Breaking a Curse: Magic, Witchcraft, and the Christian
|Copyright © 2010 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
On a television show called Seinfeld, a passé sitcom, one of the characters is placed under a curse by an offended acquaintance. The curse calls for the Kramer character to die a premature death. Kramer invokes every ploy, good luck charm, and superstition he can think of to have the curse lifted.
Outside of sitcoms, are curses real? Can one human impose on another human a supernatural punishment of early death, ill health, bad luck, an eternity in Hell, or ongoing demonic oppression? Do houses become cursed because they are built over or close to American Indian burial grounds? Are inanimate objects, like dolls, ever imbued with the curse of a living evil soul?
Can curses become generational, that is, passed from a family to its progeny? Must curses be lifted by ceremony, incantation, good magic, or some other mechanism? What should be done if someone finds out another person has "cursed" them? What does the Bible teach about curses?
The Reality of Curses, Sort ofÖ
God Curses Humanity
In our Western society many people do not believe in anything supernatural, including the Creator, God, or Christ the Savior. Yet, if we are going to speak of the impact of curses on modern humanity, that is where the discussion must begin.
God created man in a sinless state. Man intentionally rebelled against the one and only rule God had imposed. Consequently God imposed a curse on all humanity (see Genesis chapter 3). That curse consisted of:
Here is where the very notion of a curse originated in human history. All the earth, all humanity, is under a God-given curse. That curse of earthly pain and death will not be lifted until the events of Revelation 22:3 are realized, that is, until the existing universe is incinerated and God has created a new universe, a new Earth, and a new Jerusalem, which is actually His heavenly domain come to new Earth. When God makes His eternal home with mankind "there will no longer be any curse" (Revelation 22:3).
Other God-given curses can be found in the Old Testament Law. Specifically, numerous curses (of death, pain, illness, and eternal damnation) are specified for those Israelites who did not obey the Law because of unbelief (Deuteronomy 29:21). With the expiration of the Old Testament Law (see Hebrews 8:13, Romans 7:5-6, Acts 15) the curses contained in it against Israel generally no longer apply, so only the curse of the original sin still remains.
Humanity Cursing Humanity
Nowhere in the Scriptures is it stated that humanity may effectually curse humanity. That does not mean that humans have not uttered desires of cursing. Many people have attempted to curse their neighbors, even uttering such curses out loud (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, Job 5:3, Nehemiah 13:25, 1 Kings 2:8). These curses obviously were completely impotent and amounted to nothing but expressions of insults.
In fact, God states that anyone who attempts to utter a curse against Israel will not only be speaking powerless and empty words, but God will actually curse the would-be curse giver (Genesis 12:3). And adult children who speak cursings against their own parents can actually be put to death for violating the commandment which requires them to honor their parents (Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9, Proverbs 20:20, 30:11). And perhaps worst of all is the person who attempts to utter a curse against God, because not only is his curse impotent but he has condemned himself instead of God (Leviticus 24:15).
In none of these cases is the human who is uttering the curse actually able to implement the curse. In fact, all they can do is mutter curse words, otherwise known as foul language, that has the ring of a curse to it but none of the power that can bring it about (read an article about using foul language: http://thefaithfulword.org/2009aprilblogarchives.html#7 ). One person cursing another is nothing but a horrible-sounding impotent insult. God alone has the authority and power over life and over the time of every death (Matthew 6:24-34).
Witchcraft, Magic, and Voodoo
Witchcraft, magic, and voodoo are the names given to humanistic efforts to influence this natural world or the spiritual world. Aside from technology (science) and prayers to God, humans have no such power or authority to manipulate the natural by marshalling the supernatural. God, the angels, and the demons alone have this power and authority.
Since mankind lacks such ability he appeals to the supernatural to do his bidding (to borrow a phrase from fantasy fiction). In other words, he summons demonic forces to do what he cannot do. This is why all magic involves chanting of spells and use of ceremonies and incantations--they are all ways of communicating with the demonic spirits to ask them to do things.
Of course the truth here is problematic for the practitioner of spells. Demons are not subject to humans but rather are in dominion to Satan. Demons will do as they desire and as Satan desires. Often they can appear to obey a humanís request as an incantation is uttered, but that is to lure the human into a world where he should not be. Once the human is sufficiently immersed in demon worship the demon may decide to take possession of the human, thus making the human entirely subject to the demon.
Who said anything about worshipping demons? When a human petitions that which is supernatural, asking the supernatural being for assistance, it is called prayer. Prayer to the living Creator of the universe is good and proper worship. Prayer to anyone or anything else is still worship, but it is worshipping that which is not God and is an evil thing. Worship and prayer to anyone or anything other than God is called idolatry.
Aside from demonic activity that ultimately serves only the evil purpose of Satan, there is no magic. Miracles that illustrate the holiness of God and answered prayer are from the Lord and serve only the purpose of righteousness. Miracles are not magic. Magic does not exist. There is no efficacious voodoo. There is only the corporeal world, Godís holy power, and demonic influence, but no magic. Witches attempt to exert power, but they have none of their own, and worse, they can open themselves to becoming subject to the influence of demons.
Christians and Curses
All humans are under the curse of God that resulted from the original sin of Adam and Eve. And humans can be harassed by demons, but only in so far as God allows this (Job 2:1-6).
But once a person becomes saved, regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the almighty God, can they be possessed by demons? No. Where Godís Holy Spirit dwells there can be no evil spirit resident, for demons must find only a house (a living body) unoccupied by God in which to live (Mark 12:44, Matthew 8:31). John wrote that the One who dwells in us is greater than the one who dwells in the rest of the world (1 John 4:4), thus implying that the Holy Spirit and demonic spirits cannot reside in the same person together.
But can a demon inflict harm on a human? Not by reason of a human placing a curse, spell, or incantation. Scriptures clearly indicate, as noted above, that the one making a curse is not only speaking powerless and empty words, but they subject themselves to the effective cursings of God.
In Scripture every time a human is afflicted by a demon it is because God has decreed it to happen. Saul was given affliction to drive him to bring David to his house to prepare David for his future reign (1 Samuel 16:23). Paul states he was given a messenger from Satan to keep him humble (2 Corinthians 12:7). Job was pounded by Satan to purge him of a self-righteous attitude (Job 42:3), yet it was God who orchestrated what Satan did--which Job acknowledged with his lips, and in saying this Job spoke righteously (Job 1:21-22, 42:7). Even the possession of rebellious Judas by Satan (Luke 22:3) was foreordained by God (Acts 1:16). Finally, Jesus was afflicted by Satan, in part to demonstrate that Satan can be resisted by use of the Word of God (Matthew 4:4).
If a demon is harassing a human it is not because some other person has cursed him, for all such curses are worthless and powerless. Rather, such a thing can only occur by means of Godís direction for one of three reasons:
If, as a Christian, you suspect that your misfortunes are spiritually / demonically influenced, you may do what Paul did, "I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me" (2 Corinthians 12:8). Prayer is your first resort. Second, you might do what Jesus did and quote Scripture (Matthew 4:4). Lastly, James instructs that to humbly pray and obey God is to actively resist Satan, and when you resist Satan he actually runs away (James 4:5-10).
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Otherwise remember this, our present afflictions bring about Godís glory in hidden ways, and He is not going to remove all of it (2 Corinthians 1:4, 8-16, 8:13, Philippians 4:14, Colossians 1:24, 1 Thessalonians 3:-4). Afflictions are all but certain and guaranteed for the Christian, so do not think any believer can escape it.
For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:15-18)
If curses from other humans are more imagination, insult, and foul language than substance, to what can a Christian attribute a string of bad luck or misfortune? First, we do live in a God-cursed world. Evil abounds and the prince of the power of the air is Satan. Second, we are Christians, and Satanís forces will use their authority and power to attempt to derail the life of any Christian, to engender discouragement, and raise doubts as to Godís goodness. Finally, all the world (demonic forces and ordinary unbelieving humans) hate Christ and are at war with Him, meaning they hate His disciples and will work to afflict them.
At times, as previously discussed, God will bring on afflictions, problems, and trials just to help us grow. At other times He does this to intentionally cause some part of His master plan of salvation to unfold for the mercy and love of mankind.
Moreover, we often make our own bad luck. God calls on us to be studied and skillful in all that we do, including such things as music and worship (Exodus 26:1, 28:3, 31:6, 36:1, 1 Samuel 16:16-18, 1 Chronicles 5:18, 15:22, 2 Chronicles 26:15, Psalm 33:3, 47:7, 78:72). We are also to be diligently skillful in our study of the Word (2 Timothy 2:15) so that we become mature and can resist unsound doctrine (Ephesians 4:12-16).
In other words, some of our "bad luck" is not providentially ordained so much as it is a direct result of our laziness, lack of hard work, and unwillingness to become highly skilled. "Through indolence the rafters sag, and through slackness the house leaks." (Ecclesiastes 10:18) Even the clergy are expected by God to become highly skilled, "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching" (1 Timothy 5:17). Sometimes bad luck is not bad luck but the natural result of our lack of study and lack of skill in whatever we are doing.
Though there is insufficient time here to fully explore the relationship, 1 Timothy 4 exposes the correlation between demonic influences, the infiltration of unsound doctrine into the church, and the need for disciplined Bible study and teaching. Paul here warns that doctrines introduced by Satanic scheming are successful because the teachers have not strived, labored, and disciplined themselves appropriately in the Word, ultimately resulting in immature behavior becoming evident in the local church.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Good Luck Charms and Idolatry
A highly educated and intelligent unbelieving co-worker of mine was desperate to have children, having spent $10,000 a year on fertility doctors. He and his wife resorted to purchasing a plastic statue of a saint and then buried it in his front yard, head down, in an effort to please the saint into giving them a successful pregnancy. Ultimately the couple adopted a pair of babies which they subsequently placed into a corporate fulltime daycare center for the first five years of their lives so both could continue to pursue their management professions unencumbered.
The use of statuary is a practice of antiquity called idolatry. Idols (statuary of gods) are representative figurines of invisible gods. Manipulating the idol, like burying it, setting it on a car dashboard, carrying it in a pocket or purse, placing it in a home, or praying to it is supposed to please the god whose likeness the idol represents. The god is supposed to be so pleased that it grants favor and good luck to the idol owner. This is the core belief behind all the fertility cults mentioned in the Bible, including the infamous Artemis of the Ephesians (Acts 19:28).
God has informed us that there are no other literal gods except the one Creator God (Isaiah 44:8, 45:5). All the others, so-called gods, are figments of mankindís imagination and are the results of humanityís artistic ability to carve figurines. Therefore the idols do not represent the real God nor any legitimate lesser deity. They are nothing but skillfully carved pieces of stone, wood, and plastic. This is why God mocks them, for they can do nothing and they do not represent any god that can do anything.
Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, you fugitives of the nations; they have no knowledge, who carry about their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save. Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:20-22)
Even though idols are nothing and represent no legitimate spiritual being, they do allow demons to manipulate the people who worship the statues or who treat them as good luck charms. In other words, appealing to an idol or a good luck charm for spiritual help or supernatural aid opens the worshipper to demonic influences, the demons being only too pleased to participate and to imitate God. Paul eloquently disabuses the Corinthian Christians of the notion that they can simultaneously worship God and still be idolaters, because demons are the only spiritual force behind every idol.
What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we? (1 Corinthians 10:19-22)
Far from breaking a curse or bringing good luck, the use of idols as spiritual go-betweens opens a person to demonic influences. The use of idols and good luck charms will actually enslave and ensnare the worshipper in spiritual darkness far worse than mere "bad luck." Just as resisting the devil with prayer to God and by quoting Scripture drives Satan away, using idols as good luck charms draws him closer.
A sadly misunderstood set of passages in the Old Testament has given many sincere Christians problems. Here is the primary passage.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:8-10)
The phrase that states that God will "visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the third and fourth generations" has become known as "the generational curse." Use of this phrase by some assumes that when a parent sins God curses the family for four generations. Permit me to point out some errors behind that assumption.
In the most real sense this "visitation of sins" cannot be applied to any Christian, for there is no Christian who hates God. One cannot be regenerated and indwelt by Godís Holy Spirit and say that they hate the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). So even if a Christian were to flirt with idolatry, it can hardly be said that they hate God if they are truly reborn.
What is the visitation of sins upon the generations? In my opinion it is simply this: when a parent teaches their children to worship idols, to hate God, and to disobey God, then this sin of the parents is visited on the succeeding generations of children. That is, they repeat, imitate, and return to visit again the same sins their parents taught them to commit and visit. In turn, these unbelieving God-haters will teach their children to also hate God.
Romans 1-2 informs that wicked God-haters will grow worse in their hatred toward God the longer they live. When they die, they die guilty of their sins of unbelief and Christ can no longer save them. This is their legacy to their own children. Their sins will be the same sins of unbelief that their own children will pass along. In other words, each successive generation revisits the same sins over and over again, because that is what they were taught to do.
Have you ever wondered why it is that entire regions of the world are populated with unbelievers or that remote tribes know nothing of God even though all nations are descended from faithful Noah and also from Adam? Both of these men believed in the one true God. They taught their families about the one true God. How is that all memory of the true God is lost to such groups? When one generation of parents cease worshipping God, hate Him, and turn to worship idols, they effectively condemn the generations that follow them to eternal death.
This is the answer to the ages old complaint, "What about the aborigine in the Australian outback who never heard about Jesus? Is that fair that God should send him to Hell when they never had a chance?" In fact, at some point in the family line their ancestors turned from believing in God and so taught their children to disbelieve in God, and so on down through the generations. Every man chooses to sin and so condemns himself to the Hell he has earned. Every parent who hates God risks visiting their own sin of unbelief onto their own children for generations to come.
Of course, God is merciful. He finds extraordinary means of calling His elect children from the remotest parts of the earth, and from the most hellish spiritual environments. God is not asleep. God does not have one of His elect children born into a region or a family in which there will never be a chance to hear the gospel of Christ. Everyone who is elect will hear the gospel and will respond in faith. That merciful reality does not negate the responsibility that parents have to pass true faith along to their children.
Artificial manmade objects and natural materials cannot be possessed. When witches turned to Christ in the 1st Century they burned their scrolls of worthless spells and their instructions for the meaningless ceremonies of witchcraft. The scrolls or books had great market value on the street but no practical use to the new Christian. Bravely, they burned these materials instead of selling them, thus preventing others from using them to become enticed toward witchcraft.
And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)
Though they suffered personal financial loss by burning the materials, they did not seem to be unhappy about it. Further, note that the text does not say demons came pouring out of the burning material. They were just books and were not possessed.
What about food, musical instruments, houses, or other items that were once used in idol worship or witchcraft? Why did the early Christians not burn them too? First, these items were inanimate objects and not possessed by evil spirits. The books were burned because they had no legitimate use to anyone on earth. Second, just like we were all once haters of God but have been redeemed, so it is with lifeless objects and food. They may once have been used for evil purposes, but once they become owned by a Christian they are redeemed and serve the Kingdom of Christ.
I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing [not even food used in idol sacrifices] is unclean in itself (Romans 14:14a)
Eat anything that is sold in the meat market [even meat sacrificed to idols] without asking questions for conscience' sake; for the earth is the Lordís, and all it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake. (1 Corinthians 10:25-27)
If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks [to God]? (1 Corinthians 10:30)
Here is the bottom line analysis on food and objects that once were used for evil, idolatrous, or nefarious purposes: If it comes into the possession of a Christian he or she can use it with gratitude toward God in the service of the Kingdom of Christ. Nothing, not food or lifeless objects, are imbued with intrinsic evil. It is how they are used at any given moment in time that makes them unclean or evil at that moment. Even a Bible, if it is used to smack an innocent child in the face, becomes a tool of evil at that moment; but when the moment is gone it remains what it is, a lifeless object made of paper.
Why then are so many Christians spooked by electric guitars, old houses, and old books? To be blunt, they have scared themselves with superstition. They have failed to believe God when He says that nothing is intrinsically evil or unclean. They cannot see that just as they themselves went from serving Satan (their first father--John 8:44) to serving God (their adoptive Father) anything can be redeemed. They have fallen prey to superstition, which is a lack of faith in God and His omnipotence. This is our Fatherís world. Satan is but a prince whereas Christ is the King, the Firstborn, the Ruler, and the Head.
So what should I do if I have an object in my possession that I think was once used to commit evil? If the object itself has a useful function in the domain of God, pray and thank God He has placed it into your care as His steward, and press it into His service. If it has value but no useful function, sell it and use the proceeds to advance the Kingdom of God. If the object has no good use (for example it may be pornographic or a book of incantations) then destroy it instead of allowing others to be enticed by its impure content. Be a good steward, put aside superstitions and recognize that lifeless objects are not possessed of good or evil. They are tools to be used for good by the good, or evil if owned by those who are yet still evil.
Only God has the power to call down a curse that is real. All humanity, the planet, and the universe were cursed by God when Adam and Eve rebelled and sinned. God also prepared and implemented a plan of salvation to save humanity form its own sin and from the curse. Nothing can stop that plan of salvation from working itself out under the power of God. At the end of time the curse will finally be incinerated and eternity with God will be utterly without any curse.
No human can invoke a genuine curse against anyone else. Humans can utter foul language with curse words, but the curses have no power and cannot be made real or effective. Worse, those who utter curses against Godís chosen ones can themselves become subject to further genuine curses by the living God, the adoptive Father and protector of the elect.
Use of good luck charms, magic, performing a superstitious habit or ceremony, and witchcraft are all forms of praying to demons, though often the one seeking the favor of the good luck charm or superstitious ceremony does not realize this. It is all a form of idolatry, that is, seeking spiritual aid from anyone or anything that is not God.
No object is intrinsically evil or possessed. Everything on this planet is given to us to be used in a wholesome manner to further the spread of the Kingdom of Christ. Food and property are to be received by us with prayer and thanksgiving to God instead of being regarded as unclean.
Since there are no curses, there is no procedure in the Bible to break them. The only curse that matters is the one that God imposed on all humanity because humanity chose to reject God. Though that curse will not be withdrawn until the end of time, every human has the opportunity to return to God the Father by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus by faith through grace.
This is still Godís world. He created it, He rules over it. Nothing happens without His knowledge and His permission. God constrains Satan and his demons. Godís Holy Spirit inside the believer seals every Christian against demonic possession. When we pray to God, study the Bible, and quote the Word of God, Satan flees. Draw near to the only true and living God, and He will draw near to you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
As the classic hymn states, "This is our Fatherís world!"