The Christian Family Puts Spiritual Things First
“All of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind.”—1 PETER 3:8.
1. What choice do all of us have, and how can our choice affect our future?
HOW well the above text applies in mankind’s oldest institution—the family! And how important it is that the parents display leadership in these respects! Their positive qualities and their negative ones will usually show up in the children. Yet, the element of choice remains with each member of a family. As Christians, we can choose to be spiritual persons or fleshly persons. We can choose to please God or to displease him. That choice can result in either a blessing, everlasting life and peace—or a curse, perpetual death.—Genesis 4:1, 2; Romans 8:5-8; Galatians 5:19-23.
2. (a) How did Peter show his concern for the family? (b) What is spirituality? (See footnote.)
2 The apostle’s words at 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 8, followed immediately after some fine counsel that he had given to wives and husbands. Peter was truly interested in the welfare of Christian families. He knew that strong spirituality is the key to a united, caring household. Thus, he implied in verse 7 that if his counsel to husbands was ignored, the result would be a spiritual barrier between the husband and Jehovah.a The husband’s prayers could be hindered if he neglected the needs of his wife or crushed her with unkindness.
Christ—A Perfect Example of Spirituality
3. How did Paul highlight Christ’s example for husbands?
3 The spirituality of a family depends on good example. When the husband is a practicing Christian, he takes the lead in showing spiritual qualities. If there is no believing husband, the mother usually tries to carry that responsibility. In either case, Jesus Christ provides the perfect model to follow. His conduct, his words, and his thinking were always upbuilding and refreshing. Time and again, the apostle Paul directs the reader to Christ’s loving pattern. For example, he states: “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.”—Ephesians 5:23, 25, 29; Matthew 11:28-30; Colossians 3:19.
4. What example of spirituality did Jesus set?
4 Jesus was the outstanding example of spirituality and headship manifested with love, kindness, and compassion. He was self-sacrificing, not self-indulgent. He always glorified his Father and respected his headship. He took his lead from the Father, so that he could say: “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” “I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.”—John 5:30; 8:28; 1 Corinthians 11:3.
5. In providing for his followers, what example did Jesus set for husbands?
5 What does this mean for husbands? It means that the model they are to follow in all things is Christ, who always subjected himself to his Father. For instance, as Jehovah provided food for all life-forms on earth, so Jesus provided food for his followers. He did not neglect their basic material needs. His miracles of feeding the 5,000 men and the 4,000 are proof of his care and his sense of responsibility. (Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-9) Likewise today, responsible family heads care for the physical needs of their households. But does their responsibility end there?—1 Timothy 5:8.
6. (a) What important family needs must be cared for? (b) How can husbands and fathers show understanding?
6 Families also have other, more important needs, as Jesus pointed out. They have spiritual and emotional needs. (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4) We interact with others, both in the family and in the congregation. We need good guidance to motivate us to be upbuilding. In this regard husbands and fathers have a major role to play—even more so if they are elders or ministerial servants. Single parents need similar qualities when helping their children. Parents must understand not only what is being said by family members but also what is being left unsaid. That requires discernment, time, and patience. It is one reason why Peter could say that husbands should be considerate and dwell with their wives according to knowledge.—1 Timothy 3:4, 5, 12; 1 Peter 3:7.
Dangers to Avoid
7, 8. (a) What is needed if a family is to avoid spiritual shipwreck? (b) What is needed besides a good start in the Christian course? (Matthew 24:13)
7 Why is attention to family spirituality so important? To illustrate, we might ask, Why is it important that a ship’s pilot pay close attention to his charts when guiding a ship through dangerous waters containing shoals? In August 1992 the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) was taken through an area of treacherous sandbars and rocks where navigation errors are said to be common. One local resident commented: “A lot of careers have been lost because of that area.” The QE2 struck an underwater ledge. It turned out to be an expensive mistake. A third of the hull was damaged, and the ship had to be taken out of service for several weeks for repairs.
8 Likewise, if the family “pilot” does not carefully check the chart, God’s Word, his family can easily suffer spiritual harm. For an elder or a ministerial servant, the result may be a loss of privileges within the congregation and perhaps serious damage to other family members. Therefore, each Christian should take care not to be overtaken by spiritual complacency, trusting only in former good study habits and zeal. In our Christian course, it is not enough merely to have started well; the journey must be completed successfully.—1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Timothy 1:19.
9. (a) How important is personal study? (b) What pertinent questions might we ask ourselves?
9 In order to avoid spiritual shoals, rocks, and sandbars, we need to keep up-to-date with our “charts” by a regular study of God’s Word. We cannot rely on just the basic study that brought us into the truth. Our spiritual strength depends on a regular and balanced program of study and service. For example, as we attend the congregation’s Watchtower Study with this very issue in hand, we can ask ourselves, ‘Have I, or have we as a family, really studied this article, looking up the scriptures and meditating on their application? Or have we just underlined the answers? Have we, perhaps, neglected even to read the article before attending the meeting?’ Honest answers to these questions may give food for thought and spark a desire to improve—if that is necessary.—Hebrews 5:12-14.
10. Why is self-scrutiny important?
10 Why is such self-scrutiny important? Because we live in a world dominated by the spirit of Satan, a world that, in many subtle ways, tries to subvert our faith in God and his promises. It is a world that wants to keep us so busy that we have no time to care for spiritual needs. Therefore we might ask ourselves, ‘Is my family spiritually strong? Am I as a parent as strong as I ought to be? Are we as a family cultivating that spiritual force actuating the mind that helps us to make decisions based on righteousness and loyalty?’—Ephesians 4:23, 24.
11. Why are Christian meetings spiritually beneficial? Give an example.
11 Our spirituality should be fortified by every meeting we attend. Those precious hours at the Kingdom Hall or at the Congregation Book Study help to refresh us after the long hours we have to spend trying to survive in Satan’s hostile world. How refreshing, for example, it has been to study the book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived! This has helped us to acquire a better understanding of Jesus, his life, and his ministry. We have carefully read the cited scriptures, done personal research, and thus learned much from the example that Jesus set.—Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21.
12. How does the field ministry test our spirituality?
12 A fine test of our spirituality is the Christian ministry. In order to persevere in our formal and informal witnessing, often in the face of an indifferent or opposed public, we need the right motivation, love of God and love of neighbor. Of course, no one enjoys being rejected, and that can happen in our field ministry. But we should remember that it is the good news that is being rejected, not we as individuals. Jesus said: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. . . . But they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him that sent me.”—John 15:18-21.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
13. How can one person erode the spirituality of a family?
13 What happens in a family if all but one respect the neatness and tidiness of the house? On a rainy day, all except the forgetful one are careful not to track mud into the house. Muddy footprints everywhere give evidence of that one’s carelessness, making extra work for others. The same applies to spirituality. Just one selfish or negligent individual can sully the family’s reputation. All in the household, not just the parents, should strive to reflect Christ’s mental disposition. How refreshing it is when all work together with everlasting life in view! The mind-set of that family is spiritual (but not self-righteous). There are seldom traces of spiritual neglect in such a household.—Ecclesiastes 7:16; 1 Peter 4:1, 2.
14. What material temptations does Satan put in our way?
14 All of us have basic material needs that must be filled to sustain our life on a daily basis. (Matthew 6:11, 30-32) But often our needs are overshadowed by our wants. For example, Satan’s system offers us every kind of gadget and device. If we demand always to have the latest in everything, we will never be satisfied, since the latest is soon outdated, and a new state-of-the-art model appears. The commercial world has set up a merry-go-round that never stops. It entices us into seeking ever more money to satisfy ever more wants. This can lead to “many senseless and hurtful desires,” or “foolish and dangerous ambitions.” It can result in an unbalanced life with less and less time for spiritual activities.—1 Timothy 6:9, 10; The Jerusalem Bible.
15. In what way is the example of the family head important?
15 Here again, the example set by the head of the Christian household is very important. His balanced attitude toward secular and spiritual responsibilities should inspire the other family members. It would certainly be damaging if the father gave excellent oral instruction but then failed to live up to his own words. Children can soon see through the do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do approach to life. Similarly, an elder or a ministerial servant who encourages others in the house-to-house ministry yet seldom joins his family in that activity soon loses credibility, both in the family and in the congregation.—1 Corinthians 15:58; compare Matthew 23:3.
16. What questions might we ask ourselves?
16 Hence, we can profitably examine our lives. Are we preoccupied with achieving secular success at the expense of making spiritual progress? Are we going up in the world but down in the congregation? Remember Paul’s counsel: “That statement is faithful. If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) A sense of responsibility in the congregation says more about our spirituality than a promotion at work. A careful balance has to be kept so that our employers are not allowed to take us over as if we were dedicated to them and not to Jehovah.—Matthew 6:24.
Meaningful Communication Promotes Spirituality
17. What contributes to the cultivating of genuine love in a family?
17 Millions of homes today have become virtual lodging houses. How? Family members come only to sleep and eat, and then they dash out. Seldom do they sit around a table to enjoy a meal together. The sense of family is missing. The result? There is a lack of communication, no significant conversation. And that can result in a lack of interest in other members, perhaps a lack of real concern. When we love one another, we make time to converse and to listen. We encourage, and we help. This aspect of spirituality involves significant communication between spouses and between parents and children.b It requires time and tact as we draw one another out in order to share our joys, experiences, and problems.—1 Corinthians 13:4-8; James 1:19.
18. (a) What is often a major impediment to communication? (b) On what are meaningful relationships built?
18 Good communication requires time and effort. It means setting aside time to talk and to listen to one another. One of the biggest impediments to this is that time-consuming apparatus that holds the place of honor in many homes—the TV. This presents a challenge—does TV control you, or do you control it? Controlling TV requires firm resolve—including the willpower to turn it off. But doing so will open the way for us to tune in to one another as family members and as spiritual brothers and sisters. Meaningful relationships require good communication, getting to understand one another, our needs and joys, telling one another how much we appreciate all the kind things that have been done for us. In other words, significant conversation shows that we are not taking others for granted.—Proverbs 31:28, 29.
19, 20. If we care for all in the family, what will we do?
19 Therefore, if we care for one another in the family setting—and that includes caring for unbelieving family members—we will be doing much toward building up and maintaining our spirituality. In a family setting, we will be following Peter’s counsel: “Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing, because you were called to this course, so that you might inherit a blessing.”—1 Peter 3:8, 9.
20 We can have Jehovah’s blessing now if we strive to maintain our spirituality, and this can work toward our inheriting his blessing in the future when we receive the gift of everlasting life on a paradise earth. There are other things we can do as a family to help one another spiritually. The next article will discuss the benefits of doing things together as a family.—Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:1-4.
a Spirituality is defined as “sensitivity or attachment to religious values: the quality or state of being spiritual.” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) A spiritual person is the opposite of a fleshly, animalistic person.—1 Corinthians 2:13-16; Galatians 5:16, 25; James 3:14, 15; Jude 19.
Do You Remember?
◻ What is spirituality?
◻ How can a family head imitate the example of Christ?
◻ How can we avoid threats to our spirituality?
◻ What can erode the spirituality of a family?
◻ Why is meaningful communication important?
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Attendance at the Congregation Book Study fortifies the family spiritually