DOCTRINE: Are you living under a curse?

EDITORS' NOTE: Today is the third day in a week-long series of columns on biblical doctrine by former LifeWay Christian Resources President Jimmy Draper. The series coincides with "Baptist Doctrine Study" week within the Southern Baptist Convention.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--I was once told that most, if not all, Christians are plagued with one or more curses, and that until these curses are broken we can expect all sorts of serious problems in our lives.

A few of the indications that Christians live under curses, according to some, are mental and emotional breakdowns, chronic illnesses, miscarriages, marriage and family problems, financial difficulties, headaches or even being clumsy and accident prone. One proponent of this teaching holds that curses touch the life of every person.

It's also been said that if these curses are not broken, they are passed down from generation to generation indefinitely. Thus, I may suffer for a curse placed upon my ancestors. We are told that our words can cause a curse. Tell a child he is a poor student, and he will be. Tell your husband that he looks sick, and he will be.

The claim is that we unintentionally can put a curse on ourselves or others simply by the improper use of our words. If only these curses could be broken we could be restored physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

But what is the biblical response to all of this? All true curses in the Bible were invoked by God or in behalf of God by His prophets or apostles. This is very important. Satan and demons are real and they are working against believers, but no curse is attributed to Satan anywhere in the Bible. So there is, in fact, no such thing as a Satanic or demonic curse.

When God pronounced a curse in the Bible, it was a divine judgment upon sin. No human being could break a curse pronounced by God; he could only submit to it and repent under it. Sometimes the curse or judgment was pronounced by the servant of God as in Deuteronomy 27-28. Blessing or cursing in life was all conditioned upon the people's obedience to God. When God's people obeyed Him, He blessed them. Whey they disobeyed Him, He brought divine judgment or discipline upon them. It is the same today for us.

This curse of God is not a curse in the sense of an evil spell, but simply the judgment of God. The proper response to the judgment of God is repentance, not exorcism. The Apostle Paul even pronounced a curse in Galatians 1:8-9 as an act of judgment upon false doctrine.

Sometimes the curse of God referred to the judged thing itself. For instance, in Deuteronomy 7:26 the Israelites were told to not bring an "abhorrent" or "cursed" thing into the house. In Joshua 6 the children of Israel were warned about taking plunder from Jericho -- and injunction Achan violated. The people then became the object of God's judgment because of Achan's disobedience. These curses are real -- genuine. But they were divine curses, a synonym for divine judgment, not a curse from Satan.

There are no examples in the Old Testament or New Testament of a saved person who was under a Satanic curse which had to be broken by some kind of Christian exorcism, and there are no instructions in Scripture about how to conduct such an exorcism. If this was one of the major problems facing Christians, surely God would have given us clear instructions about how to deal with it.

Most conclusions about the need to exorcise curses are drawn by teachers of this false doctrine through their own personal experiences, rather than from biblical theology. God alone truly "curses" and it is a revelation of His justice when His people have failed to respond to Him in absolute obedience.

"Curse" in the Old Testament is summed up in the statement from Jeremiah ll:3, "Let a curse be on the man who does not obey the words of this covenant." The New Testament likewise supports this idea:

"For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue doing every thing written in the book of the law. Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree" (Galatians 3:10-13).

According to some, every curse has a cause and we must find the cause in order to properly deal with the curse. Proponents of this wayward theology often provide Proverbs 26:2 as a prooftext. Ironically, this verse claims precisely the opposite of what such false teachers espouse and actually destroys their entire argument. The Hebrew text literally reads, "Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight." That means a curse without divine sanction never lands on anyone or anything. In other words, it has no effect.

Can criticism or negative words curse another person? Some people claim that Ecclesiastes 10:20 teaches as much. However, this verse in no way suggests that a curse could be invoked on a king or a rich person by the spoken word. It simply means that if they hear what you say ("a bird of the sky may carry the message"), they will respond -- and probably not favorably. Be careful what you say!

Furthermore, if criticism caused a curse, a public figure, like a pastor, would be covered up with curses and would have time for nothing but around-the-clock exorcism. Thank God that isn't necessary!

What about the idea that curses can traverse generations? In Exodus 20:5-6, God said, "... I the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers' sin, to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands." Consider the fall of Adam (Genesis 3:14-17) in which the curse of death is pronounced as a judgment of God upon sin, and it continues from generation to generation.

The Hebrew phrase "to the third and fourth generation" is an idiom meaning "indefinitely." Certain diseases can be hereditary. The pollution of the earth affects future generations. But there is a limit to this. It is true that we may suffer the natural effects of our ancestor's sins just as indicated, but that does not extend to God's direct judgment. There may be a genetic cause, but there isn't a direct judgment of the children as a result of the sins of their parents. We are accountable to God for our own sins.

Spiritual warfare is real. However, God has provided for this spiritual warfare and has given us a more than adequate defense in the form of our spiritual armor, described in Ephesians 6:10-17. We do not need additional procedures for dealing with "evil curses." When we confess our sins, repent of them and confess Jesus as our Lord, we enter into full and unrestricted freedom and blessing!


Jimmy Draper is the former president of LifeWay Christian Resources.