Understanding Generational Inheritance

A lot of people are talking about “generational inheritance”, yet there is a lot of confusion about this topic. What is generational inheritance? Simply stated, It is the principle, or spiritual law, created by God, where natural and spiritual issues are passed on from one generation to the next.

Most of the time, when we hear about generational inheritance, we only hear about one of two things. We hear about “generational curses”, where curses are passed from a family member and down to the next generation, or “sins of the fathers”, where a family member commits a transgression against God’s law, and the effects of that sin are passed down to the next generation, or even a few generations.

However, God originally created the principle of generational inheritance, so that blessings could be passed down from one generation to the next. It is our disobedience that has taken this wonderful blessing, and turned it into a detriment to us (and our children).

In this lesson, we are going to look at the principle of generational inheritance, and see what it really is, and how it works.

  1. Genetic Inheritance

1 Corinthians 15:46, NKJV – However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.

This verse is telling us that God gave us the natural, to help us to understand the spiritual. If we are going to understand the spiritual implications of generational inheritance, we should first look at the natural, and in particular, what I call “Genetic Inheritance”.

Most people are familiar with the term “DNA”. DNA stands for “Deoxyribonucleic Acid”. DNA is a self-replicating material present in almost all living organisms, as the main ingredient of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information. This is how God created us.

We all understand that from our DNA we can inherit many “positive” traits, such as physical appearance, hair colour, skin colour, some natural abilities, eye colour, height and build, and even some aspects of personality.

However, in our DNA we can also pass on less desirable, or even negative traits, such as handicaps, baldness, genetic diseases, etc.

The point is, in the natural, in our genetic inheritance, we can pass on both positive and negative traits to the next generation.

  1. Natural Inheritance

What is “natural inheritance”? These are just things that we pass on, as a result of our own activities and behaviors.

Psalm 107:37, NKJV – (37) And sow fields and plant vineyards, That they may yield a fruitful harvest.

This verse tells us that if we plant seeds in our fields, we will reap a harvest later on. A few principles about sowing and reaping should be noted here.

First, we always reap more that we sow. If we sow a corn seed, we reap a corn plant with many seeds. If we sow an apple seed, we reap an apple tree with many apples. If we sow a little “blessing”, we will reap much more blessing in return.

Second, we always reap in the next “season”. If we plant in the spring, we reap in the fall. If we sow unrighteousness in our lives, it is our children (the next generation or season) that my reap the consequences of our actions.

Third, we reap the same kind of fruit that we sow.

Job 4:8, NKJV – (8) Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.

If we sow trouble, we reap trouble. If we plow iniquity, we and others will reap iniquity. Iniquity is sin that we have committed, that has been passed down to the next generation (our children).

Hosea 10:12, NKJV – (12) Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy …

If we sow good, we reap a harvest of good.

Hosea 8:7, NKJV – (7) They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind. …

If we sow bad, we reap a harvest of bad. Sow a little wind (a breeze) and reap a whirlwind (a storm). We always reap the same kind of fruit that we sow, but we will reap a larger quantity than we sow.

  1. Nurtural Inheritance

What is nurtural inheritance? It is what we pass on to our children, by the way we nurture them.

Psalm 78:5, NKJV – (5) He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children.

God wanted us to sow God’s laws to our children, so that they would be blessed.

Ephesians 6:4, NKJV – (4) And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

If we admonish – if we sow encouragement to our children, we will reap healthy children. If we sow discouragement – if we sow anger, we will reap wrath in our children.

Through our positive sowing to our children, they can inherit godly values, godly attitudes, godly morals, and godly character. However, if we sow legalism, criticism, judgement, condemnation and anger to our children, we will be passing on to them a great void of any godly characteristics.

  1. Spiritual Inheritance – Blessings and Curses

Deuteronomy 28:2, NKJV – (2) And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:

If we live and model godly lives, blessings will come upon us and our children, and even “overtake us”, meaning these blessings may even be passed upward to living parents of the previous generation.

Deuteronomy 28:15, NKJV – (15) But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

If we do not live and model godly lives, curses will come upon us and our children, and even “overtake us”, meaning these curses may even be passed upward to living parents of the previous generation.

God is not “unfair” if we pass on curses instead of blessings. God created the principle of generational inheritance, so that we could pass on blessings to our children. If we pass on curses instead, that is our fault, not God’s (and God is certainly grieved by our poor choices).

  1. Spiritual Inheritance – Sins Of The Fathers

Deuteronomy 5:9-10, NKJV – (9) … 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, (10) but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

What can we learn from this passage?

First, God visits the iniquity to the third and fourth generations. What does that mean? It means that if we live “hateful lives” before God, by living ungodly and unrighteous lives, the consequences of our sins will be passed on to our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren. Our sins become “iniquity” (negative spiritual inheritance) that is passed down to the fourth generation.

However, if we live “loving lives” before God, by living godly and righteous lives, the consequences of our godly living will be passed on to our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, and many generations more. Assuming that “thousands” means at least two thousand descendants, that would mean (assuming 2 children per generation) at least ten generations! Do you get that? Iniquities are passed down to the fourth generation, blessings are passed down to the tenth generation.

And the really good news, is that any of our descendants can start loving God, and living godly and righteous lives, and break the curse of our iniquity, and start passing on blessings instead of curses.

Unfortunately, the bad news, is that any of our descendants can start hating God, and living ungodly and unrighteous lives, and break the blessings of our godliness, and start passing on curses instead of blessings.

Breaking Negative Generational Inheritance

So, how do we break negative generational inheritance (the sins of the fathers – generational iniquity), and start passing on positive generational inheritance?

  1. Confess Your Sins And The Sins Of Your Fathers

Nehemiah 9:2, NKJV – (2) … they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.

If we want to break negative generational inheritance, we must confess the sins of our “fathers” (their failures), as well as our own sins (our failures).

Some people think that it is disrespectful to admit to the sins of their fathers, but this is the only way to keep those sins from passing on to the next generation.

Other people want to blame all of their problems on their fathers. However, we must be willing to confess if we have participated in their sin in any way.

So we pray something like, “Father God, I confess the sin of _____________ of my fathers, and I also confess any way that I have also participated in the sin of __________.

  1. Ask For Forgiveness For Your Sins And The Sins Of Your Fathers

Daniel 9:16, 19, NKJV – (16) O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. (19) O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

God wants to forgive our “iniquity” – the sin passed down from our fathers, and also our “transgression” – our own sin, because we “transgressed” God’s commands. But we must ask Him to forgive both our generational iniquity and our own sins.

So we pray something like, “Father God, please forgive the sin of ____________ of my fathers, and also please forgive me for my own participation in the sin of ________.

  1. Ask God To Cancel The Consequences Of The Sins Of Our Fathers And Our Own Sins.

Numbers 14:18-19, NKJV – (18) The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. (19) Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy …

The good news is that God is longsuffering, and abundant in mercy. So we don’t just ask God to forgive us and our fathers, we ask Him to “pardon” our iniquity. The word “pardon” is a legal term – it means to completely cancel all of the consequences of the iniquity – the sins of our fathers. In other words, it means to “break” the negative generational inheritance and stop it from affecting our lives and the lives of our children.

So we pray something like, “Father God, please pardon my fathers for the sin of _____, and cancel all negative and damaging consequences from affecting my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren. Thank You, God, for breaking the negative generational inheritance caused by the sin of _________ in my fathers’ lives.

  1. Choose to Turn From The Sins Of Our Fathers

2 Kings 15:8-9, NKJV – (8) … Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months. (9) And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin.

Zechariah the son of Jeroboam did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his “fathers” had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam or Nebat. Remember that if we do not change our ways, our fathers’ iniquity can be passed down to the fourth generation.

So if we want to avoid iniquity from being passed down to our children and grand-children, we must choose to turn from our fathers’ sins, and live righteous lives for God.

So we pray something like, “Father God, I now choose to turn from my fathers’ sins, and instead, choose to live a righteous life that honours You. Give me the grace I need to honour you and serve you in all righteousness.

  1. Do It For God’s Purposes, Not For Your Benefit

Daniel 9:19, NKJV – (19) O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

Daniel asked for God to forgive the people. Why did he ask for forgiveness? Not just because the people needed forgiveness, and freedom from negative generational inheritance. Instead, Daniel asked God for forgive them for God’s own sake. Daniel understood that God’s people were called by God’s name, and so by living with the iniquity of their fathers, and participating in it, they were damaging the reputation of God’s name. In their repentance, they were more concerned about God’s name and His purposes for them, than for their own sake.

Whenever we ask God to break our negative generational inheritance, we should first understand and be concerned with how our sins and our father’s iniquity are affecting God’s reputation and purposes, and the negative ways that it is affecting the people around us. All repentance, no matter how sincere, if it is only concerned about our own benefit, it is still selfish and self-focused, which is what caused us to get into trouble in the first place.

So we pray something like, “Father God, please fulfill your promise and break off this generational iniquity, for Your sake, for the glory of Your own name, so that your purposes can be fulfilled through my life.”

Summary

Generational inheritance is a principle or spiritual law, created by God, where natural and spiritual issues are passed on from one generation to the next.

God meant generational inheritance to be a great blessing, as each new generation experiences the full benefits of the righteous and godly inheritance lived and modeled by the previous generation. Let’s do our very best, to turn from all transgression, and break all generational iniquity, so that our children will enjoy only blessings from us, and none of the curses that we had to overcome.

All for God’s glory, and God’s sake, and God’s purposes!