There is a widespread myth in many churches that God sends generational curses on people for the sins of their parents. The myth argues that I am being punished by God because my father or mother sinned against God, didn’t repent for a sin, or did something wrong. The belief in this myth is often rooted more in experience than in the truth of God’s Word. Sometimes people feel like their difficulties must be a punishment from God, and yet the blame for that punishment rests on their parents who should have done something differently. However, Ezekiel 18:1-4 (NLT) says:
“Then another message came to me from the LORD:
“Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’?
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel.
For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.”
As we read through the rest of the chapter, it is abundantly clear that the Lord does not hold the sins of parents against their children or the sins of children against their parents. In its context, this scripture was particularly important because the prophets made it clear that the judgment of God on Israel was not because of the sins of past generations.
Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s audiences in Israel were going into Babylonian captivity because of their sins against God, not because God was punishing them for the sins of every generation of Israelites up to that point (Ezekiel 18:4, Jeremiah 31:29-30). The Lord judges each person according to their own actions, not the actions of anyone else. Each person in Israel had the ability and responsibility to choose a right relationship with the Lord and to follow His commandments; it was not based on the decision of their parents.
The myth continued even in Jesus’ time. In John 9, Jesus is questioned about why a young man was born blind. The crowd thought it was because of his parents’ sins or his sins. Jesus responds that the answer is neither. He explains that it was an opportunity for God to be glorified when the man was healed (John 9:3). The sins of the man’s parents did not cause the blindness. There was no curse from God for sin.
It is important to note that the sins or wrongdoing of a parent can absolutely impact a child. The characteristics of a parent can also be passed on to his children. We do not have to look far to see how the favoritism of Isaac can be seen in Jacob, or how the infidelity of David hurts his entire family. There are a plethora of statistics that identify significant correlation between adversity and surviving a childhood with a parent who abused drugs or was incarcerated, for example.
But statistics, family history, or precedent cannot define a person, even though they may impact the individual greatly. A person who learns not to trust because of an untrustworthy parent must deal with their trust issues. But they are not punished by God for their parent’s poor choices to lie and abuse trust. In fact, in scripture we see story after story of God empowering individuals to overcome their circumstances and family trauma. Moses went from adopted orphan to prince of Egypt to deliverer from Egypt. David was rejected by his father but became king of Israel. Jonathan stood up to his father Saul in order to save David. Esther was raised by her uncle and was an outcast before she became the queen of Persia and delivered her people.
There is no generational curse for those who follow the Lord. We are free from any curse because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus has freed us from the power of sin, death, hell, and the grave. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We can choose to love God and receive His love. We can receive peace, joy, and freedom through Christ, regardless of what our parents may have done.
We must reject the myth of generational curses as believers. Ezekiel and Jeremiah make that clear. Jesus breaks every curse. We can put our faith in God knowing we are not being punished for the sins of our parents. We can confront our unhealthy family histories and embrace our life-giving family traditions. We can walk in freedom from the myth of generational curses through the power of Jesus Christ our Savior!