The idea that sins of our ancestors can have a detrimental effect on our own lives stems from a misunderstanding of several scriptures.
In Exodus 20:5-6 and Deuteronomy 5:9-10 it speaks of the consequences of idolatry affecting the third and fourth generation. It says Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
This warning is tempered with a greater promise of God’s mercy: And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
These passages show clearly that God said He would punish idolaters who hated Him and would bless those who loved Him. As Christians, if we love Him and keep His commandments this curse would never apply to us anyway.
Did God promise to remove the generational curses?
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God proclaimed that His justice would henceforth be applied to each person individually, holding them accountable for their own actions, and not those of their parents. Jeremiah 31:29-30 says, In those days they shall not say any more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.
It has been argued that curses such as lying or drinking can be passed on from our parents as proof of the validity of the generational curse teaching. Though it is true that habitual sins (strongholds in our lives) can be learned, these are just as easily instilled in us by our surroundings and peers as from our parents, and are not actually curses (in the sense that the curses depicted in Exodus were actually punishments for sins, not the passing down of sins themselves).
There is no doubt that it is possible for there to be a negative effect on our lives from past generations. However, the form this effect takes, the extent that some teachings say it happens, and the almost total assumption that everyone must have a curse if they are experiencing problems is unfounded.
The bible makes is clear that our upbringing has a great effect on our walk with God. In Proverbs 22:6 it says, Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
If you recognise that there are areas of habitual sin in your life, whether or not they started with you or were perhaps learned from your parents or peers, then you should pray for release from these strongholds.
Teachers of the generational curse theory also advocate that it is the devil that puts curses on us or even that other people can put curses on us. This teaching is dangerous, as it undermines the authority of God over our lives.
Proverbs 26:2 says As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
God will not allow people to use Satan to bring a curse upon his children. Numbers23:8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?
In Old Testament times, just as a curse could be brought on yourself by disobedience, you had the chance to bring a blessing on yourself with obedience.
Advocates for the generational curse teaching also often class hereditary diseases or defects as being curses. God does not allow Satan to inflict illnesses on his children, unless there is some divine reason. If the illness is not a curse then what is it? It is simply a hereditary disease/problem as a result of defective or bad genetic code. As defective or missing genes are physical, one should ask for healing and for God to correct the DNA. You could also ask the Lord to cut off the hereditary illness so that your own children will not inherit it.
Note: John 9:1-3 also tells us that a man born blind had nothing to do with his sins or his parents sins. This means that even in the days when God was still punishing people to the third or fourth generation for their hated or disobedience there were still people born with birth defects that had nothing to do with curses or sin. Therefore you should not accept, or feel any guilt or condemnation if someone tries to tell you that your physical condition is due to a curse. This simply is not that case.