Building a Happy Family Life
1. Why is there no better place than the Bible to get advice about home life?
IN ADDITION to providing the truth on doctrinal matters, the Bible also gives much sound counsel concerning home life. It shows us how to cope successfully with the problems of everyday life. There is no place where we could find better advice, because Jehovah, the Author of the Bible, is also the One who originated marriage and arranged for family life.—Genesis 2:18, 22.
2. (a) How did Jesus Christ draw attention to the unity that should exist between husband and wife? (b) What does this require that they cultivate?
2 When God brought the first man and woman together as husband and wife, he emphasized the unity that should exist between them. Jesus Christ drew attention to this when he said: “Did you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4-6) They were not to be competitors. Nor were they simply to be acquaintances that shared the same dwelling place. No, they were to be “one flesh.” So, marriage mates should cultivate deep love for each other, and seek to be drawn together in unity of purpose.
RELATIONSHIP OF HUSBAND AND WIFE
3. (a) How does Ephesians 5:23 describe the position of the husband? (b) What does this mean?
3 For married life really to be happy, both husband and wife must appreciate their respective positions. These are not set merely by local custom. They are outlined in God’s own Word the Bible, and are in harmony with the qualities that God implanted in man and woman at the time of creation. Knowing how he made man, and the purpose he had in view, Jehovah recorded in his Word that “a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” (Ephesians 5:23) This means that the husband is to take the lead in the home, planning family activities and shouldering the responsibility for making final decisions. But this does not authorize him to be a harsh or cruel ruler of his household.—Colossians 3:19.
4. Whose fine example should Christian husbands study, and with what benefits?
4 Though many men have exercised headship in an unloving way, Christian husbands should avoid this. They should study carefully how Jesus Christ has exercised headship over the Christian congregation, and then follow his fine example. At Ephesians 5:25 husbands are counseled: “Continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” So doing, they will not be overly demanding of their wives, but will handle family affairs in a way that refreshes everyone concerned.—Matthew 11:28-30.
5. (a) How should a Christian wife view her husband? (b) If a wife is keener of mind than her husband, how can she use this quality in a beneficial way? (c) What responsibilities of married women are set out at Titus 2:4, 5?
5 The wife, for her part, “should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) Since he is the one authorized by God to take the lead, she can make a great contribution to family happiness by willingly submitting to his headship. (Colossians 3:18) If she is keener of mind than her husband, as is sometimes the case, then she can use this quality to support him in his role as head, rather than competing with him or belittling what he does. (Proverbs 12:4) There is much for her to do in connection with family life. The Bible fittingly urges married women “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sound in mind, chaste, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” (Titus 2:4, 5) The wife and mother who fulfills these duties will win the lasting love and respect of her family.—Proverbs 31:10, 11, 26-28.
6. (a) What do some husbands fail to consider with regard to their wives, thus giving rise to problems? (b) So what does 1 Peter 3:7 advise husbands to do?
6 In many homes problems arise when a husband fails to take into consideration the womanly temperament, the emotional makeup, of his wife. He needs to appreciate that she views things differently. Her emotions respond in a different way. Her strength is not the same as his. Thus the inspired advice to husbands is: “Continue dwelling . . . with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life.” (1 Peter 3:7) When a husband does this, he helps to bring about a spirit of understanding and security in the home.
7. (a) How does applying what is written at Hebrews 13:4 contribute to a sense of security in the home? (b) To whom must a Christian’s sex interests be limited, and why?
7 It is common among worldly people for the security of the home to be undermined by sex interests outside the marriage bond. But those who live in harmony with God’s Word are protected against the heartache and grief that such conduct brings. In language that is easy to understand the Bible warns: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) There is no allowance for immoral conduct. Those who want to be servants of God must lead clean lives. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) They must limit their sex interests to their own legal marriage mates, and they are accountable before God to do so. (Proverbs 5:15-21) It ought to be the earnest desire of both husband and wife to help each other to avoid any temptation to wrongdoing. They can do this by showing unselfish consideration for each other.—1 Corinthians 7:3-5.
8. (a) For a marriage to work well, what must be of first importance in the home? (b) So what should be part of the family’s way of life?
8 However, if a marriage union is truly going to function in harmony with the godly principles that we have discussed, there must also be regular emphasis on spiritual matters. The worship of Jehovah God should be of first importance in the home. It should not be shoved aside in favor of efforts to obtain more material possessions or to have more time for the pursuit of pleasure. (Luke 8:11, 14, 15) Family prayer and regular sessions of family Bible study should be part of every family’s way of life. Do you arrange for this in your home?
REARING CHILDREN IN A GODLY WAY
9. How can problems in rearing children be met successfully?
9 When children are born, it is the earnest desire of loving parents to see that the lives of those young ones turn out well. But the task is not an easy one. There are many problems that arise along the way. These can be met successfully only by applying the counsel in God’s Word.—Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 11:18-21.
10. (a) What besides food, clothing and shelter do children vitally need? (b) When should this be provided?
10 Much time and effort are usually required to see that there are proper food, clean clothing and a pleasant home in which to live. But the Bible repeatedly shows that the responsibility of parents by no means ends there. It is also vital to include the children regularly in the family’s program of instruction in the Word of God. (Psalm 78:5-7 [77:5-7, Dy]) Not only during regular study sessions, but at other times too parents should talk to their children about Jehovah and his ways. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) When this is done, children learn to think of God in relationship to all the activities of life.
11. Who has the principal responsibility to see that children are given instruction in God’s Word, and how does the Bible show this?
11 It is principally on the father, as head of the household, that the Scriptures lay the responsibility to see that this instruction is given. When he makes provision for it and personally takes the lead in giving it, the entire family is drawn more closely together. At the same time, the children are given the kind of training that they so greatly need. So it is important to take to heart what is recorded at Ephesians 6:4: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.”—See also Proverbs 4:1.
12. Why is obedience to parents not to be treated lightly?
12 Part of the “discipline . . . of Jehovah” that must be taught involves the child’s obligation to be obedient to its parents. This is not something to be treated lightly, because the child’s prospects for eternal life are involved. (Ephesians 6:1-3) God is the one who requires that children obey their parents. It shows wisdom on the part of the parents if they patiently and consistently impress this lesson on the mind and heart of their offspring.—Colossians 3:20, 23.
13. How does the Bible book of Proverbs stress the need to correct children when they deliberately do what is wrong?
13 There will be times when this calls for more than just telling the child what is right. When he deliberately does what he knows to be wrong, stronger action is required to impress the seriousness of the matter on him. Wisely the Bible observes: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) Due to inherited imperfection children are born with a tendency to do what is bad, so they need correction. A loving parent will not neglect this. As Proverbs 13:24 says: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.”
14. How should discipline be administered in a Christian home, and with what good results?
14 Discipline that is administered in love has the lasting good of the child in view. It is not done in violent bursts of anger or with loud screaming of threats. That is not the Christian way. (Ephesians 4:31, 32) There must be firmness, but soundness of mind should also prevail. The parents themselves should be setting a good example, not just to put on an appearance of righteousness—children quickly see through that—but honestly, sincerely. And if they do so, the children will be helped to realize that God’s righteous principles rule the household, and not just unreasonable whims or temporary moods. The young ones will not fear that they will be the victims of unjust punishment. Rather, they will associate punishment with the breaking of proper rules of good conduct.
15. (a) What should children be taught with regard to: Lies? Theft? Sexual immorality? (b) How can parents train their children so they will do what is right even when away from the parents?
15 Among the righteous principles from the Bible that deserve serious family discussion are those having to do with godly moral standards. Children need to be taught, for example, that “everyone liking and carrying on a lie” is detestable to Jehovah. (Revelation 22:15; Proverbs 6:16-19) Theft, too, in all its various forms, should be seen as a violation of God’s moral standard. (Ephesians 4:28; Romans 13:9, 10) These young folks need to be warned, in a way that they will understand, against sexual immorality and anything that may lead to it. (Ephesians 5:5; Proverbs 5:3-14) Discuss together as a family the various problems that arise at home, at school and in play. Reason together on the scriptures that show the kind of conduct that is pleasing to God. In this way the children will learn to apply the Bible in their own lives. It will be a safeguard, so that even when children are away from their parents the admonition they have received will continue to guide them.—Proverbs 6:20-23.
16. (a) What does the Bible say as to the effect of bad companions? (b) So how can parents show wisdom with regard to their children’s choice of companions?
16 Careful thought also needs to be given to choice of companions. Associates deeply influence one’s life. Wholesome companions have a good effect, but “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Time and again the Bible record illustrates this fact. (Genesis 34:1, 2; Numbers 25:1, 2) Children may not appreciate the seriousness of this, but parents should. So it is an evidence of wisdom on their part to keep a loving eye on their children’s choice of companions. These companions include, not only those with whom the children play, but also those about whom they read and those that they watch in motion pictures and on television.—Philippians 4:8.
17. What else will help to make family life truly satisfying?
17 For family life to be truly satisfying, however, more is needed than avoiding what is harmful. There should also be the enjoyment of doing wholesome things together as a family. The real joy of family life is lost when each one goes his own way without regard for the others. But when there is upbuilding family discussion, when plans are laid together and everyone works together to fulfill them, the family is drawn together in unity. (Proverbs 15:22) This is not difficult when there is love in the home. And love is a normal thing among those who truly know God and have his spirit.—1 John 4:7, 8; Galatians 5:22, 23.
SETTLING FAMILY DIFFICULTIES
18. How can the counsel at Colossians 3:12-14 help us to settle any family difficulties that may arise?
18 Even in homes that are normally happy, difficulties may arise at times. These are often due to human imperfection, or the pressures of the world in which we live. What should be done when friction develops between family members? The solution is not too hard to find if we remember that all of us are imperfect. It is not only outside the home but also within the family circle that we need to apply the inspired counsel: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:12-14; see also Proverbs 10:12; 19:11.
19. When a dispute arises between children, what might one of the parents do that would be really beneficial?
19 When a problem appears to be of a particularly serious nature, there are steps that can be taken to prepare the way for loving forgiveness. For example, when a dispute arises between the children, one of the parents might sit down with them, listen to the problem, and then encourage fitting apologies and the needed forgiveness. On these occasions scriptures such as the ones that we have just read could be reviewed with benefit.
20. When some difficulty arises between husband and wife, what will not help in settling the matter, but what will?
20 When the difficulty is between husband and wife, it is certainly best not to air it before the children. Nor will the situation be improved by broadcasting complaints to friends and neighbors. Though one may have been deeply hurt, shouting will not make conditions any better. (Proverbs 29:22) And the breach will only widen if the two go for days without talking to each other. The Christian thing to do is to discuss the problem together, with a firm resolve to restore peace. Even if the other person is the wrongdoer, make reconciliation easier by your own kindness. If you are at fault, humbly ask forgiveness. Do not postpone it; handle the problem without delay. “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.”—Ephesians 4:26; see also Matthew 18:21-35.
21. (a) Is divorce the way to settle marriage problems? (b) What does the Bible say is the only ground for divorce that frees one for remarriage?
21 Though divorce is common in the world, the Bible does not recommend it as the way to settle problems. Marriage is a lifelong tie, and is not to be regarded lightly. (Romans 7:2) God’s Word allows only one ground on which a Christian may get a divorce that frees him for remarriage. What is that? It is adultery. In this event, it is up to the innocent one to decide whether to seek a divorce or not. (Matthew 5:32) However, divorce action should never be taken merely on suspicion; there ought to be clear-cut evidence.
22. If one hastily got divorced before learning God’s laws and has taken up living with another mate, what should he do if he wants to serve Jehovah?
22 In the past, before learning God’s righteous requirements, some persons may have been hasty in getting a divorce, and now they have taken up living with another mate. What can they do about it? They cannot go back and live their lives over. But, if they want to have a part in the service of Jehovah God, and they are living with a mate, they should make sure that their present marriage is legally registered with the government. They ought to go to God in prayer and seek his forgiveness for their past course. Then they should work hard at living from this time on according to God’s requirements on marriage.
23. (a) Does the Bible encourage separation from an unbelieving mate when problems arise? (b) How can the believer improve the situation in the home, and with what possible result?
23 What if your marriage mate has declined to study God’s Word with you? And what if you are not able to discuss problems together on the basis of Bible principles? The Bible still encourages you to stay together and not to view separation as the easy way out of your problems. Do what you personally can to improve the situation in your home by applying what the Bible says in regard to your own conduct. In time, because of your Christian conduct, you may win over your mate. (1 Corinthians 7:10-16; 1 Peter 3:1, 2) And what a blessing will be yours if your loving patience is rewarded in this way!
24. In summary, how can you build a happier family life?
24 There is much that can be done in every home in building toward a happier family life. Apply Bible counsel, and there will be good results! Let each one in the household lovingly seek the welfare of the others, thus strengthening family ties. (Colossians 3:14) Above all, share unitedly in true worship, so that all of you together will enjoy the rich blessing of Jehovah God, the One who can crown your happiness with eternal life.—Proverbs 3:11-18.
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Regular sessions of Bible study should be part of every family’s way of life