Applying God’s Word in Our Own Families
“Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths.”—Ps. 25:4.
1, 2. (a) What attitude do many people have toward problems that confront them? (b) How can we make a personal application of the Bible’s solution?
MANY people talk about the problems in the world, the crime, the rising cost of living, the pollution. But then they say, “There is nothing we can do about it, is there?” Some feel the same regarding their own families, saying, “We just can’t get the children to listen. We don’t seem to understand one another. They insist on having their own way, so what can we do?”
2 Since the Bible shows that God’s kingdom offers a realistic solution to the problems confronting mankind today, should we not also expect to find in the Bible the solution to family problems and some guidelines to bring families closer together? Accepting God’s will is not just a matter of looking to the Kingdom to solve the big problems in the earth, but it also includes applying Bible principles in our homes and with our families. If we are to pray sincerely for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth, then we should ask, What am I doing about seeing that his will is done on earth now, in my own home? Each one can contribute to this: the father, the mother and the children, for each one has a place in God’s arrangement.
3. Who has the basic responsibility for family instruction, and how should it be exercised?
3 Although many families depend on the schools or churches to instruct and train their children, the basic God-assigned responsibility rests with the parents. Certainly the parents are in the best position to be effective in developing family attitudes and conduct. The Scriptures counsel the father to take the lead in the family, supplying headship and direction in all things. Is that the way it is with your family? Do you fathers really supervise and direct family activities? Of course, this headship should not be arbitrary or oppressive, but should be administered with love, in harmony with 1 Corinthians 11:3, which shows that “the head of every man is the Christ.” Thus the father who properly applies God’s Word recognizes that his headship must be administered in a way that would be pleasing to Christ and in harmony with his teachings. This would include following Jesus’ advice to put Kingdom interests or spiritual matters first.
4. (a) How do the Scriptures emphasize that the father should take the lead in spiritual matters? (b) What do his responsibilities include?
4 In our modern world the man in the family may be busily engaged in providing necessary material things for his family. But he is making a mistake if he says, as many do, “Oh, I leave religious things to my wife.” God has given the man the assignment to provide spiritually for his family, taking the lead in this as in other things. Thus Psalm 78:5, 6 says: “And he proceeded to raise up a reminder in Jacob, and a law he set in Israel, things that he commanded our forefathers, to make them known to their sons; in order that the generation to come, the sons that were to be born, might know them, that they might rise up and relate them to their sons.” Here the emphasis is on the men as family heads and on their responsibility to pass spiritual instruction on to their sons. The man ought to take the lead in the spiritual instruction of his wife and children and also engage in personal study for his own spiritual health. His responsibilities toward his family include teaching them the Bible, training the children in how to do things, disciplining them when it is necessary, providing material needs, and arranging appropriate recreation.—Phil. 4:8, 9.
5. What are some ways in which a wife can contribute to family happiness?
5 A Christian wife can take a supporting role in the family, making a valuable contribution as a helper to her husband when he gives the proper lead. She should show love and respect for her husband, regardless of his religious outlook. She also has the responsibility to see that the home is well cared for, following the fine example of the good wife of Proverbs 31:10-31. She should be concerned with applying God’s Word in her life, as well as helping her children to do so. A Christian mother will find special joy in assisting in the instruction of her young children in an appreciation of the Creator and the many things he has provided.
6. How can children honor their father and mother?
6 Children too can contribute greatly to a happy family life by their application of God’s Word. Have you children thought of that? It is true, for Proverbs 15:20 says: “A wise son is the one that makes a father rejoice.” As Ephesians 6:1-3 counsels: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother . . . that it may go well with you.’” Giving good cooperation to one’s parents is really a part of the assignment of a Christian child. Doing so shows respect not only for one’s parents, but also for the heavenly Father, Jehovah.
7. How does 2 Timothy 3:15 contradict certain religious advice on child training?
7 Since children start learning from the moment they are born, their instruction should start with infancy, as 2 Timothy 3:15 shows. In view of this it seems strange that some religious teachers of Christendom do not encourage early religious training. For example, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported an interview with a nun who said, “Don’t try to teach your child too much about God too soon.” She advised, “Between the two extremes of too much religious training and no religious training, no religious training would be better.” She felt that parents did well just to wait, as far as religious instruction is concerned, until the child is about nine years old.
8. Do the Scriptures encourage teaching spiritual matters to children? Explain.
8 How different the suggestion of this nun is from Jesus’ attitude toward young children. During his ministry when young children were brought to him, his disciples tried to turn them aside, apparently feeling that the children were too young for him to bother with. But Jesus reprimanded them, saying: “Let the young children alone, and stop hindering them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens belongs to suchlike ones.” (Matt. 19:13, 14) Perhaps he remembered his own experience in the temple at the age of twelve years as he talked with the teachers, listening and questioning them. Obviously he had a love for spiritual things during his youth. How wise God’s instruction to Israel was that they should regularly “congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones . . . in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn”! (Deut. 31:12) Later scriptures use such phrases as “believing children” and “obedient children,” indicating that the early Christians also saw the need to instruct their children in the way of Jehovah.—Titus 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:14.
9. What do secular educators say about giving early instruction to children?
9 Secular educators today stress the importance of early training. In 1964 a University of Chicago educator advanced the idea that at least half of all human intelligence is developed by the age of four. This is supported by an article in Newsweek magazine headlined “Never Too Young to Learn.” It stated: “The notion that the human mind is mostly formed by nursery-school age has gained wide acceptance—and is being rapidly translated into educational practice.” At first a child learns by taste, smell and touch, but from two to seven years of age he is able to learn a complex language, even learning to read and to do mathematics.
10. Why is it wise for parents to spend time with young children?
10 The article quotes an educator who has studied mother-child relationships as contending, “The second year can make or break a child’s intellect.” Whether a child is loved or rejected, encouraged or discouraged can greatly affect its attitude and intellectual progress. It has also been noted that the person closest to the children, whether a parent, grandparent or someone else, may have the greatest impact on the child’s learning process, as children naturally become attached to and imitate those who are closest to them. So, mothers, do you devote sufficient time to your children from infancy? Have you asked Jehovah to help to direct you in the instruction of your child as Manoah did?—Judg. 13:8.
11. How can the example of Lazarus’ sister Mary be helpful to women today?
11 Women today not only have many things to do in their homes, but often find it necessary to help to provide support for their families. This makes it especially important for them to find time for the spiritual interests of the family, not letting other things crowd these out. This difficulty in getting a good balance between the necessary physical things of life and the spiritual matters came up on an occasion when Jesus visited the home of the sisters of Lazarus. Martha was distracted with attending to the household duties and wanted her sister Mary to help her, but Jesus said: “Mary chose the good portion [concentrating on spiritual things], and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) Which do you consider as most important in your home?
12. How can a fine relationship be established between parents and children?
12 While there is a time and a place for everything, the common tendency is to neglect spiritual matters. However, even a little time scheduled regularly for personal study or instruction of children can be most beneficial. Parents can also take good advantage of their opportunities to teach their children how to work and to gain skills that will be helpful to them later. Even the simplest thing done in company with a parent helps the child to build a fine relationship and respect for the family arrangement. But, most of all, when parents make an earnest effort to instill in their children the love of Jehovah and his Word, a lasting impression will be made that will serve as a true guide for later life.—Deut. 6:5-9.
A PRIMARY GOAL OF FAMILY TRAINING—REAL CHRISTIANS
13. What program should a Christian family have? Why?
13 For either parents or children to apply God’s Word in their lives, they have to know it first. Just as the congregations have a program for Bible study, so each family should have a program with the goal in view of helping each one to be a real Christian. Many families, though loving and close-knit, lack this essential goal. True Christians should be interested in training their families with everlasting life in view. As 1 Timothy 4:8 says, this spiritual training is what is truly beneficial, “as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” If children are to be trained up to Christian maturity, the parents must see to it that they are thoroughly convinced of the wisdom of the Bible, rather than letting their minds be filled with the viewpoint of this present system of things.—1 John 2:15-17.
14, 15. (a) What does Matthew 4:4 show about the need for spiritual food? (b) As to the arrangements for a family study, what will be helpful in teaching children? (c) What are some things that might be considered in a family study?
14 In any study regularity is important. In view of Jesus’ observation that “man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth,” it follows that it is vital that we partake just as regularly of spiritual food as we do of physical food. (Matt. 4:4) Parents who have such a program to provide spiritually for their families have observed that it is good to keep such a family study flexible and adaptable to the current needs and interests of the family, and this depends, in part, on the age of the children involved. Usually the first thing on the list is a schedule of Bible reading. This could be especially selected to hold the interest of the children. It is good not just to read to cover material, but also to get comments to be sure the children understand it and can apply it.
15 Most families find it good to adapt the length of the study time according to the age of the children, as it is difficult to hold the attention of little ones effectively for any long period of time without a change of pace. The time for such family study depends on what is convenient and best for the family—some enjoy doing it in the morning when they are fresh, others in the evening when all are at home. Many parents have noted the importance of getting the Bible viewpoint across to their children at an early age and repeating it to impress it indelibly on the minds of their children. A varied study program can be helpful too, offering help in preparing talks or for the field service, discussing questions that arise and forearming the children for problems that they will face.
16. (a) How can the thinking of a child help parents to decide what to study with them? (b) What are some subjects that parents do well to discuss with their children?
16 It is always important for parents to know what their children are thinking about. It does little good to study about the resurrection or the “Trinity” if the minds of the children are focused on clothing styles, dancing or dating. For older children, subjects such as improper use of drugs, what constitutes right Christian conduct, how to keep a good conscience or the effects of clothing fads have been found very helpful when discussed as a family, which enables all to get the Scriptural as well as the parental viewpoint.
17. How can parents help their children to get the right viewpoint on the really important things in life?
17 A big responsibility for parents is to set the right goals before their children. With modern society geared to a materialistic outlook, the children can quickly become enflamed with a love for money and material things unless the parents give them a balanced view on what is really important. But if parents are always drawing attention to material possessions, perhaps themselves expressing a craving for a car or a stereo set, as though these were the big things in life, the children will be affected accordingly. Yet, knowing and following the Bible and putting Kingdom interests first can bring more happiness than material possessions ever could.
PROBLEMS IN SPIRITUALLY DIVIDED FAMILIES
18. (a) What principles need to be remembered in a family where the husband is not a believer? (b) What obligations does his wife have to reconcile?
18 While it is especially difficult to achieve an effective application of God’s Word in a family that is divided religiously, it can often be done. It should be remembered that neither Jehovah nor his Word changes despite our personal circumstances. (Jas. 1:17) Thus family headship remains with the man whether he accepts the headship of Christ or not. However, the children may lose the rich spiritual benefits that could come to them from a father who would bring them up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah,” unless their mother can help them in this regard. (Eph. 6:4) But what can a believing wife do if her husband instructs her not to take their children to Christian meetings? The woman in this situation faces a number of obligations—obligations to Jehovah God, to her husbandly head, and to her beloved children. How can she reconcile Acts 5:29 (to obey God rather than men) with 1 Corinthians 11:3 (that the head of the woman is the man)? She must make the final decision. Her husband’s viewpoint may change. Tactful reasoning over a period of time may help as she shows him the importance of helping their children to follow the fine Scriptural guide rather than the example of many of today’s youths.
19. What might a believing wife do to help her children spiritually?
19 Certainly she should pray about the matter and try to help her children to know Jehovah. She can do much both by word and by example to provide them with fine home training. Even if a formal Bible study may not be possible, yet by daily conversation she can inculcate a strong love for Jehovah and faith in his Word. In the case of young Timothy, the training given by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois got him going on the way to life. (2 Tim. 1:5) According to what he says, it seems also that ancient King Lemuel gained much of his faith and instruction from his mother, for Proverbs 31:1 refers to “the weighty message that his mother gave to him in correction.” Furthermore, a discreet mother in a divided home can give much encouragement to her children spiritually by inviting other Witness friends of the family to visit, with a view to helping those who are unbelieving.
20. How can the application of God’s Word help a divided family?
20 However, regardless of the circumstances in the family, the application of God’s Word should have a positive, upbuilding effect, even in a divided family. As 2 Timothy 2:24-26 shows, our attitude toward the unbeliever should be loving and patient, not antagonistic, as “a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all . . . instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed,” that perhaps they will come to an accurate knowledge of the truth. Tactful conversations on the truth, sharing experiences and information from meetings and publications can be helpful in turning a divided household into a united family. (1 Cor. 7:12, 16; 1 Pet. 3:1-4) Even though Jesus foresaw that the good news would cause divisions in many families, it should never be due to the attitude or conduct of the faithful believer.—Matt. 10:35, 36.
21. How especially can parents help their children to see the importance of Bible counsel?
21 Even though only one parent applies God’s Word in his life, this may well be decisive in aiding the children to follow Jehovah’s way. And where both parents carefully follow what the Bible teaches, nothing will better convince the children of the importance of Bible principles. The challenge is great for each of us to apply God’s Word in our lives, whether we are young or old, especially in the face of increasing pressure and opposition from this present world system. (Rev. 12:17; Matt. 24:9) By not only studying but actually applying God’s Word in our families, we will be showing our desire to follow the wise counsel of Proverbs 4:10-13, as it says: “Hear, my son, and accept my sayings. Then for you the years of life will become many. I will instruct you even in the way of wisdom; I will cause you to tread in the tracks of uprightness. When you walk, your pace will not be cramped; and if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold on discipline; do not let go. Safeguard it, for it itself is your life.”
22. In what ways does the application of God’s Word bring benefits?
22 Families who diligently and sincerely try to apply God’s Word in their lives will find that they receive a rich blessing for doing things in His way. They will enjoy greater spirituality due to a study of His Word and find greater joy and satisfaction from their activities in the field service and in the congregation of Jehovah’s people due to their being better prepared for such privileges. (Gal. 6:7) They will also enjoy greater happiness and unity within the family arrangement due to the application of the fruits of God’s spirit in their family life and the fine lead set by the parents and older members of the family. The result will be greater cooperation from the children. They will develop a mental attitude that safeguards them from the perils of this old system, and, as they grow older, they will have theocratic goals in view. If this is what you want for your family, then keep applying God’s Word on every occasion. That it really works, we will see in the true-life experiences in the following article.
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Appreciation of spiritual values can be taught from an early age
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Doing things together strengthens family ties