By 0. C. Birdwell
The family relationship should be the nearest and dearest relationship in this life. This will be or will not be so depending on the guidance one seeks in the relationship. There is no doubting the fact that many, from various places, are trying to destroy the family circle as our society has known it in the past and as it is set forth in the New Testament. More than most wish to admit has been accomplished by their efforts. In fact, many people, unknowingly, are to some degree lending their support to the deteriorating home situation. The husband and wife find themselves away much of the time making a living for the family, and working extra time in order to have the many luxuries of our society. The children in the family, when not in school, find themselves working at a job early in life, or they are with friends, and quite often with them away from home. When they are at home, the television competes with other interests and too often wins out. This gives very little time for the togetherness required for adequate training and influence that should be exerted in the home.
Beyond the internal problems, the outside influence is constantly beating against the family structure. Movies, television, magazines, and other news and entertainment outlets constantly suggest to us and our youth that the home is an unhappy, unworkable relationship that should be avoided. They tell us over and over just how many live together without marriage and how many change mates regularly. Then, there is the “you have come a long way” slogan, and others, which are often not just efforts to improve conditions and bring about the God ordained relationship between man and woman. On the contrary, they are movements to discourage people in the role God has authorized. Women are told that homemaking is demeaning and degrading. Men are led to believe that desertion of wife and children is honorable and acceptable. Man is told that he is not the head of the home and is not obligated as such. All of this is defended with the concept that we live our own lives. “Do your own thing” would, no doubt, be the way the “in” crowd would express it. This concept, however, is foreign to scripture and flies in the face of taught duties and responsibilities enjoined upon every family member.
The way to solve the present family problem we are facing is to get back to the family guidance provided by God. This is all we have to offer. This is all that will get the job done in this or any other society. Sadly, too many, when shown Biblical family guidance, turn away. Some conclude the solution to be too simple. Others are so engulfed in sin and problems of their own making that they feel beyond help. They are not willing to give up what they are doing. Many do not want help. For the benefit of those who are interested, we give consideration to a few areas of family guidance as provided for in the Bible.
Guidance in Marriage
The beginning account goes like this: “And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:23,24). This relationship, brought about by one’s leaving father and mother and cleaving unto his wife, is an honorable and God ordained relationship. The next verse says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” This shows the proper attitude husband and wife ought to have toward one another. Such a situation, however, is only honorable in marriage. The Hebrew writer says, “Let marriage be had in honor among all, and the bed undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Only the husband and wife are to be one flesh (Matt. 19:16). Anything more than this is fornication. The modern “live together without marriage” movement must be opposed and rejected.
Biblical Reasons far Marriage
One of the clearly given reasons for marriage is procreation. We would not, as some have seemingly done, leave the impression that this is the only purpose of marriage. Yet, it is important. “God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, . . .” (Gen. 1:28). Paul instructs that the younger be admonished to marry and bear children (1 Tim. 5:14). He said “. . . train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, . . .” (Tit. 2:4). God did not set forth a plan for childbirth and child rearing outside of marriage. Humanity is to continue through the marriage relationship.
Another reason for marriage, as set forth in the beginning record, is companionship. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone . . .” (Gen. 2:18). This is still one of the good reasons for marriage. Companionship is often a vital part of happiness.
Still another reason for marriage is given by the apostle Paul. He said, “But because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). The modern concept that sexual fulfillment is acceptable outside of marriage is false. Fornication is a sin and one way to avoid it is marriage. Thus we see that marriage is for procreation, companionship, and to avoid fornication.
Guidance in the Husband-Wife Relationship
Families are too often torn asunder because husband and wife just cannot get along. Innocent children are scarred for life because of foolish and often selfish parents who are not willing to follow Bible guidance in their relationship. The first thing they need to remember is, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). Chances are good that these words of Jesus were quoted at the wedding ceremony. One preacher was chosen for a wedding “because he ties a knott that will not easily come loose,” according to the one selecting him. In that specific case it did come loose, but not because of the preacher’s failure. The couple refused to be guided by scripture.
Several years ago there was a television comedy program with a brief skit in which one rather seriously and confidentially passed along an old family secret ingredient for making spaghetti. The alleged secret ingredient was oregano! Of course, oregano, to most spaghetti makers, is no secret. The secret ingredient to a successful husbandwife relationship is also known by most. The ingredient is love. Love is an important little word that is too often known only to be overlooked. According to Paul, it is the greatest remaining thing (1 Cor. 13:13). Concern is a part of love, and deep concern for one another cannot be overlooked and there be a proper husband-wife relationship.
False Concepts in the Husband-Wife Relationship
One of the tragic ideas of many in the church is, “I will get married and if it does not work out I have no obligation to live with my mate so long as I do not remarry.” In the first place, they find it difficult to remain unmarried. After a while they become disturbed, find someone they want to marry, and either quit the church or search for a preacher who will tell them they have a right to marry. In the second place, that one has no obligation to live with the partner is not taught in scripture. Jesus did not make any such statement about marriage. Hear him well, my friend. “But I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress; and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery” (Matt. 5:32). Also, Paul tells the believing mate not to leave the unbelieving one if the latter be pleased to dwell with him (1 Cor. 7:12, 13). One who would put away a mate for just any cause becomes an accomplice in the sin that may result because of the putting away. Consequently, one ought to give serious consideration to the obligations of marriage, and to the person to be taken in marriage.
Another mistake is made by those who continue to live with their mate but, though able to do so, refuse to discharge the duties of a companion. Some have expressed the feeling that this is one’s right and seemed shocked when it is pointed out that such is not the case. Notice Paul’s statement on the subject. “Let the husband render unto the wife her due: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, . . . .” (1 Cor. 7:3-5a). To wives, Peter said, “be in subjection to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1). To husbands, he said, “in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, . . .” (1 Pet. 3:7). Both Paul and Peter show clearly the obligation one mate has toward the other.
Children are a “heritage” of Jehovah (Ps. 127:3). They should be so regarded by parents. They should be trained and disciplined, but not misused and abused. The Bible guides parents in discharging their duties to their children. (1) Parents should love their children. As already shown, women are to be taught to love their children. Paul tells us that “in the last days grievous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Among other things, he says that men will be “without natural affection.” The time predicted by Paul has apparently come. Many parents feel no affection and love for their children and can readily abandon them. (2.) Physical needs are to be provided. “But if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). Dependent children are the obligation of parents. (3) Teach the child obedience. “Withhold not correction from the child” (Prov. 23:13). Many parents miserably fail by refusing to discipline a child and teach him respect for authority. This failure tragically shows up when teachers, civil officials, or elders, find it necessary to discipline such a child. They find that the child not only resents and rejects the correction, but that the parents do also. (4) Teach children to work (2 Thess. 3:10). Too many grow into adulthood and refuse to work because the need was not impressed upon them by parents. (5) Parents should provide spiritual needs. Children are to be nurtured in the chastening and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Teach children respect for the Bible as God’s revelation. Do not teach children that parents are always right, but rather that the Bible is right. Let the Bible guide in spiritual matters.
The Bible provides guidance in many areas of family life untouched by this article. Above every thing that was said here, remember that the Bible does provide family guidance. Go there for your instruction. Follow its teaching.
Truth Magazine XXI: 30, pp. 473-474
August 4, 1977