Generational Curses – Are you cursed?

One of our Members asked the generational curse question.[1] This question is not asked as often as it is stated, especially in a counseling context.

I’ve heard it many times in counseling, where a person talks about how they are under some sort of curse. Here is a real counseling situation where a girl believed she was part of a generational curse.[2]

Roxanne could not stop gushing about how happy she was. God was good and she was living in sustained happiness. Her prayer life was rich. Her bible reading was alive. And her ministry opportunities were plenteous.

The more she talked, the more I wondered why she was seeing me for counseling. She talked without interruption for 30 minutes about the goodness, bigness, and kindness of God. I was a bit perplexed. It appeared she would be the first counselee to ever come to me because she was too happy.

At some point during her joy-filled monologue, she inserted that she was also on medication. It was a passing comment with no elaboration. She continued to talk for another 30 minutes, and her statement about medications was lost in all her joy-filled blather.

After she left, my counselor-in-training asked me if I heard her say she was on meds. I said that I had, but it got lost in her happy-talk-wind-machine. We both agreed it would be good to bring her back for another appointment and ask her about the medications.

The next week she came in, and I popped the question. I asked the following: “Last week you said you were on medications. Can you tell me more about that?” That was it. That was all I asked.

What followed was stunning. Without hesitating, she began crying and yelling. It was the exact opposite of the emotion she had shown the week before. She cried, elevated her voice, and accused me of insensitivity for fifteen minutes.

It’s my destiny

She interpreted my question as an attempt to take her medications away from her–this was not tenable in her thinking. She said her grandmother and mother were on the same medications. She believed in generational curses.

Though there was no objective evidence to support her claim, she believed this was God’s will for her life and I was the bad guy attempting to take her medications away from her. Honestly, I was only asking a question.

I have never asked anyone to stop taking medications, but she did not know this. Her self-generated faith was so strong in her medications that a suggestion or implication to the contrary was an affront to her.

From her perspective, it was like pushing her out of an airplane without a parachute. God was not helping her overcome her problems. The Spirit was not empowering her in and through her many sanctification issues. The grace of God was not working for her.

It was the meds; they were sustaining her, and I was the meanie who was taking them away. This was a faith issue for her. Her faith in God was not in a grace-giving God, but a med-giving God.

Like Lieutenant Dan from the movie Forrest Gump, this was her destiny. She was in the line of a bunch of cursed people. Though there can be value in medication, she was not coming at it from a biblical perspective. She believed she was cursed.

Genetic determinism

There is another line of thinking that is similar to generational curses. It’s called genetic determinism. There is some merit in thinking about genetic determinism in the sense we all are wired uniquely and sinfully.

It is also true that because of genetics, it is provable a person should take certain mediations. Because of the fall of Adam, sin has corrupted our genetic makeup and we do have certain proclivities that can be detrimental to our health.

I’ll not elaborate more here since I have discussed this in other articles. You can read those articles on our Membership Site:

Though every person does not come off medication, through ongoing counseling, this lady did go off hers and has been medication-free for over 10 years.

For her, it was not a medication issue, but a poor theology issue. Her problem was not about a genetic predisposition regarding legitimate health issues. She believed she lived under a curse–a cursed Christian.

Generational curses

The idea of generational curses comes from the sermon from Moses when he gave the Decalogue–the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:4-6 (ESV)

In Exodus 34 you’ll read a retelling of the event where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai. The wording about the generational curses is a little bit different in Exodus 34, but the idea is the same–you sin and you will be cursed and your children, and your children’s children too.

It’s important to read both passages in context to get the full meaning. It’s also important not to take the passages out of context and make an application to yourself that the Bible does not make.

Too often people will read something in the Old Testament and make the assumption God is talking to them and what God said back then stretches to all people, to all times, with no exceptions and it never changes. This is a poor way of interpreting the Bible.

Though God does not change, the way He interacts with His people does change. We see this in the first three chapters of the Bible. Our unchanging God interacted with ever-changing man in two different ways.

In the beginning everything was cool and God, Adam, and Eve had an incredible time together. Turn the page to chapter three and Adam and Eve decided they wanted to go another way–do their own thing. They sinned.

God did not change, but they did. And because they changed, they entered into another kind of relationship with God. Generational curses are not so much about what God will do as it is about what man does.

God will not change

Think about it this way: suppose God was like a big house and in that house were many rooms. The house and the rooms never change. They are what they are and there is nothing you can do about it.

Let’s say one of those rooms was the “I hate God” room. According to the what God said through Moses, if you go into that room, you will be cursed and if you have children, they will be cursed too. And if they have children, those children will be cursed.

I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me… – Exodus 20:5 (ESV)

Believe it: if you hate God, you will be cursed and if you bear children who are like you, they will be cursed too. God will not change this. It is the law of sowing and reaping.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. – Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)

There are some things that are unalterable and the consequences for hating God is one of those things. There is no grace or mercy for a man or woman who hates God.

But you may ask, “Why does it go to the third and fourth generation?” Well, it will go farther than that. The third and fourth generation is not a magic stopping point. That was not the point God was making through Moses. That would not make sense.

If I hate God, then He will curse me down to my fourth generation. That is odd and out-of-step with who God is and how He deals with people. The real point is the idea of reaping what you sow and how your sowing can penetrate many generations of your family.

Hating God has gone through every generation since Adam first hated Him in the garden of Eden. The third and fourth generation is a way of saying the curse is unending.

The curse is your choice

If you read Exodus 20:5 as though it ended in a period and did not run on into verse 6, I suppose you could do some biblical gymnastics and conjure up an idea of generational curses.

…but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:6 (ESV)

However, if you read the passage in context, you find it inline with the entire Bible, as well as the God we know and love. God has never changed. He said in the beginning if you sin, you will be cursed.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)

He cannot go back on His Word. What He said in the beginning, He says in the Decalogue. You sin, you die. If your children sin, they will be cursed too, and that will never stop no matter how many generations choose to hate Him.

However, there is another teaching in Scripture too. It is the generational curse buster teaching. That teaching is also called the Gospel.

The Generational Curse Buster

God did not end the sentence in verse five. He continued on with His thought. He said if anyone would choose to love Him and keep His commandments, then he/she would experience the amazing steadfast love of God.

God would later reveal how that could happen as He fleshed it out more in the New Testament. Only when He came in the form of a man could we understand the rest of the story.

This is important because some will read Exodus 20:5-6 and say, “I can’t keep His commandments, though I love Him. Does this mean I’m cursed?” No, it does not. What it means is you MUST read the Bible as one book and take it all in context.

While it is true God will only love those who keep His commandments, it is also true nobody can keep His commandments. This is why He sent His Son. Jesus came to completely and perfectly fulfill the laws of the Old Testament and the only way you can “keep” those laws is by trusting the One who did.

The bottom line is if a person chooses to reject Christ, he will be cursed now and throughout eternity. The curse is currently on any person who rejects God and that curse will never expire. It will take them into irrevocable rejection in hell.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36 (ESV)

The term generational curse is a bad term. It is not a biblical one, but a man-made one. God simply said He would curse any and all generations who hate Him. Man took that thought and turned it around into the term generational curses.

Man made it say something God did not say, while also cutting the term off from the grace of God. Typically when a person talks about generational curses, they talk about it in a negative light and don’t talk about God’s grace as the triumphal answer to the curse.

It’s like they cut the sentence off in Exodus 20:5 and forget there is more positive about the sentence than negative. Grace is always more positive than sin and grace should always be highlighted more than sin.

But if you put the period in the wrong place, your mind will go to the wrong place and who God is and what He can do in your life will be missed. The whole point of the Decalogue is to reveal to our need for Christ and how the curse upon Adam can be reversed.

A personal testimony

If you miss Christ, then you are stuck in a curse and you won’t be able to get out. My father was a God-rejector. Because he lived in the South and was affected by Christianity, he would never say he hated God.

But his actions spoke louder than his words. We can soften the corners on his life and not say he hated God and feel better about him, but we’re only playing games. There are no shades of gray here. You either hate or you love. He didn’t love God.

My father was cursed. And I was cursed too. I was reared in a pot-smoking, beer-drinking, verbally and physically abusive home. My father spread the curse just like God said would happen for a person who rejected Him.

But God, for reasons I don’t understand, interjected Himself into my life when I was 25-years old. My eyes water as I type this. God reversed the curse. He regenerated me. I was born again.

It’s been more than 25 years since He saved me and it has never occurred to me that I was under some kind of curse. I was under a curse that was passed down to me from my daddy, but the curse was lifted by the grace of God.

If you struggle with this idea of generational sins, may I suggest you retrain your mind to focus less on who you are and more on who Christ is and what He has done.

Focusing on generational curses is the product of self-centered, problem-centered thinking. It is not Christ-centered thinking and it brings shame to the work of Christ. It marginalizes His work, while under-valuing His death.

I would recommend you spend more time reading, studying, praying, reflecting, and talking to others about the Gospel. There are two books that could serve you well in this adventure.

If you read the Grudem book, focus in on the Doctrine of God, Christ, Man, and Salvation. It should blow your socks off. There are also some great questions at the end of each chapter. It would serve you well to journal your answers.

Be blessed. Christ lifted the curse. Rejoice.

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  1. [1] Due to the amount of questions asked each day, I can only respond to our Member questions.
  2. [2] I’ve changed the name and altered some of the facts to flatten the story out.
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About Rick Thomas

Rick is an author, speaker, consultant, and podcaster. He has been training in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own training organization in order to encourage and equip people for more effective living. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. He then earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with ACBC. Today his organization reaches people around the world through consulting, training, writing, and speaking.
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