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December 07th, 2021
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron


Last week’s article was about ongoing conflict between Jacob and Esau, with birthright and blessing obtained by the younger brother. Negative dynamics had involved all the family members over several generations. Some use phrases such as, “like father, like son” or “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” So, I’d like to pause the series on Bible patriarchs to review some material on generational curse. One source is an article written by Dr. Wave Nunnally called “Generational Curses: The Sins of Generational Curse”. 

It’s evident in the Genesis story that Jacob had been trained by both his mother and father to be misleading. Several characters had a “to die for” mentality, indicating some things were so valuable they would rather die than do without. When Esau was tricked by his brother, he tried to justify himself, though there was no excuse for the surrender of his birthright or the hatred exhibited toward Jacob. 

Negative traits from Abraham’s life reappeared in Isaac, then both of his grandsons. Could there be such a thing as generational curse, and do children suffer for the sins of their family? This idea is found originally in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. 

“‘I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting the punishment of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me’” (Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9) God said to Moses, “‘[I] will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, inflicting the punishment of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations’” (Genesis 34:7). Later in Deuteronomy, we find, “‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin alone’” (verse 16). 

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Old Testament prophets told of a new covenant. “In those days they will no longer say, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, but it is the children’s teeth that have become blunt’” (Jeremiah 31:29). Ezekiel shared God’s declaration about the figure of speech, “‘…you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore’” (Ezekiel 18:3,4). 

One reason the verses are particularly impactful is my personal family history. Yes, people do suffer consequences of their parents’ wrongdoing. Some parents know right from wrong, and even tell their kids, “Do as I say, not as I do” because they don’t want children to struggle the same way they have. But there comes a point where each person makes his or her own decisions: one night in my younger days, something was going on in our home that made me think, I don’t want to end up like this. Then, though we make the initial step toward change, we need the deliverance He offers from family difficulties. Through Christ we find empowerment to escape the trap of generational influence. 

Jesus’ disciples were still stuck in the old ways when they saw a man blind from birth and asked, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?’ Jesus clarified, ‘It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents; but . . . that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:2-3). While the disciples were fixated on the old paganistic worldview that sin-guilt could be inherited, Jesus was intent on emphasizing the glory and grace of God. 

Prophecy fulfilled in Christ shed new light on sin, and the opportunity for new beginnings. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Jesus told his followers, “‘if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:36). Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

So, what’s the answer for a family who suffers from penalties for a parent’s wrongdoing? The consequences are countered by the realization that God loved us enough to send his Son. As we repent of our own sins, consecrate our life to God, and learn to forgive the failures – our own and our parents’ – the effects of past offenses are negated. Whatever was there no longer has control over us. We’re not bound to the old ways, but to a future with Christ. 

When we return to the study of Jacob and the other patriarchs, we’ll see more instances where God intervened. Their failures were not fatal, and their family heritage led to many lives of faithfulness. 

Some of us suffer because of our parents’ failures and the sins of our culture. Actions do have consequences; evil in our lives does impact future generations. As we separate ourselves from those situations, accept Christ’s sacrifice and pardon, we can forgive the past, break any generational curse, and find freedom for our family’s future. 

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