The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.
The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
Do you believe in Generational Curses? Curses that are passed on through the generations because of the sins of your ancestors? Or, in milder terms, that you will bear the weight of the sins of your parents as well? If you do believe in generational curses – I hear Christians talk about it a lot – can you define what you mean by a generational curse? Do you mean that the sins of a parent will affect or influence the child? Or do you mean the child will be punished for his parent’s sins? There is a very fundamental difference between the two definitions, and often when we use this term, ‘generational curse’, we may cause others to stumble if we do not clarify what we mean by it. The entirety of Ezekiel 18 was spent explaining the idea that the one who sins is the one who dies – in other words, each man shall bear the brunt of his own sin; each man is responsible for his own sin. In this study, we will explore the concept of generational curse and look at what the Bible says about it.
The one who sins is the one who will die – each will pay for their own sins. Each man is responsible for his own sin. Contrary to popular belief, there is great consistency regarding this across the books of the Bible – He repays everyone for what they have done; he brings on them what their conduct deserves [Job 34:11]. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” [Romans 2:6]
The child will not share the guilt of the parent – Really? Is this true? What then, shall we make of Exodus 20:5 – You shall not bow down to them 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. If we do not look deeper into the context of this verse and cross-refer to ensure that the interpretation we receive from it is consistent with the rest of the Bible, this will most certainly be proof for the fact that generational curse exists, in which children are punished for the sins of their parents. Yet God does not punish anyone for a sin he did not commit. God does not extend the punishments of a man to his son, or a woman to her daughter. Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin [Deu 24:16]. When God declared that he will visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, he was likely saying that if you leave me – if you turn your back on God, and your children follow in your stead and turn their backs on God, and even if your fourth generation of descendants turn their backs on God, God will not stop pursuing them for their iniquity. Following this line of thought, even if your tenth generation or twentieth generation of descendant turn their backs on God, God will still seek them out for their sins. It wouldn’t just stop at the fourth generation. Yet, if your third generation of children returns to God, the sins of you and your children who have turned away from God will not befall on your great-grandchildren. For if a person had to bear the punishment of 3 generations of ancestors, surely he would have been long dead before he could be born. That is far too heavy a cross to bear. We can look at the example of the string of Kings that Israel and Judah had as an example of ‘the child will not share the guilt of the parent’. Numerous evil kings littered that era, but occasionally one or two good kings appeared, and God showed them mercy in accordance to their faith.
But that does not mean that the child will not be affected by the sins of his parent. Let us use common law as an analogy. If a man commits a crime, he is punished for it, and is sent to jail. That’s logical, similar to the punishment of sins from God that we’re looking at today. But the law wouldn’t require the child of the man to be sent to jail. He, and only he, needs to be responsible for the crime that he has committed. While the child is free from punishment, the punishment that has befallen on his father due to his fathers’ sins will affect the child. Because his father is jailed, the child may suffer an incomplete family. He may suffer prejudice from the eyes of outsiders. The family will struggle to make ends meet, and because of that, their lifestyles and life plans may have to change. Our sins have a large area of effect – it affects the people around us more than we can ever be prepared to accept. And while they may suffer because of us, it is us ourselves whom bear the punishment.
nor will the parent share the guilt of the child – the reverse is true. Much have been said about how a parent is responsible for a child up till a certain age, and if a child does something wrong, it is the parent who is at fault. While there is some truth to that statement, the child will bear his own punishment for the sins he has committed.
The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them – This is consistent not only with our wrongdoings, but with our deeds and rewards – “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” [Jer 17:10] A lot of times you may suffer, and you may wonder if this is really true. Did the faithful men listed in the Hall of Faith in the Hebrews Chapter 11 really get rewarded according to what their deeds deserved? No, apparently not. Not materially at least – These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised [Heb 11:39]. Their rewards may not have been given during their time in this world, just like the apostles, the martyrs of Christ, the followers of Christ in the two thousand years since his resurrection, but surely their due rewards are in heaven. For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done [Mt 16:27].
God is fair, but God is not the court. Even the court can be merciful at times, what more God, who does not judge us as our sins deserve [Psa 103:10]. Sure, he certainly does mete out punishments for sins; but just he is, he is also compassionate and merciful. Forgiving and patient. He knows we wouldn’t be able to bear the full weight of our sins. And if we can’t even bear the weight of our own sins, how, can we possibly ever imagine ourselves to be able to carry the weight of our forefathers’ sins? Of course, there is the universal sin, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about personal sins. And for personal sins, we do not inherit the punishment of our forefathers’ personal sins. We may be affected, very negatively by the price of their sins, but always remember that it is not punishment that we’re suffering. There is a difference.
And that difference will very well help lead us through the pain.