part four – family structure
We are at the halfway mark of a six-part series entitled family fortune. In this series, we are discussing and discovering how to make our families a fortune. By setting our priorities and making the right investments we can make our families a fortune.
By that, I do NOT mean making a fortune FOR our families but making a fortune OF our families – making our families our fortune, enriching our lives with the wealth of a blessed or fortunate family.
As I mentioned last week, the word blessed shows up several times in the bible, particularly in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The Greek word from which blessed is translated is makarios, which means fortunate or happy. The underlying precept that I shared is that the happy Christian or family of fortune is the one who strives to live according to God’s ideal.
And as I mentioned in week one, and I will continue to mention, there is a tension between the real and the ideal. There is an ideal laid out for us in the Bible, but we all fall short of that ideal. Good news is that our salvation, our right standing with God is not dependent upon our ability to live the ideal. That was procured through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But the fact that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, in no way suggests that we should forget about the ideal and live as we see fit in our own eyes. Rather, out of our love for God, we should strive to walk in obedience to him, for Jesus said in John 14:15, if you love me you will obey what I command.
So in this series, we recognize the reality that we fall short and rejoice in the fact that there is no condemnation for that for those of us in Christ Jesus. But out of our love for God and in line with our vision as a church to cultivate a loving community of Christians with a Biblical worldview, we are exploring the Biblical ideal and striving for it, recognizing that God knows what is ultimately best for us being the designer behind love, sex, relationships, marriage, and family. Who knows better how things work than the designer?
So back to our underlying precept: the happy Christian or family of fortune is the one who strives to live according to God’s ideal because it is in our own best interest. So what is God’s ideal for the family structure?
To be quite honest, there aren’t many passages in the Bible that speak strictly about family. There is a multitude of precepts that we can draw from just about every book in the bible, which we can apply to the relationships within our family, but not many that speak directly about family. In fact, if we were to survey the Scriptures to glean some wisdom from the marital relationships in the Biblical narrative, we would find Eve leading her husband astray into disobedience to eat the forbidden fruit, we would find Job’s wife urging him to curse God and die, we would find Solomon’s wives leading him into idolatry and the worship of foreign gods. We would find Abraham telling Pharaoh that Sarai was his sister and allowing Pharaoh to…well…you know, then there’s David and Bathsheba, a whole slew of examples of what NOT to do in families.
But there is one passage that speaks specifically on God’s ideal for family structure and that is Eph 5:22-33. Now, as I understand it, this passage was extremely liberal and liberating at the time in which it was written because to the ancients, women and children were seen as property. But Jesus was ushering in a new age in which the status of women and children would be elevated. At the foot of the cross all are equal. Paul explicitly states in Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And while we may be tempted to see our passage at hand as being politically incorrect, as being old fashioned, consider that statistically, in cultures that embrace a biblical worldview, women and children have fared better than in those that don’t.
Before we get into this text, I’d like to make two points clear about God’s ideal for the family structure:
It creates order where there could otherwise be chaos
This order in no way suggests that one family member is less valuable than another or that one’s role in the family is any less valuable than another
Let me illustrate this in terms of an organization. Starbucks, for example. Do you know the name of the CEO of Starbucks? What about the store manager of your local Starbucks? What about the name of a barista at your local Starbucks? I think you see where I’m going with this. Just because the CEO has the title and he’s the one at the top of the pyramid calling all of the shots that roll down hill, doesn’t necessarily make him better, more important, or more valuable than the barista making your coffee. In fact, as far as you’re concerned, you could probably care less about the CEO and see the barista as more valuable. After all, that CEO wouldn’t have much of a company to oversee if he didn’t have baristas making coffee on every three blocks. From the top down, every member of an organization matters; they all play their part and their part is important. They are all valuable, regardless of their title or rank or position.
But imagine if there were no ordered structure within starbucks’ organization. Wouldn’t be much of an organization because it wouldn’t be organized; it would be chaotic. Who would make the schedule? Who would hold the baristas accountable for their performance? Who would do the hiring? Somebody needs to have oversight. There needs to be someone who can say, “the buck stops here.” I will take responsibility for the employees, the schedule, the quality of the product and service at this Starbucks location.
In the same way, when it comes to the Biblical ideal for the family, I believe that every family member is valuable regardless of their position in that family, but in bringing order to what could otherwise be chaotic, there must be oversight; there must be an individual who can say, “the buck stops here.” Doesn’t mean that person is better than the rest, it just means that is his position within the family.
Now, before we jump into the specific details of Eph 5, I want to give some of the broader context. Vv22-33 are part of a larger whole that begins in verse 21 and goes through 6:9. Let me outline this chunk before we move into the details. V 21 says submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Then, he goes on to list three specific relationships in which this submission plays out.
Wives submit to husbands
Children submit to parents
Slaves submit to masters
And this can be extended to other relationships as well, students & teachers, employees & managers, etc. The underlying precept is that Christians should respect those in positions of authority.
But he doesn’t stop there. He then addresses those who hold positions of authority; he says they should be servant leaders rather than being domineering, overbearing, or lording it over others.
The three relationships Paul gives as examples of how this should play out are as follows:
husbands lead your wives with love
parents do not exasperate your children
masters do not threaten your slaves
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
A few points to note here:
Submission is voluntary-it cannot be forced.
Submission is about order, not value. Man and woman are 2 equals. Not less worth in a woman.
Submission pertains to wives to husbands, not women to men.
Submission in the home is contagious. If the wife is not submissive to her husband, she shouldn’t expect her children to submit to her. Disrespectful or contentious children may be indicative of that kind of spirit in wives.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
He must lead in Biblical love, which Voddie Baucham defines as: an act of the will accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object.
Remember: commitment and chemistry. This love is not simply an act of the will, but also a matter of the heart and enveloped in emotion, not just a cold calculated decision.
And this love is to be patterned after Jesus. If there was ever anyone who deserved to be served it was Jesus. And scripture says that he came NOT to be served, but TO SERVE and to give his life as a ransom for many, namely his bride, the church. How much more should we, who are far less significant than our Lord, far less worthy of being served, how much more should we, therefore, set our hearts on serving our brides? Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
After all, we are one with our spouses. Anything we do to harm them, we do to harm ourselves. Anything we do to benefit them, benefits us because they are a part of us and we are a part of them. Back to cohesion.
That is the husband/wife relationship. Summed up: Wives respect your husbands and submit to them as to the Lord; husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church.
He continues into chapter 6:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
You know, children, the law in the OC said this in
18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
And you thought it was just the worst when you were grounded from TV or your phone! You thought spankings were bad? Be glad that we live in the New Covenant age.
Children, honor your parents. Don’t do things that you know would displease them. Don’t roll your eyes at them or talk back to them. Be mindful of your tone. Don’t think that you know better than they do. Here’s the thing: they have been your age. You haven’t been their age. Don’t think that we don’t know what it’s like to be in middle school or high school, trying to fit in, trying not to get made fun of, trying to make friends. We know. And trust me, parents really do know what is best for you and you should trust them.
As children we tend to be so self-centered like the world should revolve around us and we take for granted all that our parents do for us and it’s never enough. I honestly didn’t really appreciate everything my parents did for me until I had children of my own. Then it was like whoah. Then I really appreciated the times my parents woke up at 3:00 am with a screaming me. I appreciated the times my parents cleaned up my vomit, changed my dirty diapers, drove me all over town to take me to sports and activities, pay for those activities that I took for granted, pay for those those Air Jordans I had to have, pay for all of the food I ate.
Children: this week, my challenge to you: I want you to make note, even if it is a mental note, of everything your parents do for you and I want you to thank them. If you put a piece of food in your mouth that you didn’t pay for, if you talk on a phone you didn’t pay for, if you use something in your room you didn’t pay for, if you go somewhere and don’t pay for the gas, anything you do this week that involves your parents doing something for you, making some kind of sacrifice, make note of that and thank your parents for what they do. I challenge you to take very seriously this biblical ideal of honoring and obeying your parents. Start this week in making a conscious decision to filter every decision you make by asking first will this honor my parents? Would my parents want me to do this? Would this please my parents?
Children have the ability to bring great joy or great heartache to their parents.
Proverbs 10:1 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.
Proverbs 17:25 A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.
Now, in the same pattern as the portion on husbands and wives, Paul now addresses the one in the position of authority. While the text addresses fathers specifically, I believe the precept is broader and applies to parents more generally.
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
In the same way that husbands are not to rule over wives in a domineering, overbearing way, parents should parent with grace. Yes, discipline is important, but if the only thing our children hear out of our mouths is don’t do that, you did this wrong, you didn’t do that well enough, that is exasperating, that will embitter our children and it will crush their spirits.
Again, I believe that discipline is important, but HOW we discipline is just as important. I believe it is important to do our best to discipline them in a way that clearly shows that we have their best interest in mind, that we love them and that we are not against them. I’m not an expert at parenting. I’m still navigating the foggy sea of parenthood and I think that by the time I get it figured out Tre will be moving out of the house.
They didn’t come with manuals, but the closest thing we have, the one thing we do know is a very clear statement in the Bible, do not exasperate your children.
My challenge to parents: look for opportunities to praise your children. If you catch them doing something right, doing something well, anything and everything, try to commend them, compliment them, thank them, encourage them.
It has been my experience that positive words and rewards for good behavior goes farther than negative words and punishment.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Now, I think it probably goes without saying, but this section is not condoning slavery; it is simply addressing the structure of a first century culture in which slavery was normative. Again, the precept behind the passage is what is important and that is Christians should submit to those in authority. And Christians in authority should be servant leaders. We could extend this precept to our own situations and experiences: players to coaches, students to teachers, employees to managers, etc. I include it to show the continuity in Paul’s discussion and close out this unit in which he follows the same pattern: submission to those in authority and servant leadership by those in authority.
I love this comparison chart between a boss and a leader. I believe that it can serve as a template for ideal leadership in just about any capacity. On the left we have the attributes and actions of a BOSS and on the right those of a leader. In our study at hand, we could consider the left hand side what we want to avoid as Christian fathers and husbands and the right hand side in correlation to our biblical ideal as husbands and fathers.
Rather than driving our wives and children, let’s coach them.
Rather than depending on authority, let’s depend on goodwill.
Rather than inspiring fear in our families, let’s generate enthusiasm.
Rather than saying “I”, let’s say “we”, working as a cohesive unit, a team.
Rather than placing blame for a breakdown, let’s fix the breakdown, let’s own it; after all, the buck stops here.
Rather than knowing how it’s done, let’s show how it’s done.
Rather than using our family members, let’s develop them, seizing teachable moments.
Rather than taking credit, let’s look for opportunities to give credit to others in our family.
Rather than barking out commands, let’s ask our family members.
Rather than saying “go”, say “let’s go.”
Again, that’s very practical, and it works very well for a managerial position at a company, but you get the picture; you can see the difference in the spirit behind the left column and that in the right.
Want to make your family a fortune, dads? Children and wives, would you not consider your family fortunate to have a leader like the one described in this right hand column?
Children and wives, would you not consider your family fortunate to have a leader who models his leadership after the servant leadership of Jesus, who, though he was the most powerful person in the world, humbled himself and made himself the servant of all, even washing the feet of the disciple who would betray him?
Dads, want to make our families a fortune? Let’s take responsibility for the well-being of our families, full responsibility, overseeing our families with a spirit of humility and love, not abusing our position, wielding our power through demands or coercion, not domineering, overbearing, not exasperating, not lording it over them.
Dads, another thing to consider: the way that we treat our wives may just be teaching our daughters how they should expect to be treated by their husbands. Do we always speak to our wives in a way that we would want our future sons-in-law to speak to our daughters? That really puts it in perspective. And we may just be teaching our sons how they should treat their wives. We are teaching our children whether we intend to or not because in the home, so much of what is learned is caught, not taught. They pick up on what we say and do.
I want to share with you something that Voddie Baucham shared in his Marriage by Design series. He read the following statements about Condoleezza Rice:
She is a talented, well-educated woman who has dedicated her gifts, talents, abilities and education to the Bush administration.
She is committed to supporting President Bush and helping him accomplish his goals.
She shares her opinions with Bush behind closed doors, but in public they are a united front and she does not contradict Bush in front of others.
She is committed to doing whatever she can to advance Bush’s vision.
She has shunned all other career opportunities in order to give her full attention and devotion to the Bush Administration.
Then he read the same statements, altering them so that they applied to his wife. I’ll read them and as I do, men, I want you to consider them with reference to your wife:
She is a talented, well-educated woman who has dedicated her gifts, talents, abilities and education to the family.
She is committed to supporting her husband and helping her husband accomplish his goals.
She shares her opinions behind closed doors, but in public they are a united front and she does not contradict her husband in front of others.
She is committed to doing whatever she can to advance her husband’s vision for the family.
She has shunned all other career opportunities in order to give her full attention and devotion to her family.
Husbands, would that not make your family a fortune to be able to say that about your wife?
As Voddie points out, Condoleezza Rice does it and she’s commended as a heroine, but a wife does it and she’s considered old fashioned. Old fashioned or not, one’s family should be his or her number one commitment, second only to God. A whole hearted dedication to one’s family – ie, the right investments and priorities, will make one’s family their fortune.
A fortunate family is one in which wives submit to their husbands, husbands love their wives, children obey their parents and parents do not exasperate their children.
And the most beautiful thing about this, is that when we live out this biblical ideal for marriage we are in a sense preaching the gospel to the world around us. We tell the extravagant love story of Jesus Christ and his bride, the church. Let’s go and preach the gospel with our lives.