Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 3 March 2014
Page 14

Priscilla's Page Editor's Note

Developing Strong Families

Bonnie Rushmore

Bonnie RushmoreGod created the family in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:24), so it is only natural that we begin with the first family when talking about “Developing Strong Families.” God gave the following instructions to the first couple: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28); “man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Genesis 2:24) and “…eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden… ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die’” (Genesis 3:3). After Adam and Eve sinned, God gave further instructions: to the woman. He said, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16), and to the man He said, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19). Adam and Eve were banished from Eden (3:22).

Please note that Adam and Eve had work to do while living in the Garden of Eden. Even while living in paradise, mankind was instructed to work. Their work became harder after their sin and banishment from the Garden.

The fact that man was created first and Eve was made from Adam’s rib sets the man in the position of the head of the family. This point was further emphasized when God told Eve, “…Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

We learn from the first family that God’s plan for families is: (1) Man is the head of the family, (2) The husband and wife are to leave their parents and begin a new family unit – depending on one another rather than their parents, and (3) Man is to work and provide for his family. Later in this lesson, we will look more closely at New Testament passages that reiterate these truths.

As we look at Genesis 4:1-15, we can also learn some unpleasant truths from the first family. They failed to ingrain in all of their children how to properly worship God. This is evident when Cain tried to offer fruits and vegetables in place of a blood offering (vv. 3-4). They failed to properly impress upon each of the children the importance of and how to control one’s anger (v. 5).

God continued to provide instructions for guidance of the family throughout the Old Testament. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary makes the following observation, “Along with the honor of the position as head of the family, the father was expected to assume certain responsibilities. These responsibilities can be classified into three categories: spiritual, social, and economic.” It was the responsibility of the fathers to lead the family in spiritual matters – teaching about the one true God, teaching God’s laws, and leading the family in worshipful activities including offering sacrifices under patriarchy. Repeatedly in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses told the men of Israel to teach God’s laws to their children and grandchildren (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:6-9; 11:19-20; 32:46).

It was the obligation of the father to protect his family in the social realm – to make sure no one took advantage of any family member and to secure a wife for his son. Also, the father trained his sons in a trade so that they would be responsible members of society.

It was the father’s responsibility to provide the necessities of life – food, shelter and clothing – for his family. Wise King Solomon compared the work ethic of men to that of an ant. The ant works “having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:7-8). An honest worker works when no one in watching!

God said of Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Genesis 18:19). What a wonderful world we would have if this could be said of all men today!

The best example of what God expected from women under the Old Testament is found in Proverbs 31. This woman is loving, kind, considerate, benevolent, industrious, respected, wise and had a good sense in business matters; she was praised and honored by her husband and children. These same principles carry over into the New Testament as attributes of Christian wives and mothers.

Children are commanded to honor their father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Throughout the Book of Proverbs, children were commanded to obey their parents, follow their instructions and respect them (Proverbs 1:8-9; 6:20-21; 23:22). Under the Old Law, a rebellious child was to be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

Likewise, God provided instructions in the New Testament for guiding the family. The husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:22-23). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), and they are to love their wives as they love themselves (Ephesians 5:28). Fathers are instructed, “do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). One of the qualifications for elders is “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Timothy 3:4). A qualification of deacons is “ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Timothy 3:12). Men are required to provide for their families. The apostle Paul said that a man who refused to care for his family “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

Wives are to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22). Wives’ primary responsibility is “…to love their husbands, love their children…keep the home…be obedient to their husbands” (Titus 2:4-5 KJV). Along with caring for the daily needs of the children, the mother should assist the father in teaching the children the Word of God with words and by example.

Children should be obedient to their parents, honor them and show respect to them (Ephesians 6:1-2). Parents must show love and respect to one another as well as to the children for children to learn to show love and respect to the parents.

We can only develop strong families when parents and children properly apply divine instruction to themselves. All family members must put God first in their lives. Fathers must be the head of their families – assuming their God-given responsibilities to lead and instruct the family in all spiritual, social and economic matters.

Wives must be submissive to their husbands and assume their God given responsibilities in caring for the home. They will assist the father in training the children in spiritual, social and economic matters.

Children must accept the instruction of their parents and show honor and respect to them. Wise parents will instill in the children a love for God and respect for others, especially those who are in positions of authority.

The family is the basic unit of societies and nations, so that the health of families determines the character of any people. When a nation consists of strong, God-centered families, it thrives; as the home slips away from God and one another, the nation crumbles. A study of the Old Testament nation of Israel should be an eye-opener for mankind today. Unfortunately, instead of learning from the experiences of past nations, we seem destined to follow in their footsteps. Only when our fathers and mothers return to their God-given roles will the home and nation return to God.

Developing strong families requires one man and one woman to marry each other for life and to reserve sexual activities to the confines of their marriage. It necessitates men to assume their God-given responsibilities as head of their families – not lording their authority over family members, but guiding with love and respect to each other – and leading their families spiritually. It requires wives to willingly submit to their husbands – showing love and respect to them and care for their homes and children. The children will lovingly show respect to their parents and other siblings and will adhere to the instruction of their parents. Each family member must put the needs of the other family members before their individual wants or needs.

Every member of a family has a God-given role to fulfill within that family. When one family member fails to accomplish his or her biblical requirements, the family is weaker! Each of us must do our part to the best of our abilities.

Works Cited

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Thomas Nelson P.,  1986.

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