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On my first trip to Africa in 2006 I met a young man who aspired to be a rap artist. He was at a Cyber Café in Bangui, the Capital of the Central African Republic, together with his friends, and right then and there he improvised a little show featuring some of his compositions. Then he walked over to the front door with a visible limp, lowered his head and told me, “My uncle put a curse on me.”

Now I can’t say whether that young man’s limp was a result of a curse by his uncle. It could be that he got polio or even more likely that he ate some manioc root that still had some cyanide in it, a common mistake that still plagues people in that part of the world.

I remembered this story as I was studying to prepare for a message on “generational curses.” Now granted, that young man’s story is not directly related to this topic but it illustrates the idea that humans often tend to explain physical things by appealing to a supernatural force outside of themselves.

What I have found in Scriptures is that Satan does not curse anyone nor does he cast a spell on anyone. Whenever the words for “cursing” are found in the Bible it is either God or man who is doing the cursing. And when God curses, He usually curses the ground or nature, not people. In other words, God does not curse a family so that descendants will carry a type of cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease for generations to come. In fact, when the disciples asked who sinned that a man should be born blind, Jesus basically said, “No one.”

A verse is often used to lend support to the idea of “generational curses.” It is Exodus 34:7 “…maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”  But a critical part of this verse is left out. The full formula is given to us in Exodus 20:5-6: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5-6, emphasis added).

When you understand this concept in its full context, it is obvious that one has to choose to continue to sin in order to receive the punishment. Thank God, obedience cancels the “curse.” No curse has a life of its own, casting spells in an unrestrained fashion, totally oblivious to the actions of the people it intends to harm. This is a foreign concept to Scriptures.

I repeat: In Scriptures, whenever cursing occurs, it is either man or God who is doing the cursing. Satan is not cruising around in a chariot dispensing curses to whoever he pleases. This, however, does not mean that sin has no consequences; quite the contrary. Sin casts a long shadow which often reaches down through generations. But that is a different story. Individuals have to make a choice to sin. Satan has to be invited in and when he comes he brings a truckload of menacing spirits with him.

Often we don’t know enough of the history of our ancestors to know if they gave Satan the red carpet or even let him in through the back door. You have to look for patterns and if you see them, you have to take it upon yourself to renounce the sins of the past, whether you can name them specifically or not. An unforgiving heart that causes divisions and quarrels through generations is often a strong sign. Physical and sexual abuse also provides clues. Substance abuse should warn us. You have to do your home work, but when in doubt, do like Job, who after his children had their parties and merry-making, prayed and offered sacrifices on behalf of his children, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” (Job 1:5). The text says that this was Job’s regular custom.

May we learn to develop that habit as well. I am afraid most of us need it more than we care to admit.

If the Lord brings some specific sins that were committed by your ancestors to mind, the thing to do is to renounce them outright. A prayer from the book The Bondage Breaker, by Neil Anderson, might help here:

“I here and now reject and disown all the sins of my ancestors. I specifically renounce the sins of (list the areas of family sin the Lord revealed to you). As one who has now been delivered from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s Son, I cancel out all demonic working that has been passed down to me from my family. As one who has been crucified and raised with Jesus Christ and who sits with Him in heavenly places, I renounce all satanic assignments that are directed toward me and my ministry. I announce to Satan and all his forces that Christ became a curse for me when He died for my sins on the cross. I reject any and every way in which Satan may claim ownership of me. I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ who purchased me with His own blood. I declare myself to be fully and eternally signed over and committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. By the authority I have in Christ, I now command every familiar spirit and every enemy of the Lord Jesus that is influencing me to leave my presence. I commit myself to my heavenly Father to do His will from this day forward.” 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade