Generational Curse

What does the Assemblies of God believe in regard to the verse about the sins of the fathers being passed on to their children?

The idea of a generational curse has captured the thinking of many Christians because it sounds so reasonable. Without doubt, parents have an influence on their children through inherited traits and parental teaching and example. But God holds individuals responsible for their choices and sins, not the sins of ancestors.

The biblical passage on which the extreme teaching of generational curses is based must be revisited in order to see how Scripture has been misapplied. Instructing the Israelites concerning the second commandment, God said, “You shall not bow down to them [idols and other gods] or worship them; for 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, but showing love to a thousand generationsof those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5,6). Idol worshipers and followers of other gods truly hate God. And as succeeding generations turn from God to idols and false gods, they too are haters of God and incur His wrath.

The word “curse” is nowhere found in the Exodus passage. But if the punishment God promises idolaters is really a curse, one must ask who places the curse on the children? Human parents cannot cast curses. Neither is Satan mentioned as the source of such a curse. And if God who justly punishes sin places the curse on the children, who could break a curse instituted by God?

There is no question about the fact that heredity and environment do pass some things on to descendants. But the passage must be read from the perspective of the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find any reference to this concept. Strong emphasis on a generational curse binds rather than delivers believers. Outside the body of Christ, there may be evidence of a generational curse, but for believers the bondage and curse of sin are broken at salvation, even though there may be some natural traits or behavior patterns we must deal with through the help of the Holy Spirit.

What is the appeal of the generational curse teaching? For one thing, it suggests that someone else is responsible for one’s wrongdoing. That fits in with the secular idea that all wrong behavior can be explained by a natural cause and need not be called sin. Then too, it offers a “quick fix” for a nagging moral sin. Instant deliverance from an evil habit like explosive anger sounds more attractive than the hard work and slower development of the fruit of the Spirit. But that is God’s design for leading the believer into a sanctified and holy life.

The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.