‘Unless Jehovah Builds the House . . .’
NO MATTER where you live, there is some place that, for you, is home. Styles of dwellings and construction methods vary greatly. Mud-and-wattle huts, log cabins, prefabricated concrete houses—the list seems endless. Some feel just as much at home in a grass hut as others do in more substantial abodes. Why is this so?
Feeling at ease, being content, depends largely on the company one keeps. (Proverbs 18:24) In spite of all the glitter and glamour the world has to offer, home is where one instinctively wants to turn for peace and solace. Yet, judging by reports about modern-day homelife, there is no guarantee that one will always find peace and solace at home. To a great extent, those who live with you—your family—can either share your peace or mar it. What, then, is the secret of building a happy, peaceful home?
Building the House
“Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it,” says the first verse of Psalm 127. Those who share in constructing buildings for the worship of the true God, Jehovah, find this to be true. Though skilled workers volunteer their time and efforts for the quick erection of fine Kingdom Halls, it is Jehovah’s blessing that guarantees success. Even onlookers can often see that something extraordinary is at work. For example, a magazine reporting on one such project in Colchester, England, used the title “Jehovah Raises the Roof.”
However, success in endeavors other than literal building projects also depends upon Jehovah’s blessing. Consider Solomon’s words in the third verse of Psalm 127: “Look! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.” Jehovah is also a Builder par excellence when it comes to families, and parents have the wonderful privilege of being his fellow workers, or colaborers.* (Hebrews 11:10) How can Christian parents take advantage of this privileged partnership and successfully build a happy, peaceful family, one that brings honor to the Creator, Jehovah God?
An essential element in successful construction is a sound architectural plan, or blueprint. For building young praisers of God, there is no better blueprint than his inspired Word, the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it,” wrote Solomon. (Proverbs 22:6) “The way for him” is Jehovah’s way, and when parents follow it, they offer their youngsters the prospect of developing into faithful servants of God.
A sound building requires sound building material. One African visitor to Europe found it difficult to believe that some of the buildings he saw were hundreds of years old. It was a revelation to him to see the durable materials used in these buildings. On the other hand, when builders skimp on materials, the results frequently prove disastrous, even fatal. This can also be true in bringing up children.
At conception, children receive a genetic legacy characterized by imperfection due to sin. (Psalm 51:5) In other words, they are flawed right from the start. Christian parents must counteract this by endeavoring to build enduring, godly qualities into their offspring. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) Unless this is done, no matter how hard the parents work in other areas, such as in providing their sons and daughters with the best of food, clothing, and shelter, their building efforts will be to no avail.
That is why the divine admonition to parents, especially fathers, is: “Go on bringing them [children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) The discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah involve the best blueprints and building materials. Using them will result in everlasting benefits for the entire family.
In spite of the best-laid plans, there are always unexpected crises during the course of any construction. Similarly, parents must learn to anticipate unexpected problems in the day-to-day life of family members and be prepared to deal with them. How can this be done?
Good communication between the two parents is vital. When father and mother prayerfully discuss the young ones’ progress together, they will find some areas where commendation is due and others where more “building” is needed. Once such weaknesses are identified, the parents can act together and take appropriate steps to deal with them.
But perhaps you have a large family, and you may wonder: ‘How can we tailor our efforts to the individual needs of our many children?’ Why not give on-the-job training so that your children can help one another? Apprentices serve for years in learning skills alongside master craftsmen. Perhaps at your family study, you can try asking your teenage children to explain certain matters to the younger ones. Honesty, choice of friends, resisting bad influences in school, and so on, are topics that both the older and the younger children can relate to very well. By assigning the older children such real-life projects, you can help train them to develop their perceptive powers and teaching ability while teaching the younger ones what they need to know. (Hebrews 5:14) This has the added benefit of cultivating a true kinship among siblings.
Perhaps your family is small, with only one child. Then, you have many opportunities to get to know and understand your youngster. Be aware, however, of the danger of spoiling your child by making him too much the center of attention. There are three of you, are there not? So do things together. This will teach him to communicate with others and turn his attention outward, thus preventing him from becoming self-centered.
Aim for Family Togetherness
There is, of course, much more to building a family than conducting a Bible study and giving counsel and discipline. Solomon said: “With a man there is nothing better than that he should eat and indeed drink and cause his soul to see good because of his hard work.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) No doubt your family enjoys its food when it is tastily prepared. Do you arrange to take your meals together as a family? This may not always be possible when different family members are away at work, at school, or on other business. Usually, though, there is at least one meal a day you can eat together as a family. What can contribute to a wholesome atmosphere at the family table?
One brother uses the occasion to raise a Bible question for all present to discuss. Of course, he avoids embarrassing those who may not know the answer. Others relate field ministry experiences. By paying attention to spiritual matters, mealtimes become occasions for building up the whole family. (See Romans 14:19.) True, in some parts of the world, it is not the custom to converse much during the meal. Yet, a conscious effort to maintain a happy atmosphere is vital. Proverbs 15:17 says: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.”
Relaxation and a change of pace also have their place in Christian family life. Wise parents use such occasions to build a strong theocratic family unit. How?
While it is easy to let the young ones go off and pursue their own interests, there is danger in this. For example, how unwise it can be to allow youngsters to become so heavily involved in sports that there is threat to life or limb! (1 Timothy 4:8) To the extent possible, choose activities that involve every member of the family. Father can solicit their opinions and ideas and assign each one something to do in preparation.
Can you as a family widen out in your love and invite other members of the congregation to share your family joys? Older members of the congregation often enjoy sharing the family spirit, especially when their own families are not around or do not live according to Christian principles. (James 1:27) In many congregations, there are single-parent families. With due consideration to theocratic headship and with respect for Christian propriety, elders and others can offer spiritual shelter to members of such families. (Isaiah 32:1) Many a “fatherless boy” has blossomed into a balanced family head as a result of the loving interest shown by a mature Christian adult.—Psalm 82:3.
Building a Christian household is hard work. But with Jehovah’s help, you will truly come to appreciate that “sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.” (Psalm 127:1, 3) They can be a source of praise not only to the Christian parents but also to their Creator, Jehovah God.
Actually, the Hebrew words for “builders” (Ps 127 verse 1) and “sons” (Ps 127 verse 3) are both thought to come from the root meaning “to build.” Furthermore, in Hebrew the word “house” can refer to either a “dwelling place” or a “family.” (2 Samuel 7:11, 16; Micah 1:5) Thus, building a house is linked with raising a family. Jehovah’s blessing is essential in both undertakings.