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To the 3rd and 4th generation
Brad Sadler

Recently the question “are we subject to a curse from God if our father, or grandfather was guilty of a sin?” was asked. Generally I find this question coming up where a person is struggling, or knows of a person struggling, to get victory over destructive behaviour that was prevalent in a family member (particularly a father or grandfather). Or alternatively experience situations where they are constantly facing the so called “results of the sins of my family before me“.

In many cases the person has tried to conquer this repeating sin, but can’t and so puts it down to “well my father was like that and his father before him…therefore I am like that“. Believers in this situation most probably have the scriptures of Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9 in mind.

The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ (Numbers 14:18).

It doesn’t seem fair for God to punish children for their fathers sin, but as you rightly guessed (because God is a fair and just God) there is more to it than that. Just an aside…when you see a scripture that seems unfair or unjust, go straight to the character of God to set your heart at peace and look deeper into that scripture.

Lets do that here.

Should a father have a sinful lifestyle (sin is disobedience to God) you often find his children repeating the lifestyle because sometimes, it’s all they know.

Today there seems to be a trend in Christian circles, to blame every sin and problem on some sort of generation curse or other. This is completely unbiblical.

The generational curses spoken of in the Old Testament scriptures was a consequence for a specific nation (Israel) for a specific sin (idolatry).

The cure for a generational curse has always been repentance. When Israel turned from idols to serve God, the “curse” was broken and God saved them (Judges 3:9, 15; 1 Samuel 12:10-11). Yes, God promised to visit Israel’s sin upon the third and fourth generations, but in the very next verse He promised that He would show “love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

In other words, God’s grace lasts a thousand times longer than His wrath.

If you are worried about a generational curse, the answer is salvation through Jesus Christ. A believer is a new creation “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). How can a child of God still be under God’s curse “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Furthermore, Ezekiel 18:30 assures us God doesn’t punish children for their parents’ sins. God clearly says, “I will judge you, each one according to his ways” (v. 30). However, some believers seem to wrestle and struggle to find victory in areas that their fathers or grandfathers struggled with, for example alcoholism, pornography, domestic violence, racism, bitterness etc.

These areas of bondage are behaviour patterns one may have learned environmentally, one may be genetically predisposed, or any binding influence passed down through other means. Whatever the bondage may be, we must face the generational stronghold head-on and trust the Lord to bring restoration to these areas in our lives.

Often children grow up in the midst of these patterns of destructive behaviour and in time becomes more and more natural to behave in this way, when in reality it is not natural at all to behave in this way.

Thankfully, as believers we are not doomed to live with our families’ sins. Christ is enough to set us free from every yoke; God’s Word is enough to make freedom a practical reality, no matter what those before us have done.

I think the concept of generational sin applies to us through its powerful repercussions instead. I believe God is referring to a natural phenomenon described poignantly in Hosea 8:7, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” As parents and grandparents we need to be aware of what we sow because it may reap the wind in our own lives and a whirlwind in the lives that follow.

Sin is sin, disobedience to God is disobedience to God whichever way we look at it.

Galatians 5:16-17 says “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.“.

Through the power, guidance and grace from God through His Spirit, you and I are able to walk free from destructive bahaviours. God has not cursed us because of the behaviour of family members, He has through Christ set us free to walk in freedom from bondage…call on His name and walk in the power of his Spirit.