EZEKIEL 18:19-20: “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

OBSERVATION: There is teaching today that has gained a lot of popularity and traction in the church. This is the teaching of “generational curses”. Basically this teaches that the sins of the fathers are passed down to the third and fourth generation, quoting Exodus 20:5. The focus of this teaching is to uncover reasons for our struggles that are the results of the sins in our family. We cannot be truly free until we deal with these “generational curses”. While this has the appearance of truth it is not supported by Scripture. Ezekiel 18 is an entire chapter that is devoted to this subject. The bottom line of Ezekiel 18 is – “The soul who sins shall die.”

Is there any truth to the teaching of “generational curses”? Perhaps it would be better understood if we changed the term to “generational propensities”. In other words, when there is sin in a family there is a propensity for that sin to be passed down through generational lines. Yet – this is not guaranteed, and it is not a curse. Sin is always a choice. One is always left with personal responsibility, both for their sin, and for their call to repent. I believe the error comes from a partial focus on Exodus 20:5. We need to read the verses before and after that to gain the context.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬:‭4-6‬ NKJV)

The end of verse 5 and the break in verse 6 support the teaching of “personal responsibility”, not the teaching of “generational curses”. Iniquity is passed on from generation to generation through those who “hate” the Lord. Yet – when one turns to Christ this “propensity”, this “cycle” – is broken! “…But showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” When I give my life to Christ the power of sin’s curse is broken. He has become “the curse” for me. Now, in Christ, forgiven and freed from the power of sin, I can begin to live my life in obedience to His commands. As I do this I will have to work through all the choices and consequences I have made in my life. I cannot blame anyone. I am not bound by anyone. I am set free by the one who died for me and broke the cycle of sin and death!

Lord, help me to take personal responsibility for my life and my actions. Help me not to lean on the crutch of pointing to others. Help me only lean upon You! My life in Christ is not about what has happened in the past, but what the Lord desires to do in my future. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. Everything old has been broken. Everything new has been poured out upon me through the Holy Spirit. Lord, help me walk in this newness of life! In Jesus Name!

““Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:30-32 NKJV)

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is the Founder of Resurrection Christian Outreach. RCO is a ministry that promotes the growth and vitality of the local church through speaking engagements, seminars, various media tools, and written curriculum and books. This ministry was started over 35 years ago by Kirk as a means to strengthen the church that he was pastoring. It grew as Kirk began to share these tools with other churches. Today many of the materials are being used by local churches both nationally and internationally. Kirk's Devotional Journal is a result of struggling with Bible reading programs that never seemed to work. Kirk feels the Lord helped him discover an easy-to-follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year. This program is called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information on the L.I.F.E. plan, send an email to Kirk is also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats. With over 40 years of professional business and pastoral ministry experience, Kirk brings a unique combination of practical wisdom, humor, and Biblical insight. If you would like Kirk to speak at your church, school, or ministry, please send an email to and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your opportunity.
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