By Not Known

The Bible in several places reads, I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. (Ex 20:5; 34:7; Nu 14:18; Deut 5:9) So the mention of “generational curses” strikes fear in many but also fury in others. Am I being punished for the sins of my grandparents and parents? How can God be so unfair as to penalise innocent children? How can we be free from the blames of their blemishes?

These questions become more profoundly personal to some of us when our larger families appear to be threatened by patterns of infidelity, divorces, delinquency or death through generations. Are we all victims of our predecessors? Will we succumb to those patterns as well in our marriages and families?

The Bible gives valid warning in those passages concerning God’s intergenerational punishment of sin. But it should not be read mechanically. Although all humanity is fallen, the sinful habits and lifestyles of one generation do fashion the next generation so that they become more vulnerable to similar sin-temptations. Eventually their parents’ sins also become their own. So there is a contributory and personal culpability to sin which calls to mind Deut 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins.

When King Ahab humbled himself after being heavily judged by God for coveting Naboth’s vineyard, God relented saying, Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son. (1 kgs 21:29) Ahaziah, son of Ahab, died childless under God’s judgement for his idolatry much like his father (1 Kgs 22:53; 2 Kgs 1:16).

None of us can be fully free of fallen habits and influences from our parents and us to our children. The bane of “generational sins” should warn us to live carefully and wisely under God’s word.  However, Exodus 20:5 is framed in the larger and outlasting love of God to those who love God and keep his commandments (Ex 20:6). 1 Peter 3:18 speaks of this great love, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. So let’s be encouraged that generational sins have no hold on us, for in Christ we are regenerated. That is good news!

Benson Goh