Can a Christian be cursed with generational sin? Part 1

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When unable to explain life’s problems, well-meaning people sometimes suggest that you could be under a curse for the sins of an earlier generation in your family. The implication is obvious; God is judging you for ancestry sin. So, I thought we should take a few weeks to explore what God’s Word has to say on this matter.

Where does this idea come from?  
It’s extrapolated from the Old Testament Law; then wrongly applied to Christians today. When God gave the Law to Moses, He detailed severe warnings for Israel’s idolaters (Idol worshipers). The Lord said to Moses; “You shall not bow down to them (Idols) 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” (Exodus 20:5. c.f. Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).

As we all know, children often copy the wrong behaviour of their parents. In this sense, Exodus implies that the repeated sin of idolatry continued from one generation to the next. For God, idolatry is hatred toward Him. So, in giving the Law through Moses, Jehovah explained the consequences for those families guilty of idol worship.

A few observations
First, generational judgement was not for any old sin that all parents find themselves guilty of. No, this was specifically for those Israelite families guilty of bowing down to idols in violation of the first two commandments (Exodus 20:3-5). God was warning Israelite families that the guilt of continued idolatry brings a curse for future generations as part of the Old Testament Law. This consequence was specifically for the nation of Israel, and for the specific sin of idolatry.

Notice how the Lord followed the generational judgment with the corresponding generational blessing for obedience of the same first two commandments. God’s multiplied His mercy thousands of times more than His judgment when He committed to “showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

Second, although Jesus reiterated much of the Old Testament Law, He never reiterated generational judgement for idolatry. In fact, the apostles didn’t repeat this Old Testament generational judgment teaching either. It was unique to Israel for a short period of time during the Old Testament era.

Third
, the Old Testament records no less than four times where the Lord specifically reverses generational judgment of sin for the sins committed by a different generation.
* “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16).
* “…Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin” (2 Kings 14:6).
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“But everyone shall die for his own iniquity…” (Jeremiah 31:30)
* “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20).

I encourage you to rejoice in God’s fairness; “Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4). Next week we shall continue our study with ‘Part 2 – Can a Christian be cursed with generational sin?’

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