Making a Success of Family Life
1. (a) How did the family get its start? (b) What was God’s purpose regarding the family?
WHEN Jehovah God created the first man and woman, he joined them together to produce a family. (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 19:4-6) It was God’s purpose for this married couple to increase by producing children. Then, when the children grew up, they were to marry and form families of their own. It was God’s purpose that, in time, happy families would live in every part of the earth. They would make the earth into a beautiful paradise everywhere.—Genesis 1:28.
2, 3. (a) Why cannot God be blamed for family failures? (b) What is necessary to enjoy a successful family life?
2 Yet, today, families are breaking apart, and many that are still together are not happy. So a person may ask: ‘If the family was really created by God, should we not expect better results?’ However, God cannot be blamed for family failures. A manufacturer may make a product and supply instructions on how to use it. But is it the manufacturer’s fault if the product fails because the buyer does not follow the instructions? Not at all. The product, even if it is of perfect quality, will fail because it is not used properly. It is like that with the family.
3 Jehovah God has provided instructions in the Bible on family living. But if these instructions are ignored, what then? Even though the family arrangement is perfect, it can break apart. Then family members will not be happy. On the other hand, if the guidelines in the Bible are followed, this will make for a successful, happy family. It is vital, therefore, that we understand just how God made the different members of the family, and what roles he purposed that they fill.
HOW GOD CREATED THE MAN AND THE WOMAN
4. (a) What differences are there between men and women? (b) Why did God create such differences?
4 Anyone can see that Jehovah did not make men and women the same. It is true that in many ways they are alike. But there are obvious differences in their physical appearance and sexual makeup. Also, they have different emotional qualities. Why the differences? God made them that way to help each to fulfill a different role. After God created the man, God said: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”—Genesis 2:18.
5. (a) How was woman made a “complement” to man? (b) Where did the first marriage take place? (c) Why can marriage be a really happy arrangement?
5 A complement is something that matches or goes well with some other thing, making it complete. God made woman as a satisfying match for man to assist him in carrying out the God-given instructions to populate and care for the earth. So after creating the woman from a part of the man, God performed the first marriage there in the garden of Eden by ‘bringing her to the man.’ (Genesis 2:22; 1 Corinthians 11:8, 9) Marriage can be a happy arrangement because the man and the woman were each made with a need that the other has the ability to fulfill. Their different qualities balance one another. When a husband and a wife understand and appreciate each other and cooperate in accord with their assigned roles, they each contribute their part in building a happy home.
THE ROLE OF THE HUSBAND
6. (a) Who was made the head of the family? (b) Why is this proper and practical?
6 A marriage or a family needs leadership. The man was created with a greater measure of the qualities and strengths required to provide such leadership. For this reason the Bible says: “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” (Ephesians 5:23) This is practical, for when there is no leadership there is trouble and confusion. For a family to be without headship would be like trying to drive an automobile without a steering wheel. Or, if the wife were to compete with such headship, it would be like having two drivers in the car, each with a steering wheel controlling a separate front wheel.
7. (a) Why do some women not like the idea of man’s headship? (b) Does everybody have a head, and why is God’s arrangement of headship a wise one?
7 However, many women do not like the idea that a man should be head of the family. One main reason for this is that many husbands have not followed God’s instructions on how to exercise proper headship. Nevertheless, it is a recognized fact that for any organization to operate well someone needs to provide direction and to make final decisions. Thus the Bible wisely says: “The head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) In God’s arrangement, God is the only one who does not have a head. Everyone else, including Jesus Christ, as well as husbands and wives, need to accept direction and to submit to decisions of others.
8. (a) Whose example are husbands supposed to follow in exercising headship? (b) What lessons should husbands learn from that example?
8 This means that to fulfill their role as husbands, men must accept the headship of Christ. Also, they must follow his example by exercising headship over their wives just as he does over his congregation of followers. How did Christ deal with his earthly followers? It was always in a kind and considerate way. Never was he harsh or short-tempered, even when they were slow to accept his direction. (Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:4-15) In fact, he willingly gave his life for them. (1 John 3:16) A Christian husband should carefully study Christ’s example, and do the best he can to follow it when dealing with his family. As a result, he will not be a domineering, selfish or inconsiderate family head.
9. (a) What complaint do many wives have? (b) What should husbands wisely keep in mind while exercising headship?
9 On the other hand, however, husbands should consider this: Does your wife complain that you really do not act as head of the family? Does she say that you do not take the lead in the home, planning family activities and exercising the responsibility to make final decisions? But this is what God requires you, as a husband, to do. Of course, it would be wise for you to be open to the suggestions and preferences of other members of the family and take these suggestions into consideration as you exercise headship. As husband, you clearly have the more difficult role in the family. But if you make a sincere effort to fulfill it, your wife most likely will feel inclined to give you help and support.—Proverbs 13:10; 15:22.
FULFILLING THE WIFE’S ROLE
10. (a) What course does the Bible urge for wives? (b) What happens when wives fail to heed the Bible counsel?
10 As the Bible says, the woman was made as a helper to her husband. (Genesis 2:18) In keeping with that role, the Bible urges: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22) Today female aggressiveness and competition with men have become common. But when wives push ahead, trying to take over headship, their action is almost sure to cause trouble. Many husbands, in effect, say: ‘If she wants to run the household, let her go ahead and do it.’
11. (a) How can a wife help her husband to take the lead? (b) If a wife fulfills her God-assigned role, what effect is this likely to have on her husband?
11 However, you may feel that you are forced to take the lead, since your husband does not do so. But could you do more to help him to carry out his responsibilities as head of the family? Do you show that you look to him for leadership? Do you ask for his suggestions and guidance? Do you avoid in any way belittling what he does? If you really work on fulfilling your God-assigned role in the family, your husband will likely start to assume his.—Colossians 3:18, 19.
12. What shows that wives can properly express their opinions, even if these disagree with their husband’s?
12 This is not to say that a wife should not express her opinions if they differ from those of her husband. She may have a correct viewpoint, and the family would benefit if her husband listened to her. Abraham’s wife Sarah is given as an example for Christian wives because of her subjection to her husband. (1 Peter 3:1, 5, 6) Yet she recommended a solution to a household problem, and when Abraham did not agree with her God told him: “Listen to her.” (Genesis 21:9-12) Of course, when the husband makes a final decision on a matter, the wife should support it if doing so will not cause her to break God’s law.—Acts 5:29.
13. What will a good wife be doing, and what will be the effect on her family?
13 In properly fulfilling her role, there is much that a wife can do in caring for the family. For example, she can prepare nutritious meals, keep the home clean and neat and share in instructing the children. The Bible 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.
THE PLACE OF CHILDREN IN THE FAMILY
14. (a) What is the proper position of children in the family? (b) What can children learn from the example of Jesus?
14 Jehovah instructed the first human couple: “Be fruitful and become many.” (Genesis 1:28) Yes, God told them to have children. The children were meant to be a blessing to the family. (Psalm 127:3-5) Since they come under the law and commandment of their parents, the Bible compares the position of a child to that of a slave. (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20-23; Galatians 4:1) Even Jesus continued subject to his parents when he was a child. (Luke 2:51) This means that he obeyed them, doing what they directed. If all children did the same, it would truly contribute to family happiness.
15. Why are children often a heartache to their parents?
15 Yet, rather than being a blessing to a family, children today are often a source of heartache to parents. Why? It is due to the failure of the children, as well as the parents, to apply in their lives the Bible’s instructions on family living. What are some of these laws and principles of God? Let us examine a few of them on the following pages. As we do, see if you do not agree that, by applying them, you can contribute to the happiness in your family.
Love and Honor Your Wife
16. What are husbands commanded to do, and how are these commands properly carried out?
16 With divine wisdom, the Bible says: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:28-30) Time and again, experience has proved that for wives to be happy they need to feel that they are loved. This means that a husband should give his wife special attention, including tenderness, understanding and reassurance. He needs to ‘assign her honor,’ as the Bible says. He does this by taking her into consideration in all that he does. In this way he will earn her respect.—1 Peter 3:7.
Respect Your Husband
17. What are wives commanded to do, and how do they do this?
17 And what about wives? “The wife should have deep respect for her husband,” the Bible declares. (Ephesians 5:33) The failure to heed this counsel is a chief reason why some husbands resent their wives. A wife shows respect by supporting her husband’s decisions, and by cooperating whole-souled with him to achieve family goals. By fulfilling her Bible-assigned role as ‘helper and complement’ to her husband, she makes it easy for her husband to love her.—Genesis 2:18.
Be Faithful to Each Other
18. Why should marriage mates be faithful to each other?
18 The Bible says: “Husbands and wives must be faithful to each other.” To the husband it says: “Be happy with your wife and find your joy with the girl you married . . . why should you give your love to another woman? Why should you prefer the charms of another man’s wife?” (Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 5:18-20, Today’s English Version) Yes, adultery is against God’s law; it leads to trouble in a marriage. “Lots of people think an adulterous affair might spice up a marriage,” noted one marriage researcher, but she added that an affair always leads to “real problems.”—Proverbs 6:27-29, 32.
Seek Your Mate’s Pleasure
19. How can marriage mates obtain the greatest enjoyment from sexual relations?
19 Happiness does not come when one seeks sexual pleasure primarily for oneself. Rather, it is obtained by seeking also to please one’s mate. The Bible says: “Let the husband render to his wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:3) The emphasis is on rendering, giving. And by giving, the giver also receives genuine pleasure. It is as Jesus Christ said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Give of Yourself to Your Children
20. Why is doing things with one’s children so important?
20 A child of about eight years of age said: “My dad works all the time. He is never home. He gives me money and lots of toys, but I hardly ever see him. I love him and wish he would not work all the time so I could see him more.” How much better homelife is when parents follow the Bible’s command to teach their children ‘when they sit in their house and when they walk on the road and when they lie down and when they get up’! Giving of yourself to your children, spending quality time with them, is certain to contribute to family happiness.—Deuteronomy 11:19; Proverbs 22:6.
Provide Needed Discipline
21. What does the Bible say about giving discipline to children?
21 Our heavenly Father sets parents a proper example by providing his people corrective instruction, or discipline. Children need discipline. (Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 29:15) Recognizing this, the Bible urges: “You, fathers, . . . go on bringing [your children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” The giving of discipline, even if it may include a spanking or a taking away of privileges, is an evidence that parents love their children. The Bible says: “The one loving [his son] is he that does look for him with discipline.”—Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 13:24; 23:13, 14.
Youths—Resist Worldly Ways
22. What duty do youths have, and what is involved in fulfilling it?
22 The world makes an effort to get youths to break God’s laws. Also, as the Bible states, “foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy.” (Proverbs 22:15) So it is a fight to do what is right. Yet the Bible says: “Children it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do.” It will bring rich rewards. So, children, be wise. Heed the counsel: “Remember your Creator while you are still young.” Resist the temptations to take drugs, get drunk, commit fornication and do other things that are against God’s laws.—Ephesians 6:1-4; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Proverbs 1:10-19, Today’s English Version.
Study the Bible Together
23. What benefits will families enjoy by studying the Bible together?
23 If one member of the family studies and applies Bible teachings, it will contribute to family happiness. But if all do—husband, wife and children—what a blessed family that will be! There will be a warm, close relationship, with open communication, as each family member tries to help the others to serve Jehovah God. So make it a family habit to study the Bible together!—Deuteronomy 6:4-9; John 17:3.
SUCCESSFULLY HANDLING FAMILY PROBLEMS
24. Why should marriage mates make allowances for each other’s mistakes?
24 Even in families that are normally happy, from time to time there will be problems. This is because all of us are imperfect and do wrong things. “We all stumble many times,” says the Bible. (James 3:2) So marriage mates should not demand perfection from each other. Instead, each should allow for the other’s mistakes. Therefore, neither mate should expect a perfectly happy marriage, since this is not possible for imperfect people to achieve.
25. How should marriage difficulties be solved in love?
25 Of course, a husband and a wife will want to work at avoiding what irritates the other mate. Yet no matter how hard they try, they will at times do things that upset the other. How, then, should difficulties be handled? The Bible’s counsel is: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) This means that mates who show love will not keep bringing up the mistakes the other has made. Love says, in effect, ‘Yes, you made a mistake. But so do I at times. So I’ll overlook yours, and you may do the same for me.’—Proverbs 10:12; 19:11.
26. When some difficulty arises, what will help in settling the matter?
26 When couples are willing to admit mistakes and try to correct them, many arguments and heartaches can be avoided. Their goal should be to solve problems, not to win arguments. Even if your mate is in the wrong, make it easier to solve the problem by being kind. 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.
27. The following of what Bible counsel will help marriage mates to solve their problems?
27 Especially if you are a married person, you need to follow the rule of “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Philippians 2:4) You need to obey the Bible command: “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.
28. (a) Is divorce the way to settle marriage problems? (b) What does the Bible say is the only reason for divorce that frees one for remarriage?
28 Today many couples do not allow the counsel from God’s Word to help them work out their problems, and they seek a divorce. Does God approve of divorce as a way to settle problems? No, he does not. (Malachi 2:15, 16) He meant marriage to be a lifelong arrangement. (Romans 7:2) The Bible allows only one reason for getting a divorce that frees a person to remarry, and that is fornication (Greek, porneia, gross sexual immorality). If fornication is committed, then the innocent mate may decide whether to get a divorce or not.—Matthew 5:32.
29. (a) If your marriage mate does not join you in Christian worship, what should you do? (b) What will be a possible result?
29 What if your marriage mate has refused to study God’s Word with you, or even opposes your Christian activity? The Bible still encourages you to stay with your mate 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!
30. Why is it so important for parents to set a good example for their children?
30 Many family problems today involve the children. What can be done if this is the case in your family? First of all, as parents you need to set a good example. This is because children are more inclined to follow what you do than what you say. And when your actions differ from your words, young ones are quick to see it. So, if you want your children to live fine, Christian lives, you yourself must set the example.—Romans 2:21, 22.
31. (a) What more important reason do children need for obeying their parent’s counsel? (b) How might you show your youngster the wisdom of obeying God’s law that forbids fornication?
31 Also, you need to reason with children. It is not enough simply to tell youngsters: ‘I don’t want you to commit fornication, because it is wrong.’ They need to be shown that it is their Creator, Jehovah God, who says that such things as fornication are wrong. (Ephesians 5:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7) But even this is not enough. Children also need to be helped to see why they should obey God’s laws, and how this will benefit them. For example, you might draw your youngster’s attention to the wonderful way a human baby is formed by the union of a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg, and ask: ‘Don’t you think that the One who made possible this miracle of birth knows best how humans should use their God-given powers of reproduction?’ (Psalm 139:13-17) Or you could ask: ‘Do you think that our Grand Creator would make a law to rob us of enjoyment in life? Rather, should we not be happier if we obeyed his laws?’
32. (a) What should be your attitude if your child’s views do not agree with God’s? (b) How can your child be helped to see the wisdom of what the Bible says?
32 Such questions can start your child reasoning on God’s law governing the use of the reproductive organs. Welcome his views. If they are not what you desire them to be, do not get angry. Try to understand that your child’s generation has drifted a long way from the righteous teachings in the Bible, and then try to show him why his generation’s immoral practices are unwise. Perhaps you can draw your child’s attention to specific examples of where sexual immorality has led to illegitimate births, venereal diseases or other troubles. In this way he is helped to see the reasonableness and correctness of what the Bible says.
33. Why can the Bible-based hope of living forever in Paradise on earth help us to make a success of family life?
33 Especially can the Bible-based hope of living forever in Paradise on earth help us to make a success of family life. Why so? Because if we really want to live in God’s new system, we will try hard to live now as we hope to live then. This means we will follow closely the instructions and guidance of Jehovah God. As a result, God will crown our present happiness with the enjoyment of everlasting life and abundant happiness throughout the eternity that lies ahead.—Proverbs 3:11-18.