(With Generational Curses)
Many popular TV evangelists and teachers base their studies on what is commonly known as the “prosperity teaching.” In its simplest form, it says that God wants all of His children to prosper in every way – including in health and finances (3 John 1:2).
One of the first such evangelists was “Rev. Ike.” Since the early 1970’s, he has taught that listeners can “have what you want to have, be what you want to be, and do what you want to do” – just send him money. He also taught “You can’t loose with the stuff I use” and, “You will UNLEARN sickness and know health.” But he died in 2009 after failing to recover from a stroke two years previous.
It is blatantly evident that not every Christian is financially prosperous and also that practically all people die of some sickness/disease – even Rev. Ike. So, these prosperity teachers add two other questionable teachings: The “Word of Faith” teaching and “Generational Curses.” (Others, like Joel Osteen, return to the Rev Ike formula and simply say that we should look inside ourselves and our self-image to “Live our Best Life Now.”)
Most people, at some point in their life, have asked God to provide healing and/or financial help. Although helped spiritually, many did NOT receive money or physical healing. The prosperity teachers answer this in several ways:
- To explain why not all Christians are rich, they often place the blame on your faith: “If you are not healthy and prosperous, either you did not ask God, or you did not ask in faith.” Generally this is called the “Word of Faith” teaching. (Ja 1:6) (Rev Ike simply disputed the Bible outright: “If it’s that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven, think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn’t even have a bribe for the gatekeeper.“)
- Response: It would be difficult to exercise more faith than the Apostle Paul in the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to take away the “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, [sent] to torment me.” But God evidently declined his request and responded, “my grace is sufficient for you.” The thorn was given because Paul was the recipient of so many (Godly) revelations that people were starting to think that he (Paul) was God. That shows us what a great man of faith Paul was. He certainly asked, and the context shows that he asked in faith. But God declined to change the circumstances in his life.
This, plus many other Bible references, proves that the “prosperity teaching” is (at best) questionable. Further, such teaching is an insult to all the faithful Christians who have died (and gone to heaven) in sickness and/or in poverty.
The second explanation for your lack of prosperity is, “If you are not prosperous, it is because you are cursed for the sins of your ancestors.” This doctrine is usually called, “Generational Curses.” (Note1) The proponents of this teaching use Exodus 20:5 and Exodus 34:7 as “proof” of their theory. (Note2) It is this concept of “Generational Curses” that I wish to address in the rest of this article.
After a great deal of study and prayer, it is my considered opinion that the Bible does NOT teach this concept. The primary reason of this decision is that the Bible clearly states that it is untrue:
Ezekiel 18:1-4 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.
- The first problem for the teaching is that God said (Ezekiel 18:2) that it was a false proverb. (A proverb is a bit of collective “wisdom” that is commonly held to be factual but may indeed be false.)
- Secondly, God said that since the proverb was false, it was never again to be quoted in Israel (verse 3).
- And third, God stated that the person who commits sin is the [only] one who would die for their sin (verse 4). For more information about individual accountability, see our article on the subject here.
The followers of generational curses misunderstand:
- The Nature of God – The Nature of God is to bless His children
- The Definition of Guilt – Those who hate God are guilty
- Generational Accounting – Blessings last 1000 generations, curses last 4
- The Non-contradictory Word of God – All Scripture must agree in context
It is the nature of God to BLESS (not curse) His children. In Deuteronomy 11:26-28, God offered Israel the choice of being blessed (which He promised) or living under a curse if they worshipped idol gods. It was up to them, not their parents. (Note3)
Many of our physical attributes are the result of our genes – handed down from our parents. But neither your skin color nor your shoe size (nor any other physical attribute) makes you guilty before God.
Children may repeat the actions of their parents. This would make the children guilty and qualify them for punishment. But it is their action (not that of the parent) that makes them guilty. In order to give some credibility to the curses idea, some teachers say that children repeat sin because of the curse.
But multitudes of children do not repeat their parents’ sin (even if a sibling might). Each time, they prove that the repeating of sin is a choice. They also disprove the theory of generational curses.
Jesus said that we could recognize a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:44). And in Galatians 5:22,23 we learn that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Therefore it is certain that God’s nature is the same.
The verses used by teachers of generational curses state that God will not leave the guilty unpunished. But Exodus 20:5 (part of the Ten Commandments) states that it is only those who hate God (and worship other gods) who are guilty and deserving of such punishment. In the next verse (verse 6), God encourages those who love Him, “showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
In Exodus 34:6,7, God describes Himself differently to those who love Him and those who hate Him. To those who love Him, God described Himself as, “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.” Notice that God is compassionate, gracious, abounding in love and He forgives!
The Scriptures used in support of generational curses say that, if there really was a curse, it would only last for 3 or 4 generations (about 80 years at most) to those who hate Him. However, BOTH of these “proof” verses state that God will show love for 1000 generations (about 20,000 years) to those who love Him (God). See the comparative times?
Let me make this clear. Even if my earthly father had worshipped idols (he did not), then the love that Jesus showed for the Father 2000 years (100 generations) ago would still be in effect and FAR overshadow any hatred expressed by my father. And the promise of God (love to the children for 1000 generations) would far overshadow any “curse” upon my ancestors. And, if there was a conflict, who would decide whether the 4 generations or the 1000 generations would prevail? Why GOD Himself, of course! And, He is loving and forgiving!
Finally, any curse that might transcend generations (there is not) would require some means of breaking the curse. Otherwise, practically every person on earth would be forever lost.
Consequently, the teachers of generational curses always offer a solution to break the curse. Teachers such as Neil Anderson talk about casting out the demons transferred down the “blood line.” Some say one must break the “soul ties” between parent and child. None of these concepts appear in the Bible.
Response: Whatever curse was against us was broken once and for all at the cross of Jesus.
Galatians 3:13, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”‘
The work of Christ was finished at the cross and the curse is broken when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and the Spirit of God comes into our life. We are now a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), clean and pure, and NOT condemned (John 3:18).
Every verse in the Bible must be considered in the context of the rest of the chapter where it is written. (See my article on “Using Context in the Bible” here.) Each verse must also be considered in the context of the entire Book where it is found. Finally, every verse must be considered in the context of the entire Bible and of God’s revealed plan for mankind.
In the Bible, there are only four verses that mention the suffering for the sins of the fathers and two of them are only quotes of the other two. All four verses are in the Old Testament. (The O.T. holds historical and prophetic value but the New Testament is the Christian’s ONLY source of rules for living.) Yet, there are entire chapters in the Old Testament (and everything in the N.T.) that clearly state that each of us is responsible ONLY for what we do in this life. The rules of context demand that we resolve the (perceived) differences between these Scriptures.
In Ezekiel 18:1-4 (see above) God clearly stated that proverb of children suffering for the sins of their fathers was (and is) false. Further, God said it should never be used again because only the person who sins will die for his sin. It could not be much clearer. But, if there was some misunderstanding, God provided more guidance (with examples) in the rest of chapter 18. Then, Ezekiel 33:10-20 repeats that same concept.
It is clear that when God spoke of visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, He referred to the sins that children observed in their parents and voluntarily repeated. When they sin, they bring judgment upon themselves (and no others).
With this understanding, it is also clear that the Bible (taken in context) does not support the teaching that an individual may suffer uniquely for the sins of his/her father (or other ancestor). Those who teach such error are misled and they are misleading others by not studying and teaching the entire Word of God in context (2 Timothy 2:14,15).
Note1, Rev Ike taught God-in-me (you) as the only deity (“The only savior in this philosophy is God in you.”); Neil Anderson teaches that demons are passed from generation to generation – even among Christians; Derek Prince, Rebecca Brown, and Teresa Castleman all teach such curses, and the associated ideas – including “familiar spirits” inhabiting Christians.
Note3, God told Moses that an entire generation of Israelites (who had worshipped other gods) would not be allowed to enter the promised land. Yet their children would be allowed. (Deu 1:34-40)