God’s Order For
Happy Family Life
By Dr. H. C. Slade
“Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
God in His love and wisdom established family relationships. If His order is observed, home can be a bit of heaven on earth.
Next to the Church the home is the most sacred institution on earth. It is no exaggeration to state in connection with the marriage ceremony, “God has ordained that through well-ordered families, truth and holiness might be transmitted from one age to another.”
Someone has said: “The home is the Seminary of all other institutions.” With respect to happiness and holiness, home can be either a heaven or a hell on earth. Mr. Spurgeon remarked: “When home is ruled according to God’s Word, angels might be asked to stay with us and they would not find themselves out of their element.”
Nothing has done so much as Christianity to dignify, honor and sanctify the household. Because of the plain teaching of God’s Word both in the Old Testament and the New Testament doubtless the Jews first, then later the Christians have attained more nearly to the divine concept of what a home ought to be than any other people on the face of the earth.
I approach the subject with a prayer that God will establish all over this country and throughout the world thousands of happy Christian homes. Some, we recognize, will need to be reconstructed, for by sin they have been wrecked. His grace, we believe, is all sufficient to remake all these into abodes distinguished by merriment and joy.
The Relation of Husbands and Wives
Admittedly the marriage relation is the most delicate of any existing among humans, but God, the Author of the institution, has in His love and wisdom established the relationships which are to subsist between men and their wives and has given definite assignments to both. In Ephesians chapter 5 the marriage relation is beautifully exhibited as an apt emblem of Christ and His Church. Christ is set forth as the Bridegroom and the Church as the bride. Another figure is used wherein Christ is spoken of as the Head, and adds: “He is also the Saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23).
The divine appointment for wives is that of submission. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). To some it may appear that such an idea is rather old-fashioned for the 20th century. My friends, we can never improve upon the teaching and order of the Word of God. For reasons known to Himself, God in the beginning created the man first and then the woman. Because it was not good that man should be alone, woman was made as a help meet for him.
It is true that the first woman, Eve, led in the transgression of Jehovah’s holy prohibition which brought the whole human race into ruin. Of course, that does not clear the man in the least degree. He later also voluntarily ate of the forbidden fruit.
Let it be noted in the marriage relationship the husband is by no means given carte blanche in his authority over his wife. In case some beastly brutes of husbands, and there are such, would in any wise abuse their God-given privilege of being head of their homes, for the purpose of protecting their wives God has attached to this order a limit. “Wives, submit yourselves – as it is fit in the Lord” (Col. 3:18). A husband has no right under any circumstances to demand his wife to do that which is contrary to God’s will. If he does he shall pay to the utmost farthing.
On the other hand there is a proper respect and reverence which wives should pay to their husbands. I remind you that Sarah called Abraham “lord” (1 Peter 3:6). Alexander MacLaren was right when he declared: “No woman ever had a satisfactorily wedded life who did not look up to and reverence her husband.” Experience tells us the divine order in this relationship always insures happiness, therefore no godly or spiritual woman would want it changed.
Show me the home where a woman rules supremely and the man is nothing more than a vassal and you do not show me a model home. In such there is neither order nor contentment; instead you have anarchy and dissatisfaction. Even the woman herself in such a situation is not happy.
“Is the woman never to rule?” you ask. Yes, in the realm of the heart. If she sways the scepter there she really governs not only the husband, the son, the daughter, and the house, but by her powerful influence she rules the nation.
There was within my acquaintance some years ago a married couple who to me in their conduct toward each other were ideal. Intellectually she was much his superior but she never once made the husband feel that fact. Why, she would consult with him as though he had the intellect of a Churchill. The gracious attitude on the part of each one in relation to the other was at once an inspiration and an example.
Now what about the husband? The Lord has something to say to him too. When God commands a wife to submit to her own husband, just how far does his authority go? Does that give him the right to be a tyrant? Is he permitted to make demands which are utterly unreasonable?
Instructions are given to husbands both by precept and example: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). It was by the shedding of the Saviour’s blood and the sacrifice of Himself that the Church was made His bride. The Church is His constant joy and delight. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
Under the example of the Lord Jesus Christ the husband’s part is to seek and promote the highest welfare of his wife, and no sacrifice ought to be considered too great in order to accomplish this worthy end. A man should love his wife as he loves himself. “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh: but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even the Lord the Church” (Eph. 5:29).
There is no woman living who will object in the least to submitting to one who regards her in this fashion. Allow me to quote a pertinent observation made some years ago by Dr. W. B. Riley:
“The longer I live the more I am persuaded that the average husband is making a mistake at the very point where he has supposed himself to be most successful. He can delve 16 hours a day and coin a mint of money, and construct a beautiful house and hedge it about by a great and attractive lawn and multiply his automobiles, and increase the number of his servants, and every bit of it will be accepted by the woman who is his mate as her natural right, and then when he has no time left in which to be tender, and gentle, and gracious, and complimentary, as in the old days of his poverty and wooing, she is almost certain to conclude that the affections are gone.”
It is possible, you know, with all our striving for a home to find ourselves at last with nothing by a house.
The Relation of Parents to Children
The relation of parents to their children is also a matter for serious consideration. Paul implies that parents can be unduly severe. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21). Cruel parents can create rebellion and hardness in the hearts of children. A child may do everything within his power to please his father and mother, but because of absurd rules, end up feeling it to be an impossible task.
In this relationship, as in all others of course, our heavenly Father is the best and highest example. Parents will do well to ask the question: “How does God treat His children?” We know that He bears with our weakness and always consults our interest. Every action in dealing with His own is motivated by love.
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psa. 103:13). Children need encouragement in these days. They can become despondent as well as adults.
On the other hand children require discipline. Spare the rod and spoil the child. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). Doubtless the great contribution factor to juvenile delinquency so rampant in our day is failure on the part of parents to exercise corrective discipline. Actually then the delinquency is to be found more on the side of the parents.
Parents are not to overlook the matter of discipline. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). This training includes, not only teaching, but discipline as well. God said, concerning Abraham: “I know him that he will command his children and his household after him” (Gen. 18:19). Abraham, as you know, was called the friend of God.
Our prime task as parents is to bring the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are to surround their tender lives with Christian influence and constantly set before them godly example. If parents are to do their full duty they will teach their children God’s Word. They will not neglect the matter of discipline and will do all they can to encourage their children to become all that God would have them to be.
The Relation of Children to Parents
The Law which governs the rule of children to their parents is unique. It is the 5th of the Ten Commandments and the divine order of the Decalogue makes it the first Commandment of the second table of the Law, thus it would seem to teach us that the first relation a child must consider after his relation to God is filial in character.
The first four Commandments govern man’s relation to God. These are summed up by Moses and the Lord Jesus Christ by one general Commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). The last six Commandments regulate our duties toward our fellow men and are designated by Paul “the Second Commandment,” and styled by James “the Royal Law.” These also are summed up by one all-inclusive Commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39).
“Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). We are compelled to conclude, therefore, that after our relation to God the first consideration before anyone or anything else is our relation to our parents.
Dr. Campbell Morgan quotes Dean Chadwick as suggesting that this Commandment is a bridge connecting the two tables. In the mind of God a child’s relation to his parents is most sacred.
Children, what does the Almighty say in this connection? “Obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Eph. 6:2). Those who teach the abrogation of the whole moral law will have some difficulty with this Commandment, I fear. The Holy Spirit brings it, with all its force and obligation, right into the New Testament.
Children are to render unlimited obedience to their parents. Obedience to parents is obedience to God. While children are very young they know little about God, but they know their parents, and because they are still ignorant and weak they are to bow to their parents’ authority in all matters requiring wisdom and guidance.
Again, as in the case of a wife, there is one exception allowed in the relationship. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord. Should a parent demand from a child something, which if carried out, would be contrary to God’s will and issue in a violation of one of His holy Laws, the child is given the right before God not to submit.
Remember, parents, God in every relationship comes first, so be very careful at all times what you demand of your children. If one should, though contrary to your desire, accept Jesus Christ, never are you to so exercise your parental authority as to make it difficult for the little one to follow Christ. “Whoso shall offend (or cause to stumble) one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).
Now, to restate a few principles: What is it according to our text that children owe to their parents? “Honour,” which means affection and veneration. The same term is used in the Old Testament of honor which is due God: “Them that honour Me I will honour” (1 Sam. 2:30).
The word “honour” contains the idea of reverence. Parents are to occupy a place of superiority in their thoughts. They are to be respected and held in high esteem. In other words we are to attach weight to the person, the position, and the authority of father and mother.
In light of this injunction, how can any boy or girl deliberately, stubbornly, and hatefully disobey or dishonor his or her parents and escape the curse of God? Frankly, we see so little of any real honor paid to parents in our modern homes we wonder if we are not now living in the dark days that the Apostle Paul prophesied would come: “In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves – disobedient to parents – without natural affection” (2 Tim. 3:1,2).
Some try to excuse themselves from any obligation to their parents because their parents do not happen to have a very commendable character. “My parents are very difficult,” one will say. Another will affirm: “My father is a drunkard, how can I respect him?” Still another complains: “My mother has gone to the depths of immorality, surely I am not expected to honor and respect her!”
To all such I reply, still parents are parents and children are children. Thank God for those, some of whom I have met, who are sweet enough and big enough to love and respect even an unworthy father and mother. Children are bound to regard their parents with respect in their thoughts, affections and words at all times.
Young man, let me ask you this pertinent question: “Are you ashamed at times to mention the name of your father or your mother in the particular circle in which you travel, and if you do make reference to either one, does it seem more becoming to use cheap epithets which are utterly unworthy?
“What about the society in which you move, young woman? Is the environment such that to refer reverently or even decently to father and mother would seem out of place?” If so, you had better change your company.
Dr. Torrey said in his day, and I have not the least doubt he would state it more strongly if he were living today: “We are getting into a day when the young think they know more than their parents, speaking lightly about “the old man” and “the old woman.” They think father and mother are old fogies, and that the young people know it all. They disobey their parents. The child who disobeys a parents will bring upon his own head the curse of God. There is only one Law superior to the Law of father and mother, and that is the Law of God.”
The case of Absalom, the wicked son of David, most vividly illustrates to us the truth of what Dr. Torrey so strongly affirmed. The curse of God was most certainly upon him for the inglorious deeds which he committed against his own father.
If you would really know how serious a matter it is in the sight of God to disobey and dishonor parents you ought to read of the punishment which was inflicted upon young men for the violation of this Commandment under the Jewish economy. You will find it recorded in Deuteronomy, chapter 21, verses 18 and 27:
“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
“And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
This Commandment, I believe, is a very extensive one. How long do you think we should give to parents our respect and honor? It is true, you cannot always obey your mother and father, nor is it right that you should. The day must come when you become established on your own.
But there is never a time when you are not to honor father and mother. It also includes, I believe, taking care of them if they should need such help when they are old. What was our Lord’s own example of obedience to this precept?
We read that at the age of 12 he left the doctors at Jerusalem and went down to Nazareth in company with his mother Mary and reputed father Joseph. “He was subject to them” (Luke 2:51). While the years of obedience ended for Him later on, they were still held in honor.
You remember it was amidst Calvary’s dense darkness and unspeakable woe that He commended His mother to the loving care of the one who best knew His love. To John He said: “Behold, thy mother!” and from that hour John took her unto his own home (John 19:27).
Some day your mother and your father will be taken from you. If they are Christians they will depart to be with Christ, which is far better. Will your obligation, and honor and respect end with the event of death? I ask. No! We are still to honor them by cherishing them in our memories.
No one ever obeyed this, or any other Commandment of God, without receiving great blessing. According to our text, to this one a very special promise is attached. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul refers to it as “the first Commandment with promise” “that it may be well with thee.”
I remind you again in closing that this is distinctly a Christian precept that we have been speaking about, and through the whole message we have sought to set before you as an ideal a truly Christian home. It is only by accepting Jesus Christ and receiving of His Spirit, young people, that you can properly relate yourself to your parents thus becoming a partaker of the rich blessings promised in our illustrious text.
Some of you, I trust, may be ready to admit your guilt. You know that by disobeying and dishonoring your parents you have broken the fifth Commandment a thousand times and more. We shall be happy to hear that you, along with thousands of others, have found the Law acting as your school master to bring you to Christ.
The Gospel Witness