Help For Your Family, Part 2

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HELP FOR YOUR FAMILY, Part 2

Being part of a family is more work than you might imagine.  Last time, we discussed the relationships between husbands and wives, and children and parents.  But there’s more to family relationships than just those.  What about the difficult challenges that face the so-called “sandwich generation?”  These are people that find themselves having to care for their children and their aged parents at the same time.  What is the proper role of grandparents?

The Bible actually addresses all areas of family life, sometimes in very surprising ways.  For example, we see that Jesus took special care to ensure that His mother would be taken care of after His death and resurrection.  As our Lord hung on the Cross dying, He was concerned about His mother.  What would become of her?  Well, being a good Son to His mother, Jesus made sure provision had been made:

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, Mary, his aunt, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside me, his close friend, he said to her, “He is your son.”  And to me he said, “She is your mother!” And from then on I took her into my home.  (John 19:25—27  TLB)

Here was a good Son who, while dying the most horrible death imaginable, thought about His mother’s future.  And John became a little more than Jesus’ friend.  He became, out of compassion for Mary and respect for Jesus, Mary’s caretaker until the day she died.

1.  The case of blended families, Psalm 127:1; Colossians 3:18—21; Ephesians 4:2

(a)  Building the house and home, Psalm 127:1

This Psalm was written by Solomon, the man with a very blended family!  With 700 wives and 300 concubines, his family must surely have been huge.

Unless the Lord builds a house, the builders’ work is useless. Unless the Lord protects a city, sentries do no good.

Verse one is the well-known proposition that without God’s help in any human endeavor, success will be elusive.  The Hebrew for “house” means different things:  a dwelling place, or a grand temple.  It can also refer to a dynasty or a family. Given the rest of this brief psalm, it seems that Solomon is talking about the promise of a godly home.  A godly home, full of mutually loving parents and respectful children is possible only if God is the One in charge.

Solomon was full of wisdom, but he also understood the pitfalls of “vanity.”  This is evident as your read his Ecclesiastes.  The vainest thing a Christian parent can do is raise a family without consideration for God and God’s will.

God is the ultimate Master Builder.  He builds both houses and homes.  The Lord builds the family, He watches over the family, and He gives protection to the family.  This whole psalm is a call to Christian parents to acknowledge their complete dependence on Him.

(b)  Family instructions, Col. 3:18—21

You wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, for that is what the Lord has planned for you. And you husbands must be loving and kind to your wives and not bitter against them nor harsh.  You children must always obey your fathers and mothers, for that pleases the Lord.  Fathers, don’t scold your children so much that they become discouraged and quit trying.

Here is some familiar advice from Paul with a little extra added.  We discussed the submission of a wife to her husband last time.  That submission is God’s will because He has a divine order for the Christian household.  The wife is to be subject to her own husband, not to anybody else’s husband, and the husband is to love his wife.  The added bit is a warning for the husband to not be bitter or harsh.  Love is far more than just an emotion or a feeling!  It’s how a husband treats his wife.  He can tell her how much he loves her all day long, but if he’s moody and cranky, irresponsible and immature, then how can he say he loves her?

Furthermore, children are to be obedient to their parents.  While the wife’s submission to her husband is to be “voluntary,” a child’s obedience is to be mandatory.  But the added bit is a serious warning to fathers not to go over-the-top in trying to be a disciplinarian to his children.  Instead of always nagging a child, a good father is one who takes responsibility to encourage and build up his child.  Instead of always being angry and putting down a child, a godly father finds ways to positively influence his child so that he may grow and develop into an adult of godly character.

(c)  Love in the family, Eph. 4:2

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

“Humble” and “gentle” Christians are rarer and rarer these days!  Paul had told the Ephesians that they had been abundantly blessed by God.  In the face of all those blessings, believers should practice humility and gentleness with each other.  “Humility” has been called the “first, second, and third” essential of the Christian life!  The “gentle” believer understands that his rights descend from God and that apart from God, he has none.  You can see how important an attitude this is within the family.  Husbands and wives seek the right to “be happy” or “satisfied” without understanding those are imaginary rights within the family.  You find those things, not in your spouse, not in your children, but in God.

“Patience” and understanding are also in short supply in the Christian community.  We are very quick to criticize each other, finding fault, and tearing down a spouse or a child thinking we are being “constructive,” but what are doing is breaking their spirits, and that’s wrong.  God wants us to love each other, especially within the family, and love should be the guiding principle that determines our treatment of other members of the family.

2.  Inter-generational responsibilities, Mark 7:9—13; 1 Timothy 5:4, 8

(a)  Honoring parents, Mark 7:9, 10

You are simply rejecting God’s laws and trampling them under your feet for the sake of tradition. “For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother.’ And he said that anyone who speaks against his father or mother must die. 

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had been substituting their traditions for the Word of God.  Not all man-made traditions are bad; some may be very good, in fact.  But they may become bad if they take the place of the Word.  This is very common in denominationalism today, where “books of order” and “church constitutions” and the teaching of godly men like Calvin or Luther are considered “authoritative” to the same extent as the Word of God.  This is what was happening in Jesus’ day.

An example of this was what Moses had taught regarding honoring parents.  Over the centuries, that part of the Law had been so watered down by man’s teaching that children could find ways to escape all responsibility for obeying and caring for their parents.  If a man wanted freedom from looking after his impoverished parents, for example, he could pledge his possessions to the Temple in a ceremony called the Corban, meaning “the gift.”  This got him off the religious hook, he could be on merry way essentially abandoning his parents.  Upon his death, the Temple got his estate.

It’s relatively easy to justify abandoning one’s parents these days, but it’s as wrong today as it was in Jesus’ day.  It is our responsibility to keep an eye on our parents, making sure their needs are met.  William Barclay’s observation on this point is worthy of consideration:

We must have a care that we never allow rules to paralyze the claims of love.  Nothing that prevents us helping a fellowman can ever be a rule approved by God.

(b)  Dishonoring parents, Mark 7:11—13

The fact is, many grown children end up having to care for their children and for their parents at the same time.  This “sandwich generation” has a hard row to hoe.  However, if they are to live in obedience to God and if they are to honor their parents, they must step up and become caretakers for two generations.  For the Christian, this is not really an option; it’s part of God’s Word.  You may or may not be thrilled with opening up your home to your aged mother or father or both, but how you feel or what you think is unimportant.  Love is not what’s in your head, it’s what you do.  You do honor to your parents by DOING for them what they may be unable to do for themselves.  Love is not about thoughts or feelings, it’s all about actions.

(c)  Family responsibility, 1 Timothy 5:4, 8

But if they have children or grandchildren, these are the ones who should take the responsibility, for kindness should begin at home, supporting needy parents. This is something that pleases God very much.  (verse 4)

But anyone who won’t care for his own relatives when they need help, especially those living in his own family, has no right to say he is a Christian. Such a person is worse than the heathen.  (verse 5)

The Church is to care for widows who have no family to care for her, but if she has family that is able to look after her, then it falls on them, not the church, to look after her.  But women with no one to look after them deserve the utmost consideration from the church.  Paul was gravely concerned that no Christian ever be in need.  Where the family was non-existent, the church needed to step in, acting like an “extended family.”

However, Paul also realized that human nature takes advantage of a good situation.  A family should not turn an aged parent or needy parents over to a church when they themselves ought to be caring for them.  We are obligated, as far as we are able, to care for our families—not just our parents—because this is what pleases God.

3.  Grandparenting, Proverbs 13:22; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15; Psalm 103:17—18

(a)  Family inheritance, Prov. 13:22

When a good man dies, he leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren; but when a sinner dies, his wealth is stored up for the godly.

A believer may live a good life, providing for himself and for his family.  He may also be in a position to pass on something to his children and grandchildren.   This idea was very big among some Reformers and gave birth to the “protestant work ethic.”  The notion is that hard work brings prosperity, a gift from God, and the present generation should preserve as much of that prosperity, making it grow, so that it may be passed down from generation to generation.  That’s not only good estate planning, but it’s also Biblical.

(b)  Spiritual inheritance, 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15

I know how much you trust the Lord, just as your mother Eunice and your grandmother Lois do; and I feel sure you are still trusting him as much as ever.  (2 Tim. 1:5  TLB)

But you must keep on believing the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know that you can trust those of us who have taught you. You know how, when you were a small child, you were taught the holy Scriptures; and it is these that make you wise to accept God’s salvation by trusting in Christ Jesus.  (2 Tim. 3:14, 15  TLB)

Timothy’s mother and grandmother were of the Jewish faith but they believed in the Messiah.  His father was a Greek and the implication is that he was not a believer.  Timothy grew into a man of God solely because of the godly influence of his mother and his grandmother; he received from them a spiritual inheritance.  Clearly these godly women took the time to teach young Timothy the Word and the doctrines of the Word.  It was through their teaching—mother and grandmother—that Timothy realized his need for a Savior.

Two generations were involved in passing a spiritual and godly heritage to Timothy.

(c)  Conditional inheritance

But the loving-kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting to those who reverence him; his salvation is to children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant and remember to obey him!  (Psalm 103:17, 18  TLB)

You can count on God’s “loving-kindness!”  It’s durable; it never ends.  It’s for all people who “reverence Him.”  That grace and mercy is available in abundant supply; enough for the “children’s children” even.  There is a caveat, though.  If “the children’s children” want to experience the grace and mercy of God, they must come to the position to being faithful to God’s covenant and they must live in obedience to Him.  God’s covenant love, so immense and eternal, is available to all who fear and revere Him.  Even though man is puny, finite, and very fragile, he  may live a blessed life and inherit an eternal life through being part of God’s family.

 

 

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