The Government of the Home

In one of my books I have used a quotation from Dr. Theodore Cuyler, Pastor of the Lafayette Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn in the last half of the 19th century:

“For one, I care little for the government which presides at Washington, in comparison with the government which rules the millions of American homes. No administration can seriously harm us if our home life is pure, frugal and godly. No statesmanship or legislation can save us if once our homes become the abode of ignorance or the nestling place of profligacy. The home rules the nation. If the home is demoralized, it will ruin it.”

Today we can do little about “the millions of American homes.” However, I would like to give some guidance to hundreds of Christian homes. I would like to direct your attention to the first great Bible text on the government of the home.

The text was spoken to Abraham as God was drawing near for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abram that which he hath spoken of him.”

There is a slight difference among Hebrew scholars as to the translation of this verse. In our King James Version it is presented as part of God’s knowledge about Abraham. The New American Standard Version translates it as God’s purpose for Abraham: “For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children…” We will not go spiritually wrong with either translation, but I believe the second rendering is the better of the two. I want you to observe three things as we consider the truth of this text.

First, God chose Abraham to command his children. Command is a strong word; but it is the word God uses to express the authority he expects fathers to hold over children. Since that is the duty God assigns we will someday give account for it. James Strachan, in his admirable little book, Hebrew Ideals, says, “The failure to assert authority is the betrayal of a solemn trust, which endangers the best interests of a household.”

We live in a society where democracy is everything. Many modern parents figure that, when they bring a new baby home from the hospital, they have brought a new voter into the home. No, you have brought a new person into your household. He or she is not to be franchised but commanded.

The Bible explains to us that our children have sinful natures. Babies look very innocent for they have not had the opportunity to display that nature yet. However, we do not have a child who is innocent, or even neutral. We have a child with a nature biased against God and authority.

Two of the finest men who ever lived were John and Charles Wesley. Unfortunately, their Father, Samuel, did not have the character to command his children. Fortunately, their Mother, Susannah did. That is not the ideal situation. Susannah made a great
statement about commanding children:

“In order to form the minds of children, the first thing is to conquer their will and bring them to an obedient temper. This is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education, without which precept and example will be ineffectual. As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children ensures their after wretchedness and irreligion; whatever checks and mortifies it promotes their future happiness and piety.”

Second, God specified the area of Abraham’s command. The teaching area identified for Abraham in this passage is, “the way of the Lord.” That little phrase certainly describes the truth known about God and his plan for man. Abraham did not know the way of the Lord as fully as we do. At his time in history he knew about creation and the fall. He knew about God’s judgment on sin in the flood and God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah. Scripture tells us that, “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” He was commanded to teach his children that which he knew spiritually.

In our dispensation we have, “the way of the Lord” fully revealed. We know that man is lost until he is saved. We understand that Christ on the cross made the atonement for our sin. We know that a man must humble himself, confess his sin, and plead for salvation in Jesus’ name. “The way of the Lord,” in its completeness, is what we are to teach our children.

Suppose that your first grade child comes up with the conviction that 2 + 2 = 3. You know that is not truth; so, in one way and another, you teach and insist that 2 + 2 = 4. You are not going to let him make up his own mind about truth. Now you, as an adult, have found spiritual truth. You have found deliverance from sin. You have found peace in Christ. You have no doubt that Christ saved your soul. Can you be neutral about spiritual truth? Can you allow your child to grow up to choose his own spiritual way? You must be as adamant in command about spiritual truth as you are about 2 + 2 = 4.

God specified the area of Abraham’s command. He was to command his children and his household, “to keep the way of the Lord” God held Abraham, and will hold us, responsible to do that. That means family worship, Bible story books, Sunday school, worship services, youth groups, Christian school, and beyond.

The third thing I want you to see is that God outlined the results of Abraham’s command. The end results of “the way of the Lord” accepted in a person’s life is an outcome of action. That action is described in our text as “justice and judgment.” If I understand our passage correctly, Abraham was to command his family all the way through—from knowing the way of the Lord to producing those actions which showed it.

Every child has all the essential ingredients for being a slob. All that you have do, if you wish your children to be adult slobs is just to let them grow up. They have all the natural talent. I like another quotation of James Strachan on this verse: “The highest education is not the storing of the memory with knowledge, but the cultivation of manly and womanly character.”

Many applications might be made here. I would like to point out several where I observe Christian parents failing to command.

Be in command in spiritual training. As a parent you have a unique position. You can lay a foundation from the time of first understanding. You can live a testimony, teach truth, and give direction to the faith to that baby, boy, girl, teenager, and college student. Godly young people are the product of godly homes. Don’t forget that. I am for Sunday school. Christian school, worship services, youth groups, and camps. But, basically, the spiritual life of your child will be what you produce in your home.

Be in command in teaching manners. If your children have table manners it will be because you determined to teach them. If your children know how to conduct themselves in someone else’s home or in church, without running where they ought not, it will be because you commanded them. If your children have respect for adults and the elderly it will be because you required that. If your children have respect for the property of others it will be because you taught that. Our civilized society has become an uncivilized society because parents have not commanded their children.

Be in command in clothes. I attended a large city high school There was no dress code; but, all the students were appropriately dressed. When I attended a Christian college there was no dress code. In those days parents were in charge of dress. We knew how to dress for school, for church, or for a date. I am amazed that, in my lifetime, parents have abdicated their responsibility to command their children in dress. Why do we have bare midriffs, baggy pants that promise disaster, sloppy tee shirts, and sweat shirts with tasteless sayings? Parents have tolerated that. There are four clothing words which our society hates—cleanliness, neatness, modesty, and appropriateness. Christian parents need to command those words.

Be in command in music. Music has been one of the great corrupting influences on young people. I have heard my friend, Dr. Dayton Hobbs, say something like this: “You can never make a spiritual Christian out of a student on rock music.” That is true. If you wish to rear spiritual children you must deal with music in your home.

Be in command in college choices. I cringe at how many Christian families leave the choice of college up to the prospective student. Students choose colleges according to fun, athletics, facilities, friends, and other non-essentials. A parent is in a much better position to see what is spiritually, academically, and socially best for an 18-year old student. Parents, your children will be counseled by the deans and teachers of that school. Their social fellowship will be with the students of that school. They may find their life companions at that school. Many parents look at an 18-year old going off to college and reason, “He is 18, what can I do?” Being 18 does not overrule the experience of being 40. Don’t let that happen.

Be in command in the area of a life companion. There are two extremes being practiced in this area. One is to say: “I have commanded you for 20 years; but as for a life companion you are on your own. Son, find any empty-headed beauty you want. Daughter, just find something in pants and your Mother and I will be satisfied.” The other is to say, “We are going to do like Abraham and pick out a mate for you.” Neither extreme makes sense in our culture. I will resist the urge to write several rules here. However, parents can see the things young people may miss—character, responsibility, manners, temper, laziness, and others. It is the duty of parents to help children see those problems before tragedy arises.

God chose Abraham to command his children. God specified the area of Abraham’s command. He was to teach, “the way of the Lord.” God outlined the results of Abraham’s command. That command was to issue in lives of justice, judgment, and righteousness. Abraham lived about 3900 years ago, but Go has not changed His expectation. He will hold us responsible to command our children. Dr. Spock would roll over in his grave at this point. Most school psychologists would turn a deathly purple but God would say, “Well done thou good and faithful parent.”

May 2006


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