Putting God First
Family life has changed dramatically over
the last thirty years. Nothing has made a greater impact on redefining
the home than the work schedules of mom and dad. There was a time when
families did everything together. In rural America families work all day
on the farm together, they sat down and ate every meal as a family and
they played together. Today many families only pass one another at the
front door as they are running from place to place.
William Mahlow tells about a "father who returned
from a busy day at work to find a note from his daughter on the refrigerator:
'Gone to Jane's house...Will not need supper.' And by it a note from his
wife, 'Some sandwiches in the fridge. Help yourself. I'm at the Garden
Club dinner.' And still another note from son Jim: 'Soccer practice, will
be late. I'll go to McDonald's for supper.'
"Finding himself thus alone at the end of
a hectic day, the father added his note: 'Gone to the dogs, Dad,' and headed
for the nearest bar." [World, Jan 29, 1994. Page 26.]
Many in the church have placed the family
on the back burner. Some may believe the command to place God before family
suggests abandoning our families.
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate
his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--
yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does
not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. "Suppose one of
you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the
cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation
and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying,
'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or suppose a
king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit
down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the
one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will
send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask
for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything
he has cannot be my disciple. "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness,
how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for
the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
We often have a sort of weird way of interpreting
scriptures. Many approach the foregoing scriptures with the idea that one
must give up family to follow Jesus Christ. Some become Monks in monasteries
believing they should only be married to Christ.
However, Jesus didn't come to sever our relationships
with our families. He came to enhance our family relationships. We render
the greatest service to our families by putting Christ first. You can't
give up everything to follow God without having a powerful impact on your
family and loved ones. The greatest way to fail to properly influence your
family for Christ is by failing to put God first.
When we read what Jesus said in these verses
we may conclude that following Christ should put us out of step with our
families. But this is not what Jesus is teaching. Jesus is seeking to persuade
us to count what it will cost our families if we fail to follow him. "Suppose
one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate
the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the
foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule
him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or
suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not
first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to
oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able,
he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will
ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up
everything he has cannot be my disciple."
Jesus doesn't just stop here with a lesson
on the cost of discipleship. He continues his discourse. He teaches us
that failing to put him first will cost us our influence for good over
our families and loved ones. Jesus says, "In the same way, any of
you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. "Salt
is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." A failure to properly
influence our families and loved ones by failing to put God first is a
very real aspect of what Jesus is teaching here.
There are times when our families must know
that God comes first. To do otherwise destroys our influence for Christ.
When we fail to put Christ first our influence for good is lost.
As a part of His devotion to God, Jesus
provided for His family.
He lingered at the temple, but came
home when his mother told Him to.
After the Feast was over, while his parents
were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they
were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on
for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the
teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard
him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw
him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated
us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be
in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to
them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.
But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew
in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (NIV)
He submitted to God's timing, but still
helped His mother at the wedding.
On the third day a wedding took place at
Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had
also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother
said to him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, why do you involve
me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." His mother said to the
servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Nearby stood six stone water jars,
the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty
to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water";
so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Now draw some out
and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, and the master
of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did
not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the
water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings
out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have
had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." This, the
first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus
revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (NIV)
He died on the cross for our sins, but
first provided for His mother.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother,
his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When
Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple,
"Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his
Following God doesn't mean we neglect
our family, it means we care for our family according to God's will.
You can only wonder where Jesus' brothers and sisters were when he committed
the care of his mother to John. Following God had alienated him from his
brothers, but we do know that some of them later became Christians. James
and Jude were the brothers of our Lord.
A Fragmented Family Is Not God's Plan
We can't put God first without serving
our families. It is strange how some can interpret the Bible
in such a way to promote the fragmentation of the family. Some believe
their zeal to serve God dismisses their responsibility to their families.
Jesus replied, "And why do you break the
command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your
father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be
put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother,
'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted
to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the
word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was
right when he prophesied about you: "'These people honor me with their
lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their
teachings are but rules taught by men.'" (NIV)
We can't serve God without honoring
our family's needs.
1 Timothy 5:7-8
Give the people these instructions, too,
so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his
relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith
and is worse than an unbeliever. (NIV)
People living in the same houses without
knowing and relating to one another is not God's idea of a family.
Today it is possible for people to live in the same house while their paths
rarely cross. Each person has their own television, telephone, computer
and their own schedules to follow. The kids that did the shooting at Columbine
High School were strangers in their own homes. Their parents didn't have
any idea what they were planning.
Serving God through Serving Our Families
We need a biblical view of the family.
To have a biblical view of our families we must understand the priorities
of husband, wife and children.
The first priority in serving our families
is to maintain a rich personal relationship with Christ. We are not talking
about a one-day a week faith that comes to life on Sunday. We are talking
about a daily walk. If we fail to have a strong relationship with God we
will have nothing of value to share with those around us. I am not talking
about church work. I am not talking about serving communion, etc. I am
talking about a relationship with Jesus Christ where we spend time praying,
reading his Word as we allow the Lord to speak to us through the scriptures.
We must remember that families cannot
live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of
God. For a family to understand their God given responsibility
each member must give their heart to Christ. There is no other way to put
your family first than by loving Christ more than you do your families.
Priorities of Husbands and Wives
Let us look at the Godly priorities of husbands
and wives. Paul lists the priority of husband and wife.
Submit to one another out of reverence for
Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also
wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your
wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make
her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and
to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle
or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands
ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves
You must not miss the central point of these
verses. Husbands and wives cannot love each other until they understand
Christ's love for them. The love that holds marriages together is patterned
after Christ's love for each of us.
Paul says, "He who loves his wife loves
himself." Submission has lost its meaning to our modern world.
Submission is understood from the standpoint of authority. We see the one
in submission as being under the authority of another. We see submission
from the vantage point of servitude. It is difficult for us to see that
the service we render to others we render to ourselves. You can't love
your wife without loving yourself. You can't love your husband without
loving yourself. If husbands would love their wives the way Christ loves
the church they would get the respect they seek.
However, each one of you also must love his
wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (NIV)
Even in the physical roles of husbands and
wives the Bible tells us we are serving Christ.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5
The husband should fulfill his marital duty
to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does
not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's
body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive
each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote
ourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt
you because of your lack of self-control. (NIV)
If we are taking care of one another's
desire so the other will not be tempted, who are we serving--Christ. The
reason many homes are failing is because there is no emotional or physical
love at home.
Love calls for a commitment to that which
is loved. How sad that so many see true love as enslavement. We are afraid
those we might choose to love will somehow enslave us to their needs. Love
does bring us to serve the needs of others, but it releases us from the
burden of self-absorption.
Our Priorities to our children
When husbands and wives love each other
as Christ loved the church they are qualified to be parents.
When husband and wife exemplify the love of Christ for each other the home
becomes a stable environment for the children.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord,
for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"-- which is the first
commandment with a promise--"that it may go well with you and that you
may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV)
A Sunday School teacher asked a group of children
in her class, "Why do you believe in God?" In reporting some of the answers
the teacher confessed that the one she liked best came from a boy who said,
"I don't know, unless it is something that runs in the family."
Children Learn What The Parents exemplify.
If a child lives with conflict,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
He learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity,
He learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to be appreciated.
If a child lives with acceptance,
He learns to love.
Children have basic needs that we must understand.
I would like to share with you as an acronym: Talked.
T-Time No gifts will substitute
for time. Gifts are a very inadequate expression of love. Our children
really don't want our gifts, but our time.
"Daddy, how much do you make an hour?" With
a timid voice and idolizing eyes, the little boy greeted his father as
he returned from work.
Greatly surprised, but giving his boy a glaring
look, the father said, "Look, Sonny, not even your mother knows that. Don't
bother me now. I'm tired."
"But Daddy, just tell me please! How much
do you make an hour," the boy insisted?
The father, finally giving up, replied: "Ten
dollars per hour."
"Okay, Daddy. Could you lend me two dollars?"
the boy asked.
Angry with his son's constant pestering, he
said, "Go to sleep and don't bother me anymore."
It was already dark, and the father was feeling
guilty for what he said. Maybe, he thought, his son needed to buy something
for school. Finally, trying to ease his mind. The father went to his son's
room. "Are you asleep, son?" asked the father.
"No, Daddy. Why?" replied the boy, partially
asleep. "Here's the money you asked for earlier," the father said.
"Thanks, Daddy!" rejoiced the son, while putting
his hand under his pillow and removing some money. "Now I have enough!
Now I have ten dollars!" The father gazed at his son, confused by the meaning
of what he had just said, when the boy continued, "Daddy, could you sell
me one hour of your time, please?"
A-Attention Have you ever noticed
how children like attention? They may ask, "Do you want to see my new dress?"
"Do you want to see my new toy?" Or, "Look what we made at Sunday school!"
Attention tells our children that we love them. Attention says that our
children are important.
L-Listening Parents. We need to
listen to our children. At times when our children fail to listen the reason
may be that we don't listen to them.
1 Thessalonians 2:11
For you know that we dealt with each
of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting
and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into
his kingdom and glory. And we also thank God continually because, when
you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it
not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is
at work in you who believe. (NIV)
We must encourage our children. They need
to believe that nothing is impossible with God. Encourage your children
that they can reach God's potential for their lives as Christ strengthens
D-Doing things with the children.
Don't do things you want to do all the time. Stop and ask, "What do you
want to do?"
Being with a family everyday is much different
than doing things with the family. Doing things with the family gives the
family the special attention it needs.
God ordains the family. Real families are
developed as each member gives himself or herself to the service of Christ.