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Family Relations in the Bible: Husband, Wife, Parents, Children

The Family Relationship:
Husbands, Wives, Parents, and Children in Godly Homes

A study of the Bible pattern for the home: how family members should treat one another. What are the duties of the husband, wife, parents, and children? What about divorce, remarriage, spanking, authority?

A study of the Bible pattern for the home: how family members should treat one another. What are the duties of the husband, wife, parents, and children? How important are love and commitment in marriage? For what cause may spouses divorce and remarry? Who should exercise authority as head in the home? Who should provide family income and who should care for the home? How diligent should parents be in teaching and training the children? Should parents use spanking, discipline, and punishment to motivate obedience? Who should care for elderly parents? God's word gives inspired instruction to guide us to happy homes.

Introduction:

God created the marriage relationship to be a blessing to everyone involved. Yet many families today are clearly troubled. Alienation often exists between husband and wife, between parents and children, or among brothers and sisters. What instruction does God's word provide to help us have homes that please Him and accomplish His will?


The Husband's Responsibilities to His Wife


The Husband Should Be Committed to Marriage for Life.

Multitudes of marriages in our society end in divorce. Consider the Bible teaching.

Romans 7:2,3 -- Husband and wife are bound as long as they both live. One may remarry only when his spouse has died. To remarry while ones spouse is alive constitutes adultery. (Mal. 2:14-16)

Matthew 19:3-9 -- Fornication is the only Scriptural grounds for divorce. One is guilty of adultery if he divorces for another reason and remarries. This constitutes adultery because he is still bound to his first wife, yet having the sexual union with another woman. (Matt. 5:31,32)

Man should enter marriage fully realizing that it is a lifetime commitment. Divorce without Scriptural grounds should never be seriously considered nor discussed as an option. However, if one is in an unscriptural remarriage, he must leave it to avoid adultery (cf. 1 Cor. 7:10,11).

The Husband Should Love His Wife.

Some men act selfishly or even abuse their wives, and some even claim that the Bible says a man has the right to do this. But consider what the Bible really teaches.

Ephesians 5:25-31,33 -- A man should love his wife as Christ loved the church and as he loves his own body. What can Jesus' love for the church teach husbands?

Jesus' love was not a romantic mood or emotion but a choice or commitment. He did not wait till we acted lovingly toward Him but did what we needed even when our conduct was unattractive. This required serious sacrifice for our good.

Likewise a husband should be committed to do his wife good, even if she is not acting lovingly toward him nor attracting him romantically. He must do good even at the cost of serious personal sacrifice.

1 Peter 3:7 -- A man should try to understand what his wife needs, rather than being bitter toward her (Col. 3:19). He will not expect her to do heavy work since she is not as strong. And he will respect her as being of equal spiritual value with himself.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 -- A husband also shows love by expressing affection and fulfilling the wife's sexual needs.

Jesus expressed loved for the church both by words and by deeds. If a husband properly loves his wife, he will tell her so, but he will also show it by his actions.

The Husband Should Work to Provide for the Physical Needs of the Family.

Many men leave their wives and children without the necessities of life because they quit their jobs for frivolous reasons or waste their income selfishly.

Genesis 3:17-19 -- The man was required to labor despite hardships in order to have food. (Cf. 2 Thess. 3:10.)

1 Timothy 5:8 -- As the head of the family (see next point), a man should provide, not just for himself, but for his whole household. The Bible gives many examples of men having occupations or businesses outside the home. Many Bible examples show men employed away from the home in such occupations as shepherd, carpenter, physician, fisherman, merchant, farmer, sailor, preacher, tentmaker, etc. (See also Eph. 5:28,29).

This is the God-given duty of the husband. No passage instructs the wife to do this. Man should not neglect his other responsibilities by over-emphasizing work. Yet one who neglects working, expecting his wife or other people to provide income for his family, is worse than an infidel.

The Husband Should Be the Head of the Family.

Some claim that man should not exercise authority over his wife or that his authority should be limited to just certain areas. In practice, women are often the leaders in making family decisions. But note:

Ephesians 5:22-24 -- The husband is head of his wife as Christ is head of the church (see other verses below). Neither his wife nor their parents are the authority in his family (cf. Gen. 2:24).

Love will lead a husband to consider the needs and desires of the wife and children. He will make decisions for the good of the whole group, not just to please himself. This requires discussion at times to understand the views of others.

However, the husband does have the final authority, and will give account to God for his decisions. Often this responsibility is not a privilege but a burden. He needs the courage to stand for what he is convinced is best, even when the wife or children disagree.

If the wife fails to fulfill her duties, this does not justify the husband in failing to fulfill his duties (Romans 12:17-21; Luke 6:27-35).


The Wife's Responsibilities to Her Husband


The Wife Too Should Have a Lifetime Commitment to the Marriage.

Neither the man nor the woman have the right to end the marriage while their spouse is alive, except for the cause of fornication. (See passages listed above.)

The Wife Should Love Her Husband.

Modern feminists say a woman does not need a man but should find fulfillment outside marriage.

Genesis 2:18-24 -- Woman was created to be a companion and helper to man. She is not required to marry (see 1 Cor. 7), but by nature she would find her greatest fulfillment in life by loving and caring for a family. (See also Mal. 2:14.)

Titus 2:4 -- Young women should be taught to love their husbands and their children. This is something a woman can learn to do. Again, love is a matter of choice and commitment, not primarily a romantic mood.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 -- The wife too should show affection and fulfill her husband's sexual needs.

The Wife Should Submit to the Headship of the Husband.

We have learned that God teaches husbands to use their authority in love. Though our society may protest and rebel, He also tells wives to submit to their husbands.

Ephesians 5:22-24,33 -- Just as the church should submit to Christ, not rebelliously but respectfully, so the wife must abide by all her husband's decisions. The only exception would be if the husband commanded her to do something that would violate God's law (Acts 5:29).

Titus 2:5 -- Young women should be taught to be obedient to their husbands. This does not mean woman has less ability or less value than man (cf. 1 Peter 3:7; Matt. 20:25-28; Gal. 3:28). But someone must be in charge to make decisions in the home. God has determined that this responsibility belongs to the man.

(See also Gen. 3:16; Col. 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Cor. 11:3).

The Wife Should Work at Home Caring for Her Family.

Our society places little value on the work of homemakers. Instead it encourages women to neglect their family responsibilities to do things God never required them to do.

Titus 2:4,5; 1 Timothy 5:14 -- God says the work of mothers is at home. They are to manage the household, loving and caring for their family. This work is a blessing and should be valued and appreciated (cf. Psalm 113:9).

We learned that providing family income is a God-given responsibility for the husband. It is not the wife's responsibility. There may be emergency exceptions (as when the husband has died or is disabled), but generally a mother should not neglect her God-given duties nor give them to other people so she can have a career or job outside the home.

Is it not true that outside jobs and similar activities often hinder wives and mothers from fulfilling duties that God requires of them? Consider responsibilities in the family, the church, Bible study, teaching others, benevolence, hospitality, etc. Specifically, where is the authority for a family to enroll their children in day-care so the wife can make money?

It follows that the husband and wife have distinct roles. God gave them separate duties and gave each a nature best suited to those duties. To blur these distinctions or to deny they exist is to disobey God. For both the husband and the wife, the greatest satisfaction in marriage comes when they follow God's plan.

Again, the husband's failure to properly fulfill his duties does not justify the wife in failing to fulfill her duties (Rom. 12:17-21; 1 Peter 3:1,2; Luke 6:27-35).


The Parents' Responsibilities to Their Children


Society continually undermines and attacks the right of parents to train and supervise their own children. Entertainment, government agencies, peers, and schools all lead children to think they can "do their own thing." Yet when the children do wrong, these same groups immediately blame the parents!

Parents Should Love Their Children.

Parents are encouraged to leave the training of their children to others, and are told they may kill "unwanted" babies before they are born. As a result, children are often neglected, abused, even abandoned.

Titus 2:4 -- Women should be taught to love their children. Children are a blessing from God, not an unwanted burden (Psalm 127:3-5; 128:1-4).

Parents who love their children will do what is best for them. This requires taking time with children -- quality and quantity time. Abusing and neglecting children is not love.

Parents Should Train Their Children to Know and Obey God's Will.

Few children are truly taught to love God. Even in the Lord's church, the majority of children do not become faithful Christians.

Ephesians 6:4 -- Fathers should bring children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. This includes bringing the children to all meetings of the church, and also teaching them God's word at home (Deut. 6:6-9).

Training children is primarily the work of parents, rather than the church. When children grow up without a knowledge of God and His will, the parents will give account. (See also Prov. 22:6; Gen. 18:19; Deut. 4:9,10; 1 Sam. 2:22-25; 3:13; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15).

Parents Should Punish and Reward Children When Necessary to Motivate Them to Do Good and Avoid Evil.

Spanking and all forms of punishment are opposed by our society. Yet God has spoken:

Hebrews 12:5-11 -- The Father in Heaven is an example to parents in chastening children. Why should children be chastised? For their benefit (v10). It causes the child to respect parents and authority in general (v9) and teaches them to act righteously (v11).

Proverbs 13:24; 23:13,14 -- Spanking is not contrary to love. Properly done it is an act of love for the child's good to teach him to live right. It should never be done because the parent has lost his temper or to satisfy a lust for power. (See also Prov. 22:15; 19:18; Luke 15:20-24.)

Rules and discipline should be consistent. Inconsistency provokes the child to anger (Eph. 6:4). The father and mother should agree and work in harmony (Matt. 12:25).

Children must treated fairly and justly -- no favoritism (James 2:8,9). Parents should keep their promises, including the promise to punish (James 5:12).

Parents who do not discipline their children will be held accountable by God (1 Sam. 3:13). Instead of following society's ungodly philosophies about child-rearing, Christians need to fight those concepts with every upright weapon at our disposal. Families that follow God's will are the ones that will truly be blessed.

(See also Col. 3:21; Matt. 23:23).


The Children's Responsibilities to Their Parents


Children Should Listen to Their Parents' Instruction.

Society encourages children to disregard their parents' teachings and make their own choices. Young people often think their parents are unreasonable or do not understand.

Proverbs 6:20-23 -- Listen to the instruction of parents, do not forsake it. Remember that parents are older and more experienced. They may not be perfect (neither are the kids!) yet they are still wiser.

(See also Prov. 1:8; 15:5; 23:22).

Children Should Respect Their Parents.

Young people today mock, ridicule, and openly flaunt their parents. Such conduct is encouraged by many aspects of society and is ignored by many parents.

Ephesians 6:2,3 -- Parents have God-given authority and have generally done much good for the children. They deserve to receive respectful treatment, including respectful speech and attitudes. (Cf. Matt. 15:4; Prov. 6:20-23; 15:5; 23:22.)

Children Should Obey Their Parents.

Rebellion is admired and encouraged by many. Acts that parents have disapproved are yet practiced -- openly or by deception -- because "everybody's doing it" or for a hundred other excuses. Some accept such conduct as inevitable. But all such is disobedience and rebellion.

Ephesians 6:1 -- Children are commanded by the Lord to obey their parents. (See also Col. 3:20; 2 Tim. 3:1,2).

Luke 2:51 -- Jesus set the example of subjection to his parents.

Romans 1:30,32 -- One who refuses to obey his parents is worthy of death, and so are those who approve of such conduct (cf. Deut. 21:18-21).

Children should obey all parental instructions unless they are told to do something sinful (Acts 5:29).

The fact that the parents may have made some mistakes or even sinned does not justify disobedience by the children (Rom. 12:17-21; Luke 6:27-35; etc.)

Children Should Care for Elderly Parents.

Elderly people today are often neglected or shipped to nursing homes, not because this is really needed for the proper care of the parent, but because the children do not want to be bothered.

1 Timothy 5:4,8,16 -- When children are unwilling to care for their elderly parents, they lack appreciation for what their parents did for them, and they also deny the faith. (Cf. Matt. 15:4-6; Ruth 4:13-15; John 19:25-27.)

Making happy homes is not easy, especially in a corrupt society. But God's plan is always best, and the homes that accomplish the most good are those that learn and do His will.

Note: If you would like to study further about related Bible topics, we have a number of other study materials on our web site that should interest you. Please see the links listed below.

(C) Copyright 2001, 2005, David E. Pratte
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Topics for further Bible study

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Marriage Preparation & Improvement
Solving Conflict in Marriage Relationships
Seven Keys for Raising Godly Children
Divorce, Remarriage, & the Family
The Importance of Bible Knowledge
Steps to Spiritual Maturity
God Helps Your Troubles & Problems
How to Change Yourself (Self-improvement)
Power of Prayer

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