Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Generational Curses

 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD. “In those days people will no longer say,
   ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
   and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. - Jeremiah 31:27-30

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 30-31; Philemon

I’m tired of hearing people talk about generational curses. Have you ever heard the term? Well, I hear it everyone once in a while in Christian circles.
Folks look at their families and see unsavory legacies. Maybe there have been several generations of alcoholics, or abuse or poverty.

Now I’m not here trying to minimize these things. It is really sad to see bad patterns repeated for decades over many generations. This is something that must be addressed as a serious issue.

But there is something so fatalistic about the notion of generational curses to me. In the Old Testament there is much talk of folks paying for the sins of their fathers. God talks about how the ills of past kings are paid for when Israel and Judah finally get overthrown.

That always fell into the “rough game” territory for me.

The passage above talks about a day coming when folks will be responsible for their own sins. For Christians, we see Jesus as being the salvation from such historical bonds. Instead of life being a summation of the good and bad done by you and your kin we all have a clean slate through faith to separate ourselves from the past and step confidently into the future. So why do I hear Christians talk about generational curses? Do we not really have faith that we can overcome such things? Do we not believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us?

I’m not sure about that. But what I do know is that, Christian or not, it is hard to separate ourselves from the environments that we are raised in. A person needs to be shown that there is another way, other paths that they may embark upon, other realities that they can pursue as their life’s purpose so they can step outside of the “reality” that they were raised in.

This is why I have talked so much about the connections that we have with mentors and elders. We all need someone to help us see that there are other paths than the we ones we can see before us. Just because the only success you saw growing up was drug dealers and ball players doesn’t mean that you can’t be a doctor or lawyer. Just because you grew up with a father who was a ruthless business tycoon doesn’t mean that you can’t be the bass player in a great band or the leader of a non-profit that does good in the world.

Yes, our environment has a ton to do with the kind of person we eventually become; but, we must not forget that this environment has many different examples of success.

It is up to us to search out the ones that will help us live our most fulfilling lives 


  1. Hmmh, very interesting. I've been around people who, when they speak about generational curses, approach it from the opposite perspective. The folks who I know who refer to generational curses are Christians who use the term to identify a negative generational condition within their family that must be broken. On the other hand, those in the same family who have not identified it as such have determined the conditions of the curse as 'normal,' 'the way they were raised,' and have accepted it expressly or implicitly as their lot in life. When I hear it used, it's the first step in addressing a problem, diagnosing it or confessing that their is a problem.

    I remember sharing with you the brotha with a powerful testimony whose generational curse was not being raised by biological family. In fact, no one in his generation or the one before had been raised by their biological relatives. He is the first to be raising his kids. Whereas he could've continued the trend, his relationship with Christ helped him to acknowledge the problem of the condition and make it a point to break the curse.

    To me the passage of Jeremiah refers to present day, the time after the coming of Jesus where people can be 'born again' and 'adopted' (Romans 8 & 9) into God's family, receiving an inheritance of blessing and breaking the generational curse.

  2. In that he is referring to present day then what is the point of referring to family issues as generational curses? Is that really biblical?

  3. At first read my impression is that this seems like a personal conversation between a man and his thoughts.

    Generational curses, bah humbug. They exist if you accept them. A generational curse, like any tradition, exists because of those that choose to breathe life into it by believing, speaking, and passing it along.

    If one though, chose not to believe, speak, or pass along "the curse", and another did the same, eventually the curse would move from generational to "old wives tale." Something that existed one day, a long time ago.

    In Philemon, Paul speaks of how Philemon should return the favor he was shown by Paul by helping his son Onesimus. And if Onesimus mistreated Philemon in anyway, to just forgive him, and charge his misdeed to him, Paul. "Not to mention that you owe me your very self...", Paul said.

    Since when can one transfer ownership of deeds/misdeeds? And how long should those deeds/misdeeds carry weight before their debts are repaid/forgiven. I am not dissing Paul here, I'm just saying if Paul was following the truth of Christ's love, there would be no debt to mention of. No "curse" to carry.

    The sins of our elders belong to them. Each following generation has a new opportunity to create a new tradition. Without carrying the weight of those of the past, into their future. Unless so chosen and accepted.

  4. @Alegria Don't apologize for being wordy! It's all good! Here's another way to look at what Paul said. It's kinda like "Pay it Forward". He is asking that they bless his lil homie the way that he blessed them. It's kinda a nice gesture when you think about it that way.

    Also it was good practice for sacrificial giving aka Grace... loving others who do not deserve it is central to Jesus message. I wonder if that was part of Paul's motivation as well... definitely a teachable moment.

  5. Awesome point C.
    For me it was his mentioning "as I have done for you." That makes is sound a little tit for tat.
    If a woman loves a man and chooses to be with him despite his unsavory behavior, she made a choice. If when the woman does something the man considers unsavory, even if never proven or unlike her, should he be required to return the love given to him in a like manner. No, not if he is only doing so to "repay" the debt vs. having a willingness to do so.
    Paying it forward would be just like the movie man!! If I see a bike and say I wish I could afford a bike it would make getting back and forth to work a lot easier. You, the owner of the bike hears me and says, "it's yours." Not because I did something for you, but at one time when he was in need of something, someone without malice or request of repayment provided what he needed.
    Paul is saying do for me as I have done for you. I hate arguing this fact because in my heart I understand and believe in this to an extent. Even of my own example, that man does owe that woman. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Right? The hard part is to do so willingly. If the deed is being returned not from generosity or love, but out of repayment of a debt or worse, revenge, can we truly call it grace?


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