1. Why can managing a household be so difficult today?
“THE scene of this world is changing.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) Those words were written over 1,900 years ago, and how true they are today! Things are changing, especially with regard to family life. What was viewed as normal or traditional 40 or 50 years ago is often not acceptable today. Because of this, successfully managing a household can present enormous challenges. Nevertheless, if Scriptural counsel is heeded, you can meet those challenges.
LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS
2. What economic circumstances cause stress in a family?
2 Today many people are no longer satisfied with a simple, family-oriented life. As the commercial world produces more and more products and uses its advertising skills to try to entice the public, millions of fathers and mothers spend long hours at work so that they can buy these products. Other millions face a day-to-day struggle just to put some food on the table. They have to spend far more time at work than used to be the case, perhaps holding down two jobs, simply to pay for necessities. Yet others would be happy to find a job, since unemployment is a widespread problem. Yes, life is not always easy for the modern family, but Bible principles can help families to make the best of the situation.
3. What principle did the apostle Paul explain, and how can applying it help one to be successful in managing a household?
3 The apostle Paul experienced economic pressures. In handling them, he learned a valuable lesson, which he explains in his letter to his friend Timothy. Paul writes: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Timothy 6:7, 8) True, a family needs more than just food and clothing. It also needs somewhere to live. The children need an education. And there are medical bills and other expenses. Still, the principle of Paul’s words applies. If we are content to satisfy our needs rather than indulge our wants, life will be easier.
4, 5. How can forethought and planning help in household management?
4 Another helpful principle is found in one of Jesus’ illustrations. He said: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) Jesus is here speaking of forethought, planning ahead. We saw in a previous chapter how this helps when a young couple are thinking of getting married. And after the marriage, it is also helpful in managing a household. Forethought in this area involves having a budget, planning in advance to make the wisest use of available resources. In this way a family can control expenses, setting money aside for spending on essentials each day or each week, and not live beyond its means.
5 In some countries, such budgeting might mean having to resist the urge to borrow at high interest for unnecessary purchases. In others, it might mean keeping a tight rein on the use of credit cards. (Proverbs 22:7) It might also mean resisting impulse buying—purchasing something on the spur of the moment without weighing needs and consequences. Further, a budget will make it apparent that selfishly wasting money on gambling, smoking tobacco, and excessive drinking harms the family’s economic situation, as well as goes contrary to Bible principles.—Proverbs 23:20, 21, 29-35; Romans 6:19; Ephesians 5:3-5.
6. What Scriptural truths help those who have to live in poverty?
6 What, though, of those who are forced to live in poverty? For one thing, they can be comforted to know that this worldwide problem is only temporary. In the rapidly approaching new world, Jehovah will eliminate poverty along with all other evils that cause misery to mankind. (Psalm 72:1, 12-16) In the meantime, true Christians, even if they are very poor, do not feel total desperation, for they have faith in Jehovah’s promise: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” Hence, a believer can confidently say: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:5, 6) In these difficult days, Jehovah has supported his worshipers in many ways when they live by his principles and put his Kingdom first in their lives. (Matthew 6:33) Great numbers of them can testify, saying, in the words of the apostle Paul: “In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want. For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:12, 13.
SHARING THE LOAD
7. What words of Jesus, if applied, will help in successful household management?
7 Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus said: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Applying this counsel in the family helps enormously in household management. After all, who are our nearest, dearest neighbors if not those who share the family dwelling—husbands and wives, parents and children? How can family members show love for one another?
8. How can love be expressed within the family?
8 One way is for each family member to do his fair share of household chores. Thus, children need to be taught to put things away after using them, whether these be clothes or toys. It may take time and effort to tidy the bed each morning, but it is a big help in the management of the household. Of course, some minor, temporary disarray is unavoidable, but all can work together to keep the home reasonably neat, as well as to clean up after meals. Laziness, self-indulgence, and a grudging, reluctant spirit have a negative effect on everyone. (Proverbs 26:14-16) On the other hand, a cheerful, willing spirit nourishes a happy family life. “God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Corinthians 9:7.
9, 10. (a) What burden often rests on the woman of the house, and how can this be lightened? (b) What balanced view of housework is suggested?
9 Consideration and love will help prevent a situation that is a serious problem in some homes. Mothers have traditionally been the mainstay of homelife. They have cared for the children, cleaned the home, done the family laundry, and purchased and cooked the food. In some lands, women have also customarily worked in the fields, sold produce in the market, or contributed in other ways to the family budget. Even where this was not the custom previously, necessity has compelled millions of married women to find employment outside the home. A wife and mother who works hard in these different areas deserves commendation. Like the “capable wife” described in the Bible, her days are well filled. “The bread of laziness she does not eat.” (Proverbs 31:10, 27) This does not mean, though, that a woman is the only one who can work in the home. After a husband and a wife have both worked all day outside the home, should the wife alone bear the burden of work in the house while the husband and the rest of the family relax? Surely not. (Compare 2 Corinthians 8:13, 14.) So, for example, if the mother is going to get a meal ready, she may be grateful if other family members help with the preparation by setting the table, doing some of the shopping, or cleaning up a little around the house. Yes, all can share the responsibility.—Compare Galatians 6:2.
10 Some may say: “Where I live it is not the role of a man to do such things.” That may be true, but would it not be good to give this matter some consideration? When Jehovah God originated the family, he did not mandate that certain work would be done only by women. On one occasion, when the faithful man Abraham was visited by special messengers from Jehovah, he personally shared in the preparation and serving of a meal for the visitors. (Genesis 18:1-8) The Bible counsels: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:28) If, at the end of the day, the husband is tired and wants to rest, is it not likely that the wife feels the same way, perhaps more so? (1 Peter 3:7) Then, would it not be appropriate and loving for the husband to help out at home?—Philippians 2:3, 4.
11. In what way did Jesus set a fine example for each member of the household?
11 Jesus is the best example of one who pleased God and brought happiness to his associates. Although he never married, Jesus is a good example for husbands, as well as for wives and children. He said of himself: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister,” that is, to serve others. (Matthew 20:28) How delightful are those families in which all members cultivate such an attitude!
CLEANLINESS—WHY SO IMPORTANT?
12. What does Jehovah require of those who serve him?
12 Another Bible principle that can help in the management of a household is found at 2 Corinthians 7:1. There we read: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.” Those who obey these inspired words are acceptable to Jehovah, who requires “worship that is clean and undefiled.” (James 1:27) And their household receives associated benefits.
13. Why is cleanliness important in household management?
13 For example, the Bible assures us that the day will come when disease and sickness will be no more. At that time, “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24; Revelation 21:4, 5) Until then, however, every family has to handle sickness from time to time. Even Paul and Timothy got sick. (Galatians 4:13; 1 Timothy 5:23) Still, medical experts say that much sickness is preventable. Wise families escape some preventable illnesses if they avoid fleshly and spiritual uncleanness. Let us consider how.—Compare Proverbs 22:3.
14. In what way can moral cleanness protect a family from sickness?
14 Cleanness of spirit includes moral cleanness. As is well-known, the Bible promotes high moral standards and condemns any kind of sexual intimacy outside marriage. “Neither fornicators, . . . nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Observing these strict standards is very important for Christians living in today’s degenerate world. Doing so pleases God and also helps to protect the family from sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.—Proverbs 7:10-23.
15. Give an example of a lack of physical cleanness that can cause unnecessary illness.
15 ‘Cleansing oneself of every defilement of flesh’ helps to protect the family from other sicknesses. Many diseases are caused by a lack of physical cleanness. A prime example is the smoking habit. Not only does smoking befoul the lungs, the clothes, and the very air but it also makes people ill. Millions of people die each year because they smoked tobacco. Think of it; each year millions of people would not have fallen ill and died prematurely if they had avoided that ‘defilement of the flesh’!
16, 17. (a) What law given by Jehovah protected the Israelites from certain illnesses? (b) How can the principle behind Deuteronomy 23:12, 13 be applied in all households?
16 Consider another example. About 3,500 years ago, God gave the nation of Israel his Law in order to organize their worship and, to a degree, their everyday life. That Law helped to protect the nation from disease by putting in place some basic rules of hygiene. One such law had to do with the disposal of human waste, which had to be properly buried away from the camp so that the area where people lived would not be polluted. (Deuteronomy 23:12, 13) That ancient law is still good counsel. Even today people get sick and die because they do not follow it.*
17 In harmony with the principle behind that Israelite law, the family’s bathroom and toilet area—whether inside or outside the dwelling—should be kept clean and disinfected. If the toilet area is not kept clean and covered, flies will gather there and spread germs to other areas of the home—and onto the food we eat! Further, children and adults should wash their hands after visiting this area. Otherwise, they bring germs back with them on their skin. According to a French doctor, hand washing “is still one of the best guarantees for the prevention of certain digestive, respiratory, or skin infections.”
18, 19. What suggestions are given for maintaining a clean house even in a poor neighborhood?
18 True, cleanliness is a challenge in a poor neighborhood. One who is acquainted with such localities explained: “The oppressively hot climate makes the work of cleaning doubly hard. Dust storms cover every crevice of a house with fine brown powder. . . . Burgeoning populations in cities, as well as in some rural areas, also create health hazards. Open sewers, piles of uncollected garbage, filthy communal toilets, disease-carrying rats, cockroaches, and flies have become common sights.”
19 Maintaining cleanliness under these conditions is difficult. Still, it is worth the effort. Soap and water and a little extra work are cheaper than medicine and hospital bills. If you live in such an environment, as far as possible, keep your own house and yard clean and free of animal droppings. If the path to your home tends to get muddy during rainy periods, could you put down gravel or stones to help keep mud out of the house? If shoes or sandals are used, can these be removed before the wearer enters the home? Also, you must keep your water supply free from contamination. It is estimated that at least two million deaths a year are due to diseases associated with dirty water and poor sanitation.
20. If the house is to be clean, who must share the responsibility?
20 A clean home depends on everyone—mother, father, children, and visitors. One mother of eight children in Kenya said: “All have learned to do their part.” A clean, tidy home reflects well on the whole family. A Spanish proverb states: “There is no conflict between poverty and cleanliness.” Whether one lives in a mansion, an apartment, a humble home, or a shack, cleanliness is a key to a healthier family.
ENCOURAGEMENT MAKES US FLOURISH
21. In harmony with Proverbs 31:28, what will help to bring happiness to a household?
21 When discussing the capable wife, the book of Proverbs says: “Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her.” (Proverbs 31:28) When was the last time you commended a member of your family? Really, we are like plants in springtime that are ready to blossom when they receive some warmth and moisture. In our case, we need the warmth of commendation. It helps for a wife to know that her husband appreciates her hard work and loving care and that he does not take her for granted. (Proverbs 15:23; 25:11) And it is pleasant when a wife commends her husband for his work outside and inside the home. Children too blossom when their parents praise them for their efforts at home, at school, or in the Christian congregation. And how far a little gratitude goes! What does it cost to say: “Thank you”? Very little, yet the return in family morale can be great.
22. What is needed for a household to be “firmly established,” and how can this be obtained?
22 For many reasons, managing a household is not easy. Still, it can be done with success. A Bible proverb says: “By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established.” (Proverbs 24:3) Wisdom and discernment can be gained if all in the family strive to learn God’s will and to apply it in their lives. A happy family is surely worth the effort!
In a manual advising how to avoid diarrhea—a common disease that leads to many infant deaths—the World Health Organization states: “If there is no latrine: defecate away from the house, and from areas where children play, and at least 10 metres (30 feet) from the water supply; cover the faeces with earth.”