this question, and it is based on how you define the term. To be clear, the generational curse of original sin is still alive and real today. Every person is born under this curse. What is also alive and real today are the generational consequences that come from the sinful choices passed down through generations.

However, this does not mean that if your father was an alcoholic, adulterer, or caught up in whatever sinful behavior, that this is what you will become. What it does mean is that this behavior exhibited by your father or parents will have consequences in your life. Whether for good or bad, they may shape the way you view life and the decisions and choices that you make.

Aren't Generational Curses Unfair and Unjust?

Another way of looking at this question is if God is just, why would he curse generations? To be clear it is important to remember that God is not cursing generations. God is allowing the consequence of unrepentant sin to run its course, which I guess you could argue is a curse unto itself. Ultimately in God’s design, every person is responsible for their own sinful behavior and will be judged accordingly. Consider Jeremiah 31:29-30:

“In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes — their own teeth will be set on edge.”

While you may have to deal with the effects of the unrepentant sinful behavior of your parents, you are still responsible for your own choices and decisions. They may have impacted and shaped many of the actions you take, but they are still actions you must choose to take.

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Little girl afraid while parents yell

How Do You Break Generational Curses?

I don’t think you can just stop at the question are generational curses real today? The more urgent question in my mind is how then do you break them? We are all born under the generational curse of Adam’s sin and we are all enduring the generational consequences of our parents’ unrepentant sin. How do you break all of this? Romans provides us with the answer.

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people” (Romans 5:17-18).

The remedy to break the curse of Adam’s sin and the consequence of your parents’ sin is found in Jesus Christ. Any person born again in Jesus Christ has been made brand new and you are no longer under the curse of any sin. Consider this verse:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]” (2 Corinthians 5:17, AMP).

Regardless of what has happened before, once you are in Christ it is all made brand new. This one decision to repent and choose Jesus as your savior ends any generational curse or consequence that you feel prone to. If salvation breaks the ultimate generational curse of original sin, it will also break the consequence of any sins of your fathers. The challenge for you is to continue to walk out what God has done in you. If you are in Christ you are no longer a prisoner to your past, you have been set free.

Honestly sometimes the scars of your past life remain but you don’t have to remain victim to them because Jesus has set you on a new path. As Jesus has declared in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Pass Down Godliness

You and I were born under a curse and a consequence. The curse of original sin and the consequence of our parents’ behaviors. The good news is that just as sinful behaviors can be passed down, so can Godly behaviors. Once you are in Christ you can begin a new family heritage of people walking with God from one generation to the next.

Because you belong to him, you can transform your family line from generational cursing to generational blessing. You are new in Christ, you are free in Christ so walk in that newness and freedom. Regardless of what has happened before, because of Christ you have victory. I implore you to live in that victory and change the course of your family’s future for generations to come.

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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com

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