Families 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." (NIV)
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 home. (NIV)
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 himself. (NIV)
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 them.
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.