Lasting Gain from Living by the Bible as a Family
1. What evidence is there that millions of families are having serious problems?
TODAY we can see evidence all around us that millions of men, women and children are having serious problems in living together as family groups. In many lands, separations, divorces and broken homes are increasing at an alarming rate. Though still living in the same house or apartment, a considerable number of married people do little more than tolerate their mates. Husbands, wives and children often have very little in common, each family member going his or her own separate way. Is it not obvious, therefore, that people everywhere are in great need of a dependable guide?
2. What is one of the Bible’s main objectives?
2 A main objective of the Bible is to provide guidelines for life that will lastingly benefit all who follow them. There is no aspect of living wherein the Bible’s counsel cannot be applied with real benefit. “All Scripture is . . . beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
3. Why can we say that what the Bible sets forth for our guidance is realistic?
3 What the Bible sets forth for our guidance is very realistic. It does not leave us with the thought that those trying to follow its admonition will have no problems. No, the Bible frankly acknowledges that there will be problems. But it does not leave matters there, simply recommending that we accept things as they are and not get upset about them. The Bible shows what we can do in a positive way to cope with problems and enjoy good relations with fellow humans, including our own families.
THE BIBLE’S STANDARD FOR MARRIAGE
4. Who is the originator of marriage, and what was his purpose respecting the arrangement?
4 From the very first book of the Bible we learn that Jehovah God is the Originator of marriage. (Gen. 2:22-24) Being a God of love, he purposed that marriage contribute to the happiness of both husband and wife as well as provide a stable arrangement for raising children. Marriage was to be a permanent union, as is evident from what Jesus Christ said to certain Pharisees who questioned him on the matter of divorce: “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. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matt. 19:4-6) Obviously, respect for this original standard could have prevented many of the emotional problems and hurts resulting from divorces and broken homes.
5. Why did the law that God gave to the Israelites tolerate polygamy, as well as divorce for reasons other than marital unfaithfulness?
5 The fact that Jehovah God tolerated polygamy and divorce for reasons other than marital unfaithfulness among the Israelites did not mean that he had abandoned his original standard for marriage. By the time the law was given through Moses, polygamy and divorce had become established practices. Knowing the inclinations of the Israelites, Jehovah God wisely laid down such commands as would best deter abuses under the then-existing circumstances. Jesus Christ pointed this out when he said: “Moses, out of regard for your hardheartedness, made the concession to you of divorcing your wives, but such has not been the case from the beginning.”—Matt. 19:8.
6. How did Jesus’ disciples react to the reestablishment of the original standard for marriage, and why?
6 Jesus Christ’s words indicated, however, that God’s original standard for marriage would apply to his Christian followers. How did his disciples react? Did they fully appreciate that this was the best arrangement? What they said indicates that they did not have a truly balanced view of the matter. They reasoned: “If such is the situation of a man with his wife, it is not advisable to marry.” (Matt. 19:10) The disciples were aware of the problems in marriage that could result due to human imperfection. So they felt that singleness would be better than risking the possibility of being permanently united in marriage to someone with whom it would be very hard to get along. Jesus Christ, however, when recommending singleness, did not condemn marriage.—Matt. 19:11, 12.
7. Why is it right to take a very serious view of marriage?
7 Of course, Jesus’ disciples were not wrong in taking a serious view of the original standard for marriage. Marriage among imperfect humans has negative features that cannot be ignored. The Bible frankly tells those deciding to marry that they will have “tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Cor. 7:28) Marriage brings with it serious responsibilities, anxieties and cares. (1 Cor. 7:32-35) Accidents and sickness, for example, can bring tremendous burdens and stresses on a family.
8. What should a Scriptural view about the seriousness of marriage enable a prospective husband or wife to do, and what sad consequences may thereby be avoided?
8 One who is guided by the Bible, therefore, will realize that marriage is something for which a man or woman should be prepared mentally and emotionally. Those contemplating marriage should give serious consideration to their ability to be good husbands and fathers, and good wives and mothers. They should try to determine beforehand the main weaknesses of the person they wish to marry and whether they can cope with these in a loving and understanding way for a lifetime. They should ask themselves whether they are really willing to make personal sacrifices and to do everything within their power to contribute to their prospective mate’s happiness. Many men and women could have spared themselves and their mates untold pain and grief had they taken seriously what the Bible says married people should expect. Instead of rushing into something for which they were unprepared, they could have waited until such time as they were equipped to assume marriage responsibilities and had the discernment needed to select a lifelong mate. Such a course would have brought them lasting gain indeed.
9. What does the Bible say as to the possibility of imperfect humans’ finding happiness in marriage?
9 The Bible’s consideration of these negative aspects, however, does not mean that among imperfect humans there can be no happy marriages. To the contrary, the Scriptures reveal that a good wife, for example, is a real treasure and a great blessing to her husband. We read: “Has one found a good wife? One has found a good thing, and one gets goodwill from Jehovah.” (Prov. 18:22) “A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals.” (Prov. 31:10) The Bible also gives the following encouragement to a husband: “Rejoice with the wife of your youth.” (Prov. 5:18) Despite imperfections, married people, especially when they strive to apply Bible principles, can find contentment, satisfaction and joy in their relationship.
THE HUSBAND’S ROLE
10. What is involved in a husband’s exercising headship in imitation of Jesus Christ?
10 The Scriptures encourage husbands to imitate the perfect example of Jesus Christ in their exercise of headship. A husband’s headship does not entitle him to dominate his wife, putting her in a low, degraded position. Instead, it places upon him the responsibility of being self-sacrificing in his love, putting his wife’s welfare and interests ahead of his personal desires. “Husbands,” wrote the inspired apostle Paul, “continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25) Christ Jesus’ exercise of headship over the congregation is by no means cruel or tyrannical. His self-sacrificing love, coupled with his confidence and trust in the members of the congregation, in effect, “compels” them to respond with like love, doing their utmost to please him.—2 Cor. 5:14, 15; compare 1 John 5:2, 3.
11. How can husbands demonstrate that they love their wives as their own bodies?
11 Illustrating the nature of the love that husbands should demonstrate for their wives, the apostle Paul continued: “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.” (Eph. 5:28, 29) Husbands generally do not downgrade their own accomplishments, make themselves appear incompetent, subject their bodies to cruel treatment, and disregard their need for rest and refreshment. They do not want to have the reputation of being “good-for-nothings,” but desire a dignified standing in the eyes of others. Applying the Bible’s counsel would therefore mean according their wives the same kind of dignity and consideration that they want for themselves.
12. What is needed for a husband to be able to ‘assign honor to his wife as to a weaker vessel’?
12 If a husband is going to love his wife as he does himself, he must really know her. This is exactly what the Bible commands husbands: “Continue dwelling . . . with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Pet. 3:7) When a husband knows his wife’s feelings and her limitations—physical, emotional and otherwise—he can treat her considerately, as a precious vessel. If a wife is to feel that she has an honorable position in the home, the husband must be willing to discuss family matters with her in a calm and reasonable way, getting her thoughts and ideas. The wife should feel free to express herself and have the assurance that what she says in discussing serious matters will not be lightly dismissed but be given due consideration. Furthermore, a husband must be alert to take note of more than just the spoken word. Deep inner feelings can be revealed by the tone of voice, facial expressions or by lack of enthusiasm or spontaneity. A husband who has come to know his wife will not ignore such things and blindly go ahead with something that might give rise to needless irritation.
13. When should a husband remain firm despite emotional displays on the part of his wife, and how may this be beneficial?
13 Of course, as head of the family, a husband would not give in to his wife when he definitely knows that the interests of the family as a whole would be injured thereby. He recognizes that he is Scripturally obligated to uphold what is right despite his wife’s emotional displays. Were he to comply with her wishes against his better judgment, he would be dishonoring God, who has entrusted him with the position of family head. (1 Cor. 11:3) And if matters thereafter led to difficulty for the family, this could embitter him toward his wife. On the other hand, his remaining firm for what he definitely believes to be the right course will be to the family’s benefit. When his wife later sees the wisdom of the decision made, she will be glad that her husband remained firm. This will contribute toward enhancing her respect for him and make her less inclined to use feminine influence in order to sway her husband to do things her way.
THE WIFE’S ROLE
14. What is the Scriptural role of a wife?
14 Regarding the role of wives, the Bible states: “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. And . . . [let your adornment be] the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit.”—1 Pet. 3:1-4.
15. How might a wife show her subjection, and what benefits may she reap thereby?
15 A wife seeking to comply with this Scriptural counsel will consult her husband on vital matters—major purchases, employment offers and the like—before acting on them. She will strive to know his mind on things and handle family affairs in a way that she knows will be agreeable with him. By doing this, she will gain much. Her husband will not feel any need to lay down rules for her in an attempt to control unwise actions. She will have his confidence and trust, permitting her to use her capabilities and initiative to the full in caring for the family.—Prov. 31:11-31.
16. What benefits may come to a wife who heeds the Bible’s counsel despite her husband’s disregard for it?
16 Wifely subjection may not always be easy, especially if the husband is inconsiderate, unreasonable and even shirks responsibility. One thing is certain, however; the situation will not get better if the wife tries to assume headship, constantly nags or criticizes her husband and expects him to do things far beyond his capabilities. (Prov. 21:9, 19; 27:15, 16) Rather than “blowing up” over some neglect of his, a wife will have far better results by trying to encourage her husband and maintaining calmness and an even temper under trying circumstances. Her “quiet and mild spirit” may be just what is needed to cause him to think seriously about the way he is handling himself and to start making changes in his life. Even though progress may be very slow, a wife who applies the Bible’s counsel gains. She avoids the tremendous emotional stress, bitterness and unpleasantness to which open confrontations with her husband would lead.—Prov. 14:29, 30; 1 Pet. 3:10, 11.
17. Why is it wise for a wife not to make a big issue about her husband’s mistakes in judgment?
17 Similarly, whenever a husband makes wrong decisions, little is gained by a wife who makes a big issue of this. Humans are prone to defend themselves even when they are wrong. So if a wife makes a major case out of her husband’s having used poor judgment, she may get the very opposite reaction to what she is seeking. He may become more determined to disregard what she says in order to prove to her that he does not need her advice. On the other hand, if her reaction reflects an understanding of the fact that we imperfect humans cannot altogether avoid mistakes in judgment, he may be far more inclined to give consideration to her thoughts the next time. (Jas. 3:2) His pride would not then be so intimately involved in the matter.
18. How does the extent to which parents apply or ignore Bible counsel affect the children?
18 The extent to which parents apply or ignore the Bible’s counsel in fulfilling their respective roles affects children either for good or for bad. If a wife undermines the God-given authority of her husband, the children may in time show little respect for the parents. They may play one parent against the other in attempts to get what they want. However, when a wife builds up the children’s appreciation for her husband’s judgment by word and example, they come to appreciate the benefits of approaching their father for advice and counsel. (Prov. 12:4) His openness in admitting mistakes and his willingness to take into consideration the family’s suggestions and feelings can do much toward creating a warm family spirit. When there are clear indications that he values his wife’s judgment, the children will also come to respect and appreciate their mother’s admonition. (Prov. 6:20-23; 31:28, 29) Yes, the warm, loving and respectful relationship between husband and wife that the Bible encourages draws the family together and makes children receptive to their parents’ instruction.
19. Why is the proper training of children no easy task?
19 Proper training of children is definitely not an easy task. Very early in life children manifest such bad traits as stubbornness, rebelliousness and selfishness. Parents must be alert to note wrong inclinations and then take appropriate disciplinary measures to correct their children, doing so patiently. (Prov. 22:15; 29:15) They must also be able to discern problems that could arise from things that in themselves may not appear to be wrong. Often it is a matter of parents’ being able to see when a certain course is no longer wholesome.
20. Why is isolationism a danger to be avoided?
20 For example, there is a difference between privacy and isolationism. A certain amount of privacy is beneficial for thoughtful meditation, constructive thinking and planning. But isolationism is dangerous, as it deprives one of the balancing effect of others’ thinking, experience and judgment. It may cause one to become self-centered and blind to the needs and feelings of others. Just seeing himself, the isolationist may pity himself or become opinionated, callous and rude. “One isolating himself,” says a Bible proverb, “will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.”—Prov. 18:1.
21. What might parents do to help their children to avoid isolating themselves?
21 Children who have a tendency to isolate themselves must be made to feel that they are wanted and appreciated members of the family, that their thoughts, emotions and experiences are important to their parents. In the example set by their parents they need to see positive proof that real happiness comes from giving of oneself in behalf of others. (Acts 20:35) Parents can provide such proof, not only by expressing genuine concern and sympathy for persons in need, but also by doing what they can to be of help. It may simply be a matter of doing shopping, cleaning or other chores for elderly, infirm or handicapped persons. At a very early age a child can be taught to share in such activity. This can do much to get the child to recognize the importance of showing concern for the welfare of other people.
22. How might children isolate themselves from adults, and what effect may this well have on them?
22 Parents must also watch that they do not encourage or allow their sons and daughters to isolate themselves with their own entertainment, friends, ideas or imaginations. A family needs to do things together in order to maintain good communication. Parents have to be on guard that they do not simply appear to do things as a family. Perhaps when visitors come to the home or the family visits elsewhere, the children as a regular matter of course withdraw themselves from the company of adults and keep away during the entire visit. They may even be told to do so. If children thus end up associating only with those of their own age group, how can they possibly develop appreciation for the wisdom that comes with age and experience? (Prov. 1:20, 21; 8:1-11) How can they learn to carry on meaningful conversation with adults and understand the aspirations, concerns, feelings and needs of older people? (Lev. 19:32) Will they not become narrow in their viewpoints, looking at matters only through the eyes of inexperienced youth? At the same time, will not parents likewise become narrow in their outlook, unaware of the thinking of their children? Will they not have a generation gap in their home?
23. How might parents fail to find out the real thinking and feelings of their children?
23 In other ways too parents may fail to determine the real feelings and thinking of their children and thereby lose touch with them. How might this happen? Absorbed in the pursuit of personal goals, parents may not take the time to listen to their children and to take note of their reactions. (Compare Proverbs 27:23.) They may ask their children about how things are going at school or how they regard smoking, taking drugs for thrills, conduct with the opposite sex, and so forth. While perhaps sensing that they do not have the full truth of the matter, parents may content themselves with their children’s brief answers and comments. Because of repeatedly ignoring evidence regarding their children’s deeper feelings as reflected in their tone of voice, facial expressions and extent of enthusiasm or spontaneity, such parents may in time not even notice attitudes and actions indicating that their sons and daughters really do not mean what they say. Parents may think that things are going well with their children, as they are being well provided for materially. In reality, however, the children may be quite discontented and believe that their parents have little interest in their welfare. Clearly, parental neglect of this kind results in a breakdown of vital family communication.
24. What admonition does Ephesians 6:4 give to fathers, and what can happen if it is disregarded?
24 Besides striving hard not to lose touch with their children’s thoughts and feelings, parents need to know how to discipline them. The Bible instructs fathers: “Do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) How might a father’s discipline irritate his children? He may be unreasonable in his commands, needlessly severe or inconsistent. Punishments may be meted out in the heat of anger. Since anger begets anger, the children may build up anger and resentment within themselves toward their father. They may submit to his discipline simply because they are forced to yield to his superior strength. Whenever this happens, the discipline will not really motivate them to do what is right. It may well bring out the worst in them—resentment, bitterness and rebelliousness.
25. What should a father do so that his discipline will affect his children for good?
25 The father who tries to make his children aware of his deep love for them and impresses upon them the value and rightness of a way of life that harmonizes with the Bible will have entirely different results. True, the children may at first not always recognize the rightness of their father’s discipline. But as they think about it afterward, they may come to appreciate it as an expression of a loving father who really cares for them.—Heb. 12:5-11.
26. Why is a father’s spending a reasonable amount of time with his children very important?
26 The administering of discipline is only a small part of a father’s Scriptural responsibility toward his children. He is also under obligation to spend a reasonable amount of time with them so that his example and teaching can counteract the wrong influences to which they are subjected at school and elsewhere. A father who takes this seriously will not think that he has done his full duty if he perhaps conducts a weekly Bible study with his family. He appreciates that bringing up children in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah” is a responsibility to be cared for each day if at all possible.—Deut. 6:6, 7.
27. What is involved in a father’s giving daily instruction to his children?
27 Daily instruction does not mean that a father must constantly be quoting the Scriptures to his children. But he needs to know what the Bible says and convey the spirit of its message to his children. His own attitude, words and actions should be in harmony with the Scriptures. Whenever the children need guidance, he should be able to help them to see things from the Biblical standpoint. In this way, God’s Word will be prominently before the children. A wife can be of great assistance to her husband in providing such vital training.—Prov. 1:8; 6:20; 31:26.
28. What must a wife do if her husband does not follow the counsel of God’s Word?
28 What if a husband does not take God’s Word seriously? What if only the wife appreciates its counsel? In that case the responsibility for bringing children up in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah” rests with the wife. (Compare Proverbs 31:1) This is not an ideal situation, but it is not hopeless. Many women have succeeded in aiding their children to become exemplary servants of Jehovah God.
29. How does the case of Timothy show that a mother can give fine Scriptural training despite the unbelief of her husband?
29 Take the case of Timothy in the first century C.E. Due to the efforts of his mother Eunice and likely also of his grandmother Lois, he came to appreciate the Scriptures. His mother, though it may have been difficult for her on account of her unbelieving husband, started teaching the Scriptures to her son at a very early age. That is why the apostle Paul could say to Timothy: “From infancy you have known the holy writings.” (2 Tim. 3:15) Yes, from his earliest recollections, Timothy never knew of a time when he had not been acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures. That excellent training contributed much toward making him a fine example in young manhood. He was well reported on by all who knew him well. (Acts 16:1, 2) To the congregation at Philippi, the apostle Paul said of Timothy: “I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. . . . you know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.”—Phil. 2:20-22.
30. How should parents feel about training children even if they have only recently come to appreciate the value of the Bible?
30 There can be no question that training children in the way the Bible outlines requires much time and effort. But are not the time spent and the effort put forth well worth it? Is it not rewarding when children prove themselves to be a credit to their parents? Even if parents have failed in the past because of not appreciating the value of the Bible, they may still be able to undo the damage resulting from lack of proper guidance and discipline. The application of the Bible’s principles may even reach the hearts of older children as they see that their parents truly have their best interests at heart.
31. What is required of a person who seeks to live by the Bible, and how is he benefited?
31 Living by the Bible does indeed bring lasting gain. To do so, we must really know what it says and seek to be guided by the spirit of its teaching in all that we do. This is something that cannot be done overnight. It takes continual study of God’s Word and a burning desire to conform to its wise counsel. This, in turn, leads to true happiness, security, contentment and peace. As the Bible book of Proverbs puts it: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for having it as gain is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce than gold itself. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it. Length of days is in its right hand; in its left hand there are riches and glory. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”—Prov. 3:13-18.