Based on texts taken out of context and used as pretexts, it has become increasingly common for Christians to suppose that they are victims of generational curses. As such, they suppose they have inherited demons ranging from anger to alcoholism, from laziness to lust. Closer examination, however, demonstrates this notion to be seriously flawed.
First, Scripture clearly communicates that consequences—not curses—are passed on through the generations. In this sense, the Bible says that children are punished for the sins of their fathers “to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5). The children of alcoholic fathers frequently suffer neglect and abuse as a direct consequence of their father’s sinful behavior. Moreover, the descendants of those who hate God are likely to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers.
Furthermore, Scripture explicitly tells us that “the son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). Indeed, when ancient Israel quoted the proverb, “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2), God responded in no uncertain terms: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel . . . The soul who sins is the one who will die” (vv. 3–4, emphasis added). Consequences—not curses—are passed on through the generations.
Finally, while the notion of generational curses is foreign to Scripture, there is a sense in which the curse of sin has been passed on from generation to generation. Through the first Adam, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Through the Second Adam—Jesus Christ— atonement is offered to all. Says Paul, “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18). Through no act of our own we are condemned; likewise, through no act of our own we are saved (Romans 5:12–21).
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, The Covering: God’s Plan to Protect You from Evil (Nashville:W Publishing, 2002).
“The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.”