Theocratic Conduct Within the Family Circle
“You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord. You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them. You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord. You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.”—Col. 3:18-21, NW.
1. What is Jehovah’s arrangement for ruling the family circle, and how did Adam fall short?
JEHOVAH God is the Originator of the family circle. He made the earth, made man to inhabit it, saw it was not good for the man to be alone, created the woman as his helpmate, empowered them to reproduce their kind and gave a procreation mandate that they should multiply and fill the earth. It was Jehovah’s will for Adam to be a family man, to have a wife and children and to keep the family circle unbroken by strife and conflict. To preserve unity and harmony among the family members the man was given headship, but as a family head Adam proved to be a dismal failure. Eve ignored his authority, and he did not undo her deception. She led the way into sin and Adam followed. Though he blamed his wife for his trespass, the burden of guilt lay heavily upon his own shoulders. He did not measure up as family head. His wife was not submissive. His first son became a murderer. He allowed his family circle to be broken by rebellion, by sin, by recriminations, by death.
2. How do persons today fall short in this regard?
2 To this day family circles are still being shattered, in the same ways and for the same reasons. Both men and women have drifted far from Jehovah’s prescribed conduct for family rule, both husbands and wives have fallen far short of their responsibilities and obligations. Husbands abuse their headship, wives rebel against it, and children ignore it to run riot in unprecedented delinquency. Though marriage counselors increase, family troubles and delinquencies and divorces increase much faster. Rejecting Jehovah’s theocratic counsel, families sow by human wisdom and reap of its folly. The world feels wise in its own conceit, but do not its fruits scream out the foolishness of its wisdom? The only remedy is to bring theocratic conduct within the family circle.
3. What lofty patterns are there for marriage and oneness?
3 To see in proper perspective the duties and obligations existing between family members, consider some lofty patterns. First, Jehovah God uses the symbol of marriage to show the close relationship between himself and his universal organization, speaking of himself as the Husband of his womanlike organization. Again, the figure of marriage is used to illustrate the close bond between Christ and his church, he being spoken of as the Bridegroom and the church as his bride, with the marriage being consummated in heaven. (Isa. 54:5; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7) You will recall that in Eden the man and the woman were spoken of as being “one flesh,” and the same is said about human marriage partners today. Similarly, there is a oneness existing between Jehovah and the chief one of the universal organization, Christ Jesus. Also, Christ and his bride, the church, are referred to as being one. However, the Bible clearly shows that Jehovah and Christ are not one in any mysterious pagan trinity. Nor are Christ and the church class literally made into one; any more so than do man and wife, two persons, literally become one. In none of these cases is it a literal organic oneness, but in all of them it is oneness in aim, purpose, goal, desire and direction of effort.—Matt. 19:4-6; John 14:10; 17:21-23.
4. Why is a family head necessary, and who is it?
4 Where two or more are united in a common endeavor there must be organization, some sort of headship to give intelligent direction to the energies of the united ones. In human affairs two heads may be better than one when it comes to assembling ideas or considering possible courses of action, but when it comes to a final decision one head must be empowered to decide for both. A headless union would lack proper directive force, whereas a freakish two-headed one would engender strife and an eventual split-up. Let all face this fact: everyone has a head over him except Jehovah, who is Head over all. We read at 1 Corinthians 11:3 (NW): “I want you to know that 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.” This arrangement was not made by any creature, but is the law of the Creator of the universe. Conformity to it is obedience to Jehovah; rejection of it is rebellion against him. Theocratic women and children will acknowledge the man as the head of the house.
EXACTING DUTIES UPON HUSBANDS
5, 6. What examples show the exacting duties of husbands?
5 In some countries where there is a strong tendency for many women to try to share or take over family headship, loud objections rise against the divine requirement of man’s headship and woman’s subjection. It is viewed as discriminatory against women, as oppressive and too difficult a load for them to bear up under. However, careful reflection will reveal that it is the husband that has the weightier load to bear, the heavier responsibility to measure up to. He must strive to copy the flawless example of Jehovah God, the Head and Husband of the universal organization. Jehovah not only created all things but thereafter established laws and rules of action for their guidance and provides the necessities for their continuance. Even in his own ways and acts Jehovah consistently follows righteous principles and conducts his headship with an unparalleled display of justice, wisdom, patience, mercy, compassion and, above all, love. Encouragingly for us on earth, “he knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust.”—Ps. 103:14, AT.
6 Not only in Jehovah’s excelling headship over his universal organization, but also in Christ’s rule over the church class does the human husband have a lofty example to aim toward. Did not Jesus expend himself working in the interests of the body members, teaching and preaching, providing the spiritual sustenance that is so much more vital than literal bread? Were not his patience and long-suffering exemplary, his dealings with his earthly disciples merciful, his allowances for their fleshly frailties compassionate? Did he not endure torturous persecution and pain in maintaining integrity toward Jehovah, thereby becoming a safe model for his followers? And finally did he not go the limit and lay down his life for his bride and wife, the church class? Surely Christ’s headship over his church wonderfully demonstrates thoughtful provision, gentle concern, wise understanding, continual forgiveness, protective care and a love that found its climax in the laying down of his own life—and greater love than that no man can have!—John 15:13.
7. What many obligations attach to proper headship?
7 Let human husbands look to these divine patterns and heavenly examples of headship, setting their sights on them and aiming toward such perfect theocratic conduct for their own family circles. The husband must provide food, clothing and shelter for his wife. But his obligations go far beyond fulfilling these basic physical needs. Man does that much for his livestock. He must provide for her mental happiness and consider her spiritual well-being, showing a love for her as great as that he bears for himself. Husbands should not be oblivious to the emotional make-up and vicissitudes of their wives, but should “continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Pet. 3:7, NW) He must give proper direction to their united efforts by making wise decisions, shoulder the responsibilities for these decisions and cope with any consequences that may follow in their wake. Husbands must endeavor to follow consistently right principles, to exercise patience and long-suffering, to practice mercy and forgiveness, to show consideration and understanding, and, above all, to keep alive and active a love patterned after that shown by Jehovah toward his universal organization and that shown by Christ toward his Christian church organization. To measure up to such high requirements is certainly more difficult than being submissive under such upright headship, is it not? What reasonable woman could object to submission to such headship?
PATTERNS FOR WIFELY SUBJECTION
8. What should marriage partners remember?
8 Do we hear some of our feminine readers make the rejoinder that they would gladly subject themselves to such headship, but what man is there that administers it? True enough, no man perfectly measures up to these lofty standards. But before wives use this as grounds for refusing to be submissive, let them reflect as to whether they flawlessly fulfill the role Jehovah assigns to them. Just as Jehovah remembers, so marriage partners should remember that humans are made of dust and weaknesses must be mercifully taken into account. Before heaping bitter blame upon the other, each marriage partner should weigh Jesus’ words: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged, and with the measure that you are measuring out they will measure out to you. Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother: ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! first extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.”—Matt. 7:1-5, NW.
9, 10. What example in subjection do wives have, and whom will they not copy?
9 The principal one of Jehovah’s universal organization does not find it galling to be in subjection to the great Husband and Head of that organization. Christ Jesus delights to do Jehovah’s will, and at one time declared that to do God’s work was as vital food for his sustenance. (Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7; John 4:34) Because of his attachment and devotion to Jehovah he endured persecution and death, proving his integrity to God and contributing heavily to the vindication of His Word and name. It was a marvelous display of Jesus’ complete subjection to Jehovah’s headship, and through it all Jesus found great joy in this submissiveness. It was not at any time a drudgery to him. And never did he seek to seize that headship from Jehovah or try to share it as an equal to Jehovah: “Keep this mental attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”—Phil. 2:5-8, NW.
10 Christian wives should keep this mental attitude of Christ, and not the attitude of many worldly wives that clamor for equality with and often dominancy over their husbands. Wives who are truly Christian will not even untheocratically consider seizing a part or all of the family headship that is divinely assigned to their husbands. They will submit to the marriage arrangement, realizing that it has been so ordained, not by any man, but by Jehovah himself. To rebel against the arrangement is to rebel, not against any man, but against Jehovah himself. Remember that it was the covering cherub in Eden that was headstrong and felt cramped and oppressed by Jehovah’s headship and thereupon rebelled and became infamous as Satan the Devil. Wives who are not submissive to their husbands are copying Satan, not Christ.
11. What additional example is there for wives, and whose course will they shun?
11 Again, wives can find an example in the submission of the church class to its Head, Christ Jesus. Members of Christ’s bride set aside their own will to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, to co-operate with him in the work he is doing. They take on the obligation to preach in harmony with his will, and this brings upon them a certain amount of persecution and tribulation in the flesh. But the joys of serving under the loving headship of Christ far outweigh the fleshly tribulations. Submission to such an upright headship is not difficult or degrading, though heady and haughty ones down through the centuries have thought so, and in these last days such ones have made themselves into an “evil slave” class by their bolt from under Christ’s headship. It is the “faithful and discreet slave” class that finds real joy by submissiveness to Christ. And when that “evil slave” breaks away from Christ’s headship, does he gain a liberty and freedom that spells great happiness? No, for he lands outside Jehovah’s arrangement to company with hypocrites, and “there is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.” (Matt. 24:45-51, NW) Christian wives who are not submissive to their husbands are copying the “evil slave,” not the “faithful and discreet slave,” and their bolt from Jehovah’s arrangement to grasp a false freedom will bring them, not true happiness and contentment, but emotional frustrations and spiritual guiltiness.
PRACTICAL COUNSEL FOR HUSBAND AND WIFE
12. What proves false the modern contention that Bible counsel is impractical?
12 Jesus said: “Every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces bad fruit; a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.” The same applies to counsel. Following good counsel will produce fine results, whereas rotten counsel leads to a bad end. The present impulse of many is to dismiss Bible counsel as impractical and turn to modern authorities for marital advice, but the deluge of divorce and delinquency is the impractical result that proves the modern counsel to be highly impractical. In contrast, when the Bible was held in high esteem and its advice followed divorces were fewer and delinquency was reduced. So those who hurl the charge that the Bible counsel is impractical have it thrown back in their own face by the facts!—Matt. 7:17, 18, NW.
13. What should be the relationship between husband and wife?
13 The Bible sets forth the relationship that is to obtain between husband and wife: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it. In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh, but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’ Nevertheless, also, let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Eph. 5:22, 25, 28-31, 33, NW.
14. What must the husband do to deserve his wife’s deep respect?
14 A husband must measure up as head if he would have the deep respect of his wife. Insisting on his prerogatives as head while failing to measure up will make him seem like a pompous figurehead. Exercising headship involves more than just taking the lead and having the final say; it requires sound knowledge and good understanding and a self-control that is calm, patient and reasonable when faced with difficult situations. It is hard for a Christian wife to respect a husband who is careless or negligent of family responsibilities or ministerial privileges, who eats to the point of gluttony or imbibes too freely of alcoholic drinks, who is thoughtless or coarse or obscene in his speech, or who shows little consideration for her or attention to her while being overly sociable with other women. If the husband is shallow he can hardly expect his wife’s respect to be deep. She may submit because of moral, physical, economic or theocratic reasons, but it will be much easier for her and much more gratifying to the husband if she does it because of the love and deep respect she has for him due to his worthy course of action.
15. What results when the wife refuses to be submissive?
15 On the other hand, it is extremely difficult for a man truly to love and cherish and protect a woman who is not submissive, for by her independence she proclaims that she does not need him. She steals from him, robbing him of the position that is rightfully his. How can he love such a woman as his own flesh, when she is not one with him but is divided against him, competing with him instead of co-operating with him? Why should he extend himself to provide bountifully for an unappreciative competitor? He may lose all incentive and initiative and let her have her way to keep down quarreling, but in gaining the household she will lose his love. And both would lose Jehovah’s approval, the woman for usurping the man’s position and the man for letting her do it. If a husband lets his wife take over she will lose her deep respect for him and he will lose his self-respect, and this loss will cause his love for her to give way to resentment. After all the modern prattle about equality dies down, the fact still stands that only in homes where the husband is a proper head do contentment and deep joy exist. If the woman runs the home she will ruin it, both in man’s sight and in God’s sight.
16. Rather than being merely a cook and cleaning woman, the wife has what duties that make her role varied and joyful?
16 Does this mean she is to have no say in family affairs? No, for that is not the Bible’s position. The woman is “to manage a household.” As long as she does it properly the husband should be pleased to let her use her own initiative in this respect. Many wives handle considerable of the finances for the family, budgeting the funds, spending wisely for the good of all, and saving for future needs. Managing a household would also include decorating the home, making purchases to beautify it and to equip it for efficient operation. The household includes those making up the members of the family, and the efficient wife exercises a great force for good on all members, seeing to it that they are well fed and adequately clothed, as well as having a clean and pleasing house to live in. She is much more than a cook or cleaning woman, for in her managerial position she must be a good businesswoman looking out for the interests of her husband and children. Finally, she has far-reaching influence on the development of the children, being with them so much more during the early, formative years. She can help them in the right direction, teaching them good habits and principles and, above all, Jehovah’s truths. To shape a young life, to get it off to a good start, is one of the heaviest of responsibilities and greatest of joys. Just as it is hard for a husband to measure up to the requirements of headship, so it is not easy for a wife to meet the challenge to manage the household. When she does her job well she is a praise to her family in the community, and the man who has her is blessed by Jehovah.—1 Tim. 5:14, NW; Prov. 18:22; 19:14; 31:10-31.
17. When must the man make the decisions, and how should the woman respond?
17 Both husband and wife have their sphere of duties and responsibilities, and each should let the other bear the assigned load. This does not mean that one cannot discuss the projects of the other, for the family welfare hinges on both the husband’s and the wife’s duties. There should be co-operation and a blending of effort, a pulling together as in a team, a sharing of the burdens. Both should be willing to compromise, to give in at times. However, when it is not possible to reach agreement on a family matter and a definite decision must be made and a course of action decided upon, the man must make it. This is only fair. He is the one that must take the responsibility for what follows, whether good or bad. If the decision is wrong he is the one that will have to cope with the consequences, make up the financial loss or whatever may be involved. When the husband makes a decision the wife does not concur in, she should not pout or nurse a grudge and hold back, hoping for failure so she can taunt, “I told you so!” No, but she should be theocratic, which means she would co-operate to make the project succeed for the family’s good.
PARENTS AND CHILDREN
18. What counsel governs the parent-child relationship?
18 Jehovah does not overlook children in the family circle. They come under parental control, yet they are not to be abused or irritated. God’s Word gives this two-way injunction: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” Children of dedicated parents, if you want to live long on the earth, forever in the new world, you must give heed to the “discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah” your parents offer. Parents, give this discipline and advice in a firm and loving way, not in a manner that irritates or exasperates.—Eph. 6:1-4, NW.
19. How will youths view adults, and adults their children?
19 Years ago youth entertained respect for age, but in these last days of critical times and widespread delinquency youth in general seem to have replaced respect with contempt, looking down on older persons as old fogies trailing far behind the times. But theocratic youths will remember that there is a wisdom and a maturity of judgment that come only with age, with years of study and experience. They will not be like the delinquents of Elisha’s day who taunted and mocked that prophet of God as an old “baldhead” and who came to grief as a consequence. Instead, they remember: “With aged men is wisdom, and in length of days understanding.” (Job 12:12; 2 Ki. 2:23, 24, AS) On the other hand, parents will not view their children as a burden, as something to be relieved of at every opportunity. They will not think they should be seen and never heard. They need to be allowed to develop as talkers, instructed to speak the praises of Jehovah God. Jehovah has a place for them in his service, has arranged for his organization to recognize them in congregational affairs such as the ministry school, and has commanded parents to be constantly alert to teach them Bible truth. Parents will look after their own children at home, at the meetings and in Kingdom service, though others may assist at times. Adults will deal with youngsters in the same understanding way that Jehovah does with his earthly children, and youths should show the same dutiful obedience to dedicated adults that approved men accord the heavenly Father.
20. What general counsel is offered?
20 Family members should always show respect for one another, not humiliating others but allowing them a measure of dignity. When necessary to correct, do it in the way you would appreciate being corrected. Would you want to be bluntly rebuked publicly, before your friends? Do not do it to your marriage partner. Would you like to be badgered over every trivial trespass? Do not thus irritate your children. As parents, when you correct your children do you always corroborate each other or issue contradictory correction? Make allowances for individual temperaments, changing moods, upset mental states. When an emotional storm seems to be brewing, remember patience and self-control. The time to stop quarrels is before they start. It is easier. Instead of knowing when to stop, know enough not to start. The husband should be man enough to overlook minor irritations, and the wife should never let complaints reach the deplorable stage of nagging. A wife that nags is more of a hindrance than a helpmate, and the Bible likens her persistent patter of cranky words to dripping rain: “A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.” “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a contentious woman are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in his right hand.” Be reasonable, logical, consistent, easily placated, quick to forgive and ready to commend when things are well done.—Prov. 19:13; 27:15, 16, RS.
21, 22. What guides are better than rules, and which one in particular?
21 In short, show love and mercy, do not take yourself too seriously, have a sense of humor, and you not only can keep molehills from becoming mountains but can reduce mountains to molehills. Many rules could be given, but to give enough rules to cover all cases would be to compile a voluminous talmud. That is not our purpose. It is not necessary. It would fail. Rather than needing talmudlike rules to follow, we need to inculcate principles to guide. In the matter of family unity, primarily one principle, that of love: Loving others as you love yourself; being as kind and considerate of others as you are of yourself; overlooking their weaknesses as readily as you do your own. Our many faults and sins make it hard for others, just as theirs make it hard for us, but the Bible says: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Love does not keep count of the injuries, of the sins and shortcomings, but covers them over, though they be multitudinous. Do you have such a love for others to cover their sins as you do for yourself to hide your own? Does such a love prevail in your family?—1 Pet. 4:8, NW.
22 See if your love matches this description: “Love is long-suffering and obliging. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Nor will any marriage based on that kind of love fail! Of course, both partners being imperfect both will fall short in many ways, but there is no breach this kind of love cannot bridge!—1 Cor. 13:4-8, NW.
23. What shows love’s power for uniting?
23 Above all, a common love for Jehovah will unite families. It is now uniting hundreds of thousands of persons from many nations, races, colors, languages, social differences and cultural backgrounds. Its amazing power to do this dumfounds this old world, whose history of political intrigues and gory wars shouts its miserable failure. Is it not much easier to unite a family, with so few members and so few minor differences? Certainly, and so if love for Jehovah unites thousands upon thousands from many nations and races it would not be hard for this common love for the Creator to preserve unbroken the family circle. It is doing this for tens of thousands of families in many lands, welding family groups together by their discussing God’s Word, studying it together, attending congregational meetings as a group, and worshiping together in field service. Devotion to Jehovah cements them in a firm unity and harmony. Theocratic conduct within the family circle keeps that circle unbroken, which conduct is outlined for all, as follows:
24 “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. Also let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body. And show yourselves thankful. Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom. Keep on teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs with graciousness, singing in your hearts to Jehovah. And whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him. You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord. You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them. You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord. You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted. Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance. You are slaves to the Master Christ.”—Col. 3:13-21, 23, 24, NW.
25 So apply this practical counsel for forgiveness, peace, love, spirituality, subjection, obedience and forbearance in the family circle. And if it becomes difficult at times—and it will—work at it whole-souled as something done for Jehovah. If it is done as to him you will receive a reward from him, if not from appreciative family members.