Building a Family That Honors God
1-3. Why are some unable to solve problems common to marriage and parenthood, but why can the Bible help?
SUPPOSE you plan to build your own home. You purchase the land. With keen anticipation, you see your new house in your mind’s eye. But what if you have no tools and no building skills? How frustrating your efforts would be!
2 Many couples enter marriage envisioning a happy family, yet possess neither the tools nor the skills needed to build one. Shortly after the wedding day, negative patterns develop. Fighting and bickering become a daily routine. When children are born, the new father and mother find themselves no more skilled at parenthood than they are at marriage.
3 Happily, however, the Bible can help. Its principles are like tools that enable you to build a happy family. (Proverbs 24:3) Let us see how.
TOOLS FOR BUILDING A HAPPY MARRIAGE
4. Why are problems in marriage to be expected, and what standards are provided in the Bible?
4 No matter how well-matched a married couple seem to be, they differ in emotional makeup, childhood experiences, and family background. Therefore, some problems are to be expected after marriage. How will they be handled? Well, when builders construct a house, they consult the plans. These are guidelines to be followed. The Bible provides God’s standards for building a happy family. Let us now examine a few of these.
5. How does the Bible stress the importance of loyalty in marriage?
5 Loyalty. Jesus said: “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.”* (Matthew 19:6) The apostle Paul wrote: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) Married persons should therefore feel an obligation toward Jehovah to remain faithful to their mates.—Genesis 39:7-9.
6. How will loyalty help to preserve a marriage?
6 Loyalty accords the marriage dignity and security. Loyal spouses know that, come what may, they will support each other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) How different from those who abandon their marriage at the first hint of trouble! Such individuals quickly conclude that they ‘chose the wrong person,’ that they have ‘fallen out of love,’ that a new mate is the cure. But this gives neither spouse opportunity to grow. Instead, such disloyal ones may carry the same problems to new partners. When a person has a fine home but finds that the roof is leaking, surely he tries to repair it. He does not just move to another house. Similarly, changing a mate is not the way to solve the issues that lie beneath marital strife. When problems arise, do not try to get out of the marriage, but work very hard to preserve it. Such loyalty treats the union as something worth guarding, maintaining, and cherishing.
7. Why is communication often difficult for married people, but how can putting on “the new personality” help?
7 Communication. “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” says a Bible proverb. (Proverbs 15:22) Yet, communicating is difficult for some married couples. Why is that the case? Because people have different communication styles. This is a fact that often leads to considerable misunderstanding and frustration. Upbringing may play a role in this. For example, some may have been raised in an atmosphere of parental bickering. Now as married adults, they may not know how to speak to their mate in a kind and loving way. Nevertheless, your home need not deteriorate into ‘a house full of quarreling.’ (Proverbs 17:1) The Bible stresses putting on “the new personality,” and it does not condone malicious bitterness, screaming, and abusive speech.—Ephesians 4:22-24, 31.
8. What may be helpful when you disagree with your mate?
8 What can you do when there are disagreements? If tempers begin to flare, you may do well to follow the advice of Proverbs 17:14: “Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.” Yes, you might suspend the discussion until later, when both you and your mate have cooled off. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) In any case, endeavor to be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Your goal should be to remedy the situation, not to win the argument. (Genesis 13:8, 9) Choose words and a manner of speaking that will calm you and your mate. (Proverbs 12:18; 15:1, 4; 29:11) Above all, do not remain in a provoked state, but seek help by communicating with God in humble prayer together.—Ephesians 4:26, 27; 6:18.
9. Why can it be said that communication begins in the heart?
9 A Bible proverb says: “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.” (Proverbs 16:23) Really, then, the key to successful communication is in the heart, not in the mouth. What is your attitude toward your mate? The Bible encourages Christians to show “fellow feeling.” (1 Peter 3:8) Can you do this when your marriage partner experiences distressing anxiety? If so, it will help you to know how to answer.—Isaiah 50:4.
10, 11. How can a husband apply the counsel of 1 Peter 3:7?
10 Honor and Respect. Christian husbands are told to dwell with their wives “according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Peter 3:7) Honoring one’s wife involves recognizing her value. A husband who dwells with his wife “according to knowledge” has high regard for her feelings, strengths, intelligence, and dignity. He should also want to learn how Jehovah views women and wants them to be treated.
11 In your house, let us say that you have a very useful container that is especially delicate. Would you not treat it with great care? Well, Peter used the term “weaker vessel” in a similar vein, and this should move a Christian husband to manifest tender regard for his beloved wife.
12. How can a wife show that she deeply respects her husband?
12 But what counsel does the Bible give a wife? Paul wrote: “The wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) Just as a wife needs to sense that she is honored and dearly loved by her mate, a husband needs to feel that he is respected by his wife. A respectful wife would not thoughtlessly broadcast her husband’s faults, whether he is a Christian or not. She would not strip him of his dignity by criticizing and belittling him either privately or publicly.—1 Timothy 3:11; 5:13.
13. How can viewpoints be expressed in a peaceable manner?
13 This does not mean that a wife cannot express her opinions. If something disturbs her, she can respectfully give voice to it. (Genesis 21:9-12) Conveying an idea to her husband might be likened to throwing a ball to him. She can toss it gently so that he can easily catch it, or she can fling it with such force that it injures him. How much better it is when both mates avoid hurling accusations but, rather, speak in a kind and gentle manner!—Matthew 7:12; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:3, 4.
14. What should you do if your mate shows little interest in applying Bible principles in marriage?
14 As we have seen, Bible principles can help you to build a happy marriage. But what if your mate shows little interest in what the Bible has to say? Much can still be accomplished if you apply the knowledge of God in your role. Peter wrote: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Of course, the same would apply to a husband whose wife is indifferent toward the Bible. Regardless of what your mate chooses to do, let Bible principles make you a better spouse. The knowledge of God can also make you a better parent.
REARING CHILDREN ACCORDING TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
15. How are faulty parenting techniques sometimes passed on, but how might this cycle be broken?
15 Merely possessing a saw or a hammer does not make one a skilled carpenter. Likewise, simply having children does not make one a skilled parent. Knowingly or unknowingly, parents often bring up their children the way they themselves were brought up. Thus, faulty parenting techniques are sometimes passed on from one generation to the next. An ancient Hebrew proverb says: “Fathers are the ones that eat unripe grapes, but it is the teeth of the sons that get set on edge.” Yet, the Scriptures show that a person does not have to follow the course set out by his parents. He can choose a different path, one influenced by Jehovah’s statutes.—Ezekiel 18:2, 14, 17.
16. Why is it important to provide for your family, and what does this include?
16 Jehovah expects Christian parents to give their children proper guidance and care. Paul wrote: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) What strong words! Fulfilling your role as a provider, which includes caring for your children’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs, is a godly person’s privilege and responsibility. The Bible furnishes principles that can help parents build a happy environment for their children. Consider some of these.
17. What is necessary if your children are to have God’s law in their hearts?
17 Set a fine example. Israelite parents were commanded: “You must inculcate [God’s words] in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” Parents were to teach God’s standards to their children. But this injunction was prefaced by the statement: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Yes, parents cannot give what they do not have. God’s laws must first be inscribed on your own hearts if you want to have them written on the hearts of your children.—Proverbs 20:7; compare Luke 6:40.
18. In expressing love, how has Jehovah set a superb example for parents?
18 Provide assurance of your love. At Jesus’ baptism, Jehovah declared: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.” (Luke 3:22) Jehovah thus acknowledged his Son, freely expressing approval of him and giving assurance of His love. Jesus later said to his Father: “You loved me before the founding of the world.” (John 17:24) As godly parents, then, give your children verbal and physical expressions of your love for them—and do this often. Always remember that “love builds up.”—1 Corinthians 8:1.
19, 20. What is involved in the proper disciplining of children, and how can parents benefit from Jehovah’s example?
19 Discipline. The Bible stresses the importance of loving discipline. (Proverbs 1:8) Parents who shirk their responsibility to guide their children today will almost certainly face heartbreaking consequences tomorrow. Yet, parents are also cautioned against going to the other extreme. “You fathers,” wrote Paul, “do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Colossians 3:21) Parents must avoid overcorrecting their children or constantly harping on their shortcomings and criticizing their efforts.
20 Jehovah God, our heavenly Father, sets the example in providing discipline. His correction is never extreme. “I shall have to chastise you to the proper degree,” God told his people. (Jeremiah 46:28) Parents should imitate Jehovah in this regard. Discipline that exceeds reasonable limits or that goes beyond the intended purpose of correcting and teaching surely is exasperating.
21. How can parents determine whether their discipline is effective?
21 How can parents determine whether their discipline is effective? They might ask themselves, ‘What does my discipline accomplish?’ It should teach. Your child should understand why discipline is being administered. Parents should also be concerned about the aftereffects of their correction. True, almost all children will at first chafe at discipline. (Hebrews 12:11) But discipline should never make a child feel frightened or abandoned or leave him with the impression that he is inherently wicked. Before correcting his people, Jehovah said: “Do not be afraid, . . . for I am with you.” (Jeremiah 46:28) Yes, correction should be administered in such a way that your child senses that you are with him or her as loving, supportive parents.
ACQUIRING “SKILLFUL DIRECTION”
22, 23. How can you acquire the direction needed to build a happy family?
22 We can be grateful that Jehovah has provided the tools we need to build a happy family. But simply possessing the tools is not enough. We must practice using them properly. For example, a builder may develop poor habits in the way that he handles his tools. He may put some of them to a wrong use altogether. Under these circumstances, his methods are very likely to result in an inferior product. Similarly, you may now be aware of unhealthy habits that have crept into your family. Some may be strongly entrenched and hard to change. However, follow the Bible’s advice: “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction, and a man of understanding is the one who acquires skillful direction.”—Proverbs 1:5.
23 You can acquire skillful direction by continuing to take in the knowledge of God. Be alert to Bible principles that apply to family life, and make adjustments where needed. Observe mature Christians who set a fine example as marriage mates and parents. Talk to them. Above all, take your concerns to Jehovah in prayer. (Psalm 55:22; Philippians 4:6, 7) He can help you to enjoy a happy family life that honors him.
The only Scriptural ground for divorce allowing for remarriage is “fornication”—sex relations outside the marriage.—Matthew 19:9.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
How do loyalty, communication, honor, and respect contribute to a happy marriage?
In what ways can parents assure their children of their love?
What factors are involved in proper discipline?
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