The nearest thing to heaven on earth is the Christian family and home, where husband and wife, parents and children, live together in love and peace, devoted to God and to each other. By way of contrast, the nearest thing to hell on earth is the ungodly home, broken by sin and iniquity, where parents quarrel and bicker and separate, and where children are given over to the forces of wickedness to be brought up with scarcely any training at all.
The word “home” likely takes your mind back across the years, and for some the mind goes across hundreds of miles of space—to the spot which will be forever hallowed in your memories among all places on earth. You are reminded of the place where you grew up as a boy or as a girl, playing around the yard with brothers and sisters and neighbor children, and where you sat around the old range stove on a winter evening with your mother and dad and the rest of the family. There are several things about that old home-place which are not true about any other spot on earth.
In this message we want to see what the Bible says about the duties of the various members of the family to each other and to the Lord.
1. Duties of Wives To Their Husbands
a) The Christian wife is to be subject to her husband. Ephesians 5:22-23 says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.”
Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition. The husband and the wife are not to be jointly in the place of headship. Our Lord plainly says, “The husband is the head of the wife.” This does not mean that the wife is less important in the home than the husband or that she is to be a slave of the husband, but it does mean that she is to submit to the leadership role of her husband. The only exception would be if he asks her to violate clear scriptural teachings (Acts 5:29).
The Lord commands husbands to love their wives, and if the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, she will have no difficulty with being subject to him. When problems arise (and they will arise), they should be carefully discussed together. A vote should be taken. If both agree—good. But in the case of a tie (the wife votes one way and the husband votes the other), then the husband should cast the deciding vote. The husband should assume the final leadership in the home.
b) The wife is to respect and admire her husband. Ephesians 5:33 says, “Let every one of you (husbands) . . . so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
The wife should respect her husband. This seems to be true even for the wife who has an unsaved husband (1 Peter 3:1). What kind of life are you living before your husband? Does he see in you true Christian living? Are you cheerful, loving, loyal, and obedient? Some wives drive their husbands away from Christ because they don’t respect them. Instead of being cheerful and obedient, they are noted for preaching and nagging. Nothing breaks the spirit of a man more quickly than a nagging wife.
c) The Christian wife is to be a keeper at home. Titus 2:4-5 says, “Teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home.”
The home is to be the sphere of the woman’s influence. There are too many families that have such a high standard of living that mother has to work away from home to help pay the bills. Then in the evening, when happy family activities should take place, mother’s energy is all spent, and pressing duties don’t permit her that happy fellowship. There may be some exceptions, but generally speaking, the father is to be the breadwinner and the mother is to be the keeper at home.
2. Duties of Husbands To Their Wives
a) The husband is to honor and respect his wife. We are instructed in 1 Corinthians 7:3, “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence.”
The husband is to show due courtesies to his wife. It is pathetic to see how some young men can play the part of a gentlemen, be courteous, gracious, and show respect to young ladies when they are courting them—and then after marriage, they come home and scold and nag and become sullen and bitter. The Christian husband is to remember that it is no easy thing for his wife to keep house, care for the children, and experience the vexing things that come along with the daily duties of home life. Let the husband render to his wife due courtesies.
b) The husband is to consider her physical frailty. 1 Peter 3:7 admonishes, “Husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel.”
The husband is to keep in mind that his wife is generally speaking physically more frail than he. Each husband should be careful not to create additional unnecessary work for his wife. And yet when some husbands leave the house in the morning, it seems like a windstorm has gone through, and when they come home at night they are careless about dragging dirt into the house. If we husbands would close our doors and hang up our clothes we may have more pleasant wives.
c) The husband is to truly love his wife. Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”
The husband is to demonstrate true affection for his wife. He should tell her that he loves her, and he is to treat her with the same love and gentleness and kindness he showed her while he was courting her. How long is it, husband, since you remembered her with those little tokens of love (a box of candy or a bouquet of flowers) which you were eager to shower upon her during courtship days? If you have been neglecting this duty—go to your wife, apologize for your thoughtlessness, take out your family Bible, read the record of your marriage, and brighten up that old love! If husbands and wives would work as hard to keep each other as they once did to catch each other, most domestic home problems would be forever solved. The spirit of courtship needs to be continued throughout married life.
3. Duties of Children To Their Parents
a) Children should honor their parents. God says in Ephesians 6:2, “Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.”
It is the duty of every child to respect and honor his parents. If you are inclined to be ashamed of them, remember that they cared for you when you were altogether unable to care for yourself. We sometimes forget that our mothers endangered their lives for our sakes; we are ungrateful for the weary toil of our fathers; we fail to appreciate the many sleepless nights that they went through in order that we might be comfortable. All of us owe our parents honor and respect and courtesy.
b) Children should accept instruction from parents. We read in Proverbs 1:8, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.”
That admonition is very simple. Children can easily understand it. It is wise to heed the instructions of parents because the advice and mandates which Christian parents give are generally intended for the welfare of the child.
c) Children should diligently obey their parents. Children are instructed in Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.”
One of the most beautiful Scriptures regarding the childhood of Jesus is the one which says, “He went down to Nazareth and was subject unto them.” If Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was subject to family authority, then certainly every child ought to obey his parents. One of the saddest New Testament Scriptures is the one that says, in the last days children shall be “disobedient to parents.” A child should never call his dad “the old man” and his mother “the old lady.” Children—treat your parents as you’ll wish you had treated them when you say your last goodbye to them and when you take that last look at mother and daddy as they lie before you in their caskets.
4. Duties of Parents To Their Children
a) Parents should teach their children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
Bear in mind that every child is born into this world with a sinful nature, and that the cute cooing baby in his cradle will soon demonstrate that he has a will of his own. He will lustily scream if he doesn’t get his own way. Thus every child needs to be taught diligently. Reading and quoting the Bible in your home should be just as natural as talking about the weather. Teach them the way of salvation. Read to them from wholesome literature. Memorize Bible verses with them. It is amazing how much truth a child’s mind can absorb.
b) Parents should be good examples for their children. The passage in Deuteronomy 6:6 says, “And these words . . . shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them.”
The Word of God must first be in the parents’ hearts! Children are great imitators. We have all seen little girls wearing the clothes of older persons. They want to be like mother. The best way to “train up a child in the way he should go” is to go that way yourself. Most children want to be the kind of man or woman their mother and dad is.
c) Parents should discipline their children. Proverbs 29:15 says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
The New Testament says that children shall be brought up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The word for “nurture” actually refers to “discipline.” Some don’t use the rod, but if you want to ruin your children, just give in to their every desire and you can be assured that the job of ruination will soon be complete. I have seen children throw themselves on the floor and kick and scream and insist on getting their own way, and the parents said, “Let them alone, they must express themselves!” God have mercy on parents who fail to discipline and admonish their children. The Bible tells of God’s judgment on one family because the father (who was a good man engaged in the service of the Lord) failed to discipline his sons (1 Samuel 3:13).
May God help us to live “at home” so sweetly, so tenderly, and so lovingly—that the memories we make within our homes may be music in the heart, sweeter than the songs that angels sing, and may our family circles be unbroken in the world to come.