By Jeffery Kingry
Jesus was utterly contemptuous of the efforts of the Jews to please God by form rather than substance, He accused them of rank hypocrisy. “This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mk. %:7, 8). He also accused them of the worst form of legalism: circumventing personal responsibility and calling it “service” given unto God.
“Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honor thy, father and thy mother; and, whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father and mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do alight for his father and his mother” (Mk. 7:9-12).
The law required that “honor” be given unto the parents. The application that Jesus made is that this honor includes caring for their needs from the substance of the children (cf. Jas. 2:14-17). Yet the religious leaders of the day said that this responsibility can be neglected and overlooked if the support that would ordinarily go to the parents is given away to God’s temple. Here was an effort to circumvent responsibility given by God by offering it up in service in another area. Jesus’ point is that service to God does not conflict with any other responsibility given by God!
The Preacher’s Family
For years the brethren have looked to and admired the fine example set by the pioneer preachers. Buts there is one part of their life and work that is appalling. These men left their homes and family for months at a time to preach the Gospel. The “meeting preachers” who is gone six months and more a year from home is the modern heir of that heritage.
In the book The Life And Times of Elder Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin’s son Joseph wrote of the attitude of his father, and the effect it had upon his family. “He was never at home except in protracted meetings . . . the preacher himself, away from home much of the time, and in the society of brethren ready to make him comfortable, has comparatively an easy time ., . . It sends thrills of distress through his soul as he sits down to a table groaning under all the luxuries of the land to remember the scanty supply on the table spread for his wife and children at home . . .many a woman, under such experience, has either sickened and died prematurely, or living, become pettish and melancholy, so that neither she nor her children could ever be happy. But, Mrs. Franklin, left alone for more than half the time for many years, living often in some out-of-the-way place for economy’s sake, destitute of luxuries, and often poorly supplied with the necessities of life, cut off almost entirely from society, continued patiently, enduring all for husband and children’s sake, for Jesus’ sake, keeping up her spirits and living in hope, until, in God’s good providence a better day should come. Tears she shed-many bitter tears of sorrow and deprivation at her forlorn and almost widowed condition . . . many a time has her eldest son stopped in his childish pursuits and gazed upon her countenance as she sat looking afar through the window, yet evidently seeing nothing with the natural eye, and he wondered what she could be thinking of-why was she so sad? The quick maternal feeling would catch the gaze . . . would bid him go and play again; then, turning her head away, would wipe the unbidden tears from her eyes. The son would sometimes see that too, and go away more bewildered than ever” (pp. 69-71).
The wife of “Taccoon” John Smith died in grief after she lost her children for want of a father. She left her brother as a baby-sitter, as her husband was away as usual in a meeting, and went to a sick neighbor’s home. While she was gone, the house caught fire, and quickly burned to the ground. Two of her children were burned to death.
Brother Smith finally received word of the tragedy and made his way home as quickly as he could. But, his wife would not be comforted, and was buried in the earth beside the ashes of her two children (West, Search For The Ancient Order, Vol. 1, p. 245).
By what standard do we justify the tears of these wives, and the fears of their children? By what standard do we authorize a man neglecting his wife and family, leaving the burden of child-rearing, provision, and nurture upon a weary and lonely wife? By what eternal pattern do we excuse the hours of loneliness and longing of a faithful wife waiting for her husband to return home to hearth and bed? To what apology of righteousness do we attribute the unfaithfulness and resentment of the preacher’s children as they grow to maturity with only a “sometimes father”? It is corban. “That whereby thou mightest be profited by me is given as a gift unto God. And ye suffer him to do naught for his family . . .”
“His Commandments Are Not Grievous”
Jesus demanded that service truly rendered unto God does not conflict with any other responsibility given by God. The law of Christ says, “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it . . . nourish and cherish (her) . . . if any provide riot for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel . . . Likewise ye husbands dwell with (your wives .according to knowledge . . . that your prayers be not hindered . . . . Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence . . . defraud ye` trot one the other, except it be with consent for a time, a ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 5:8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 1 Cor. 7:3).
A preacher, like any other parent, has a responsibility to his children that he cannot call “corban” because he would like to hold thirty meetings a year, or so immerse himself in local work that he has no time for his children. The responsibility for raising children is put squarely on the shoulders of ,the father. “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The “provide” of 1 Tim. 5:8 includes more than putting food on the table. A father can give all the “good things” of life to his children and still fail them by not providing them with the attention and time they need.
A brother in Christ once sought to justify his treatment of his family by saying, “It is not the quantity of the time I spend with them, but the quality.” This is true only to the extent that quantity does not replace quality, but claiming that neglect is justified by the quality and intensity of the time spent when one is at home is wrong. Nothing replaces regular, consistent, repetitive parenthood and loving. Children need the confidence of having a home, consistency of two parents. A wife needs consistent “due benevolence.”
Scriptures deal with the evangelist’s responsibilities. In the “pastoral epistles” to Timothy and Titus, Paul’s instruction was of a local nature to be fulfilled on a continuing bassi in a local congregation. To be sure, Paul made a choice in the kind of “meeting work” he did. He laid the foundation, and left the building to others (1 Cor. 3:10). In doing the kind of work he chose, he willingly sacrificed his right to a family to do his work more effectively (1 Cor. 7:26, 27, 32, 33, 7)., But Paul had a right to have a wife and family, and still do the kind of work he did. But, he told us, by inference, how that kind of work was to be done: “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other Apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas” (1 Cor. 9:5)?
A man can be a preacher and a husband and a father, and not fail in any of his responsibilities. But, to “excel” as a preacher at the expense of one’s family is to incur the wrath of God. “This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
Truth Magazine XIX: 38, pp. 605-606
August 7, 1975