African Christianity has been greatly influenced by the Word of Faith movement – a movement that has an overemphasis on health and wealth – or what is commonly known as the prosperity gospel. People are taught that, as believers, they are entitled to wealth and health. But what happens when believers do not become healthy and wealthy as has been promised? Another false excuse comes into play: something we call generational curses.
Believers are told they are not healthy and wealthy because they have generational curses upon their lives.
What Are Generational Curses?
Believers are told this: while it is their right to become rich and wealthy, they are not able to be because they have generational curses upon their lives.
Now what are they?
This is the belief that demons, or curses, can be passed on from generation to generation. That these demons, or curses, can have ground in the lives of Christians on account of what their ancestors, or the people before them, have done. To get the curse of these demonic powers out of their lives, Christians are told they need to find out what these generational curses are. Then they must find a way to break them. How? Through praying or uttering out certain slogans or statements.
Lastly it is taught that while Christians have been saved by Jesus, Jesus Himself is not enough. That for a Christian to experience abundant breakthrough, they must be delivered from generational curses.
But is that really what the Bible says?
The Dangers Of Selective Bible Reading
When people usually advocate for deliverance from generational curses, they are picking out a number of Bible verses that have been selectively cited and twisted out of context.
Usually, Bible verses have been selectively cited and twisted out of context.
A point in case is Exodus 34:7. This verse talks about God visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.
But if you look at this Bible passage, you will notice that people who use it to advocate or teach generational curses are actually missing the context of the passage. When Exodus talks about God visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, he is actually talking about that in comparison to the love that he shows to thousands of those who obey Him.
The True Teaching Of These Verses
Look at Exodus 34 and Exodus 20. These are the major verses which are used to teach about generational curses. You can see that these verses underscore a number of things.
Number one: that God will bring his judgement upon people who worship idols, not who are believers and coming from the line of people who worshipped them necessarily. God will bring his judgement on those who hate God and not just the mere fact that they come from the lineage of people who were cursed.
It’s God who will visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children – it’s not that believers by transference receive curses from their ancestors.
You will also notice, based on the context of these two passages, that these curses are being brought about by God. It is God who will visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children. It is not that believers by transference receive curses from their ancestors. God is the one who brings them upon those who disobey him, or hate him, or worship idols.
Based on these few points you can tell that these Scriptures are being taken out of context, abused and misused.
Two Dangers of Misunderstanding Generational Curses
What are the consequences of misunderstanding generational curses?
1. Stripping Away Personal Accountability
As you can tell, when you are taught that the reason you are not progressing in life is because your ancestors’ curses are being transferred on you, what that does is take away responsibility from you as an individual believer, and puts it on your ancestors.
You live your life blaming your ancestors and what they did as the reason why you are not living a fruitful life.
Instead of repenting of your sins, or identifying things that are hindering your progress, you live your life blaming your ancestors and what they did as the reason why you are not living a fruitful life.
2. Downplaying The Work Of Jesus
Number two. You notice that it downplays the essential role of Jesus in salvation. It seems to teach that Jesus, yes, can save you, but salvation is not complete until the pastor has delivered you.
So it is like it is saying, “Yes! Jesus saved you! But now a pastor must deliver you for you to enjoy an abundance of God’s blessing”. That is not Biblical at all. It is unscriptural, it is heretic. It downplays the role of Christ in the atonement and in the salvation of sinners. Frankly, it’s an abuse on the once-for-all sacrifice that Christ has given.
Generational Curses: Addressing The Challenge
So how should we respond? How can the Church today address the challenge of generational curses?
Number one, we must remind people of the need to properly interpret the Scriptures. For when people go wrong on Bible interpretation, they are likely to take verses out of context. This in turn causes them to say what they are not supposed to say. We saw this already in the case of Exodus 20 and Exodus 34.
We must deepen people in the truth of Scripture. When people know what they believe and why they believe it, they are likely not to be swayed by the deceptive, seductive teachings of people who might want to take advantage of them – especially by keeping them in bondage to the fear of generational curses.
God does not judge Christians for the sins of their ancestors. God judges Christians for their personal sins.
We Will All Answer To God
We must remember as believers that God does not judge Christians for the sins of their ancestors. God judges Christians for their personal sins and their personal responsibility. Which is why the new covenant emphasises God dealing with individuals and God holding everybody accountable as persons – not on the basis of what their ancestors have done.
Individual responsibility for sin is upon a person. And indeed, personal acceptance of the gospel of salvation is upon a person. It cannot be passed on by ancestors or through generations.
And that, my friends is the true teaching of Scripture.