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The Family—Intimates or Inmates?

Our Relationship with Our Families
What does the Bible say about living the Christian life with those who live behind the
same doors we do? What does God say about families, about marriage, about the husband-
wife relationship, about children and how to raise them properly?
Let’s look at God’s road map, the Bible, to get some guidelines for successful family
relationships. In this chapter, we will seek to answer five basic questions: Where did
marriage begin? What did God intend for our marriages? What went wrong? What does
God expect of each marriage partner? What about raising children?
Where Did Marriage Begin?
To find out about the origin of marriage, we need to turn to Genesis, the first book of
the Bible. Study Genesis 1:26–31 and then mark the following statements true (T) or false
1. Both man and woman were created in the image of God.
2. There was no mention of sex before the Fall (see vv. 27–28).
3. Man was to be God’s ruler over everything on earth.
4. God was not pleased with His creation on the sixth day.
The first statement is true. Both men and women were created in the image of God. In
verse 27, the word man is used to include both male and female, describing the human race.
The second statement is false, because sex was mentioned before the fall. Sex was not
something dreamed up by depraved man. It was a beautiful thing, created by God, to be
enjoyed by a husband and wife.
Statement number three is true. God did choose man to rule over everything on earth, as
can be seen in verses 28 and 29.
The last statement is false. God was very pleased with His creation. God said what He
had done was “very good.”
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He
created him; male and female He created them.” Since God took delight in our masculinity
and femininity, we need to learn to maintain these differences, recognizing that each
expresses something about God the other cannot. Consider the following lists of male and
female characteristics. Obviously, people differ. Not all men and women will possess all
the qualities listed. But for the most part the lists reflect the basic differences between the
Masculine Feminine
Characteristics Characteristics
Tends to be logical/less emotional Tends to be emotional
More objective More subjective
More realistic More idealistic
Sees the whole picture Grasps details
Desires admiration/respect Desires affection/appreciation
Values achievement Values security
The qualities complement each other perfectly. The advantage of combining them in a
marriage team is obvious.
What Did God Intend for Our Marriages?
Read Genesis 2:15–25 carefully and answer the following questions:
1. In verse 18, what was God’s response to seeing Adam alone in the garden?
For the first time in Genesis, God says something is “not good.” God saw that man was
alone, and that he needed companionship. So God decided to make a “helper” for Adam.
2. What do you think the word “helper” in 2:18 means?
“Helper” contains the idea of “one corresponding to.” Adam and Eve were to meet each
other’s needs and cooperate in working out the plan of God.
3. Adam’s response to Eve in 2:23 was one of great excitement and joy. What do you think it
would do for your marriage if you told your spouse regularly how happy he or she made
As Adam named all the animals in pairs, it must have dawned on him that he didn’t have a
mate. But when he caught his first glimpse of Eve, he knew she was the one made for him.
4. In verse 24, God gives three directions for the man who marries. List those three items.
a. _______________________
b. _______________________
c. _______________________
Most of the problems faced in marriage stem from a failure to do one of the three things
mentioned in verse 24. First, when a man marries, he is to leave his father and mother.
“Leaving” here means forsaking one relationship for another. One relationship must be
broken before another can be made. A huge marital problem is created when a couple relies
more on parents than on each other.
Second, a husband should be joined to his wife. The word “joined” means a couple must be
united intimately in a permanent relationship. A husband and wife aren’t to compete with
one another. They must work as a team toward a unified end.
Third, a husband and wife are to become one flesh. Through their sexual union they come
into a “oneness” in their relationship.
5. What does verse 25 tell us about the kind of relationship Adam and Eve had?
In verse 25, we see the beauty of sex within marriage. Adam and Eve were naked, but they
were not ashamed in each other’s presence. The biblical attitude toward sex is that it’s a
wonderful gift from God, given for a husband and wife’s mutual enjoyment.
What Went Wrong?
In Genesis 3, sin is introduced into the garden. With sin came death. This chapter tells
us in no uncertain terms where marital and family problems originated. Study Genesis 3
and answer the following questions:
1. What is the difference between God’s original command in Genesis 2:17, and what Eve
tells Satan in Genesis 3:3?
Eve did not repeat to Satan exactly what God had commanded in Genesis 2:17. She added
the word “touch.” But it may not have been entirely her fault, because Adam was the only
one present when the command was given, and he may have been negligent in passing
along God’s Word.
2. How do you explain the marked contrast between the couple’s relationship before the Fall
in Genesis 2:25, and afterward in Genesis 3:7, 12?
After the fall, Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness and accused each other.
3. How did sin in Adam and Eve’s life change their relationship to God (see Genesis 3:8)?
They now knew something was wrong in their relationship with God, so much so that,
when they heard His voice, they hid themselves from Him.
4. In verse 16, as a result of this incident in the garden, God instituted a chain of command
that was to be followed: God, husband, wife, children. If you were to list the chain of
command in your home, how would it measure up to the one above? (See also Ephesians
5:23; 6:1.)
5. Satan not only attacked home life in Adam’s day, he continues to do it today. Below, list
one area in your home where Satan is winning the battle, then take time in prayer to commit
that area to Christ, asking for His strength and victory in the struggle.
When sin entered the picture, God spelled out the role of husband and wife. He made
man the ruler, accountable to God for all that occurs in the family. God placed the woman
under man’s authority.
What Does God Expect of Each Marriage Partner?
Before proceeding with this section, take time to study the following passages: 1
Corinthians 7:1–7; Ephesians 5:22–33; and 1 Peter 3:1–7.
Now, read over the following and fill in the answers where needed.
What Is the Model Given?
1. For the Husband
• What comparison does Ephesians 5:23 give in explaining the husband’s role as head of the
• According to Ephesians 5:28, how should a man love his wife?
He is to love his wife as his own body. She is not apart from him but a part of him.
2. For the Wife
• Based on Ephesians 5:24, how are women to relate to their husbands?
As the church submits to Christ, a woman is to submit to her husband.
What Specific Responsibilities Are Given?
1. To the Husband
• Ephesians 5:25
• Ephesians 5:29
• 1 Peter 3:7
• 1 Corinthians 7:3
In Ephesians 5:25, the husband is told to love his wife and to give himself for her. In
Ephesians 5:29, the husband is told to nourish and to cherish his wife in the same manner
as Christ does the church. Then, in 1 Peter 3:7, the husband is commanded to treat his wife
with “understanding,” lifting her up and caring for her. In that same verse, the husband is
told to honor his wife, because she is a fellow heir of grace. God is reminding the husband
not to become spiritually proud of being the leader of the home, for his position is only
temporal, and his wife is spiritually equal with him.
In 1 Corinthians 7:3, the husband is instructed not to be self-centered in his sexual
relationship with his wife, but to be spouse-centered. He should care for her needs and
desires. The Corinthians were apparently withholding sexual relations from their mates,
using sex as a prize when the husband or wife was good. God clearly indicates that there
should be no depriving one another sexually, except by mutual consent. When couples do
agree to abstain sexually, according to 1 Corinthians 7:5, it should only be for the purpose
of fasting and prayer. Paul warns that even this time of separation should be short, lest they
fall into temptation.
2. To the Wife
• Ephesians 5:21–24
• 1 Peter 3:1
• Ephesians 5:33
• 1 Peter 3:2
• 1 Peter 3:4–6
• 1 Corinthians 7:3
In Ephesians 5:21–24 and 1 Peter 3:1, God calls the wife to submit to her husband. She
is called to submit, not only to a believing husband, but also to an unbelieving husband. If a
wife isn’t living in submission to her husband, she isn’t living in submission to the
Heavenly Father either and, as a result, she is living in disobedience. In Ephesians 5:33, it is
commanded that a wife respect her husband. If a wife is always criticizing her husband in
front of others, instead of building him up, she isn’t demonstrating the respect that she
should have for him. First Peter 3:2 says that the conduct of the godly woman should
always be chaste. In verses 4–6 of the same chapter, Peter remarks that a woman should not
rely on outward apparel for her charm and grace, but on the inward qualities of a gentle and
quiet spirit. It’s not that she shouldn’t have any interest at all in clothes or cosmetics, or that
she shouldn’t keep herself fit and womanly. Her emphasis, though, ought to be on the
inward and the spiritual, not the outward and physical. The last command in this section is
found in 1 Corinthians 7:3. A wife is to give to her husband sexual pleasure, again, being
spouse-centered instead of self-centered.
The following questions may help you see strengths and weaknesses in your
relationship with your spouse. On a scale of 1 to 3, rate yourself: 1 = yes, almost always; 2
= average, or sometimes; 3 = needs attention.
1. Do you and your spouse try to develop common interests, learn about each other’s
occupations, and understand each other by putting yourselves mentally into the other’s
situation? _______________
2. Are you sensitive to each other’s needs, watching for signs of satisfaction, frustration,
weariness, and so on, so you can react appropriately? _______________
3. Do you listen to each other attentively and intelligently? _______________
4. Do you try to be interesting, attractive, and desirable for the other by keeping mentally and
physically fit and fresh? _______________
5. Do you approach each other’s “sore spots” with consideration and proper timing?
6. Have you learned to accept criticism in a spirit of love and meekness, examining
yourselves realistically from the viewpoint of your partner? _______________
7. Do you discuss problems with a willingness to sacrifice, if necessary? _______________
8. Are you blending your recreational interests so that you can share your hours of relaxation
together? _______________
9. Do you work at being calm and cool-headed and, when needed, decisive and reassuring?
10. Do you take time out for a “retreat” away from home together, when you can evaluate the
past, set goals for the future, and decide on any action to be taken? _______________
Some Problem Areas
Erosion in marriage and family relationships often begins or centers in four particular
areas: finances, time, adultery, and the unbelieving partner. Let’s take a moment to consider
what God says in His Word about each of these potential trouble spots.
One of the biggest areas of contention within a marriage is money. Listed below are
some truths to remember.
• God’s Promise
In Matthew 6:31–33, God assumes the responsibility for providing the basic necessities for
those who seek Him.
• Your Contentment
First Timothy 6:6–10 gives an excellent piece of advice concerning money. We must learn
to be content, no matter what the circumstances. As Christians, our basis of contentment is
who we have (Christ), not what we have.
• Giving: An Investment in Eternity
Look up 1 Corinthians 16:2, which lists the New Testament requisites for giving. Our
offerings to God are to be:
Regular—“on the first day of the week”
Personal—“let each one of you”
Systematic—“lay something aside”
Proportionate—“as he may prosper.”
Take a moment and read Philippians 4:15–19. Notice the promise Paul gives to those who
contribute to the Lord’s work.
The area of finances is a pressing problem for many couples. God promises to supply
our needs if we are faithful. But we must, in turn, be content with whatever situation or
circumstance God has placed us in. Also, many believers forget that all they have belongs
to God. We are the managers, not the owners, of everything we have. As such, we should
always be seeking ways to give a portion of this to the body of Christ and the furtherance of
the gospel. The promise of Philippians 4:15–19 is that, as we meet the needs of the gospel
ministry, Christ will in turn meet our needs.
Consider these three helpful hints for managing your finances:
1. Keep accurate accounts. Inadequate record keeping is the primary cause of overspending.
2. Develop a budget—one that is a product of family prayer, planning, and periodic
3. Remember that marriage partners are a team. It should never be a question of his or her
Where do you find time to develop your relationship with your spouse and your family?
The truth is, we usually make time to do what we want to do. So, if your family is a high
enough priority, you’ll find the time. And while sufficient time is important, so is the
quality of the time spent together.
List ten practical things you can do to be certain that you always have sufficient time
together. Think carefully about any changes you could make in your schedules.
1. _______________________
2. _______________________
3. _______________________
4. _______________________
5. _______________________
6. _______________________
7. _______________________
8. _______________________
9. _______________________
10. _______________________
God is opposed to any form of immorality, including adultery. Examine the following
passages and write down what they say.
• 1 Corinthians 6:18–20
• 2 Timothy 2:22
• Colossians 3:5–6
• Romans 13:13–14
In Matthew 19:6, Christ says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”
First Corinthians 7 teaches us that one of the reasons for marriage is to put an end to
immorality. Don’t allow Satan to use immorality to destroy your witness for Jesus Christ
and your relationship with your mate. Honor God by being completely faithful to your
The Unbelieving Partner
It’s a problem when one partner is a believer, and the other is not. If you are married to
an unbeliever, God has some directives especially for you. Read carefully 1 Corinthians
7:12–14 and 1 Peter 3:1.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that, if your unbelieving partner is willing to
live with you, you should let him stay. That way there’s a better chance for that partner and
the children to come to Christ—because they’re exposed to Christ through you. First Peter
3:1 explains that a wife who submits to her husband may win him to Christ through her
respectful behavior. Unbelieving wives can be influenced in the same way by their
Christian husbands.
What About Raising Children?
Once there are children in a family, their discipline can become a point of contention
between husband and wife. What does God say about how we are to raise our children?
Family Discipline
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
—Proverbs 22:6
Below are two passages; one describes a failure in discipline, the other a success. Study
these passages and note any reasons why they are different in outcome.
• A failure—1 Samuel 3:12–14
Eli had done a creditable job as a priest, but a miserable one as a parent. He hadn’t
disciplined his sons when they disobeyed. As a result, God dealt severely with the house of
• A success—2 Timothy 1:5 (see also 2 Timothy 3:15–17)
Timothy’s story gives us a good example of family discipline. Timothy was raised by his
mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois. In 2 Timothy 3:15, we learn that Timothy was
taught the Scriptures from childhood and was brought up in the ways of the Lord. Timothy
knew what Paul meant in verse 16 when he said that Scripture is used for reproof and
In Ephesians 6:4, God gives us more instructions on the use of discipline in the home.
Fill in the blanks below with answers from the passage.
1. Fathers are not to
2. They are to bring their children up in the
a. _______________________ (a corrective measure)
b. _______________________ (a preventive measure) of the Lord.
In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told not to provoke their children to anger. If children are
disciplined out of a mean spirit and shown no love, then they will be provoked to anger.
Ephesians 6:4 also teaches that children are to be brought up with training (discipline) and
admonition (instruction). Discipline is a corrective measure used when there has been an
act of disobedience. Instruction is a preventive measure used to teach the ways of the Lord
and to explain the consequences of disobedience.
Don’t …
• compare one child with another
• use scorn, ridicule, or humiliation—especially in areas of weakness
• threaten withdrawal of love and affection
• discipline when angry
• expect perfection
• be afraid to say no
• be afraid to spank (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13; 29:15)
Do …
• teach your children that disobedience is primarily against God
• show that you fully expect them to obey
• help children to evaluate their disobedience
• allow children to express their own viewpoints
• restore fellowship after discipline (forgiveness)
• remember that the goal of discipline is not outward conformity, but inward conviction
• keep in mind that discipline is a long-range process
Proverbs for Parents
God has given us instruction about discipline—or the lack of it—in the book of
Proverbs. Write the promises given by God in each of the following passages:
• Proverbs 13:24
• Proverbs 22:15
• Proverbs 23:13–14
• Proverbs 29:15
• Proverbs 29:17
Overall, Proverbs teaches us that, if we truly love our children, we will discipline them.
If we don’t discipline them, it could lead to their destruction. With discipline, parents bring
wisdom to their children. Without it, children bring shame to their parents.
The following letter, written to columnist Ann Landers, shows the importance of
discipline from the child’s viewpoint.
Dear Ann Landers:
I am a teenager who feels cheated by my parents. Out of what, you might ask? The answer
is, discipline. I know this sounds silly, but it’s true. My parents thought they were being
nice to me by letting me do whatever I wanted. But they were wrong. When I went to the
homes of friends and saw them being told what to do, what time to come home, and asked
questions like, “Exactly where are you going and with whom?” I felt cheated, left out. I
wondered why my parents didn’t care enough about me to get tough. I try to do the right
thing, but it isn’t easy when I know I don’t have to answer to anybody. I have no respect for
my parents, because they have no power over me. Kids respect power. Please tell parents to
set up rules and insist that they are obeyed, or else. And tell them that when kids break the
rules to lay it on. Parents who love their kids don’t have to worry about not being loved in
On my own in Oregon
(reprinted with permission)
Perhaps the easiest way your child will learn Christian standards is by watching you.
Children imitate much of what parents do.
Now that you’ve studied God’s perspective on discipline, how has it changed your
thoughts on the way your home should be run?
Communicating Your Convictions
Christian standards are caught more often than taught. Read Deuteronomy 6:5–9 and
notice its application to the following four points:
Obeying: You must be an example and follow the commands of the Lord yourself.
Teaching: You must teach your children at all times, both informally and formally.
Binding: You must adhere to God’s commandments so that your life is lived in accordance with
His truth.
Writing: Back in Old Testament days, God’s directives were actually written on places like the
doorposts of homes to remind everyone of the need to live by them. The application in our
own day is that others should be able to see clearly, by the way we live, that we are obeying
God’s commands.
Pitfalls to Avoid in Communicating Your Convictions
• rushing the process
• passive attitudes—“Let’s just trust the Lord to take care of it.”
• fuzzy objectives
• inconsistency
• making every decision for your children
Some Principles for Progress
• sharpen your own personal convictions
• set up clear objectives and priorities
• make relationships always precede rules
• allow love to permeate the process
• explain your convictions to your child
• live your convictions consistently
• give your children responsibility
Examining Your Convictions
No father is perfect. Every father has areas where he can improve. The following
questions are to help you think through your life as a father and to help you capitalize on
your strengths and focus on areas of improvement.
1. Do you tend to be positive or negative? Do your children think of you as a “don’t do that”
person or a “let’s do this” person?
2. In what way(s) do you actively teach your children scriptural principles for living?
3. Do your children respect you? Tell about a time when they might have lost respect for
you. Explain why they did, and what you did to correct it.
4. In what ways do you respect the individual rights of each of your family members?
5. When you correct your children for wrongdoing, do you try to understand why they did
what they did?
6. What do you do to make your children aware that, as a parent, you are responsible, before
God, for teaching them proper behavior?
7. How do you communicate to your children the love and forgiveness God extends to you?
These questions are designed to make you think about your performance as a mother.
Consider each one and try to find areas that need attention.
1. Are you nice to come home to? Or, when you are away, does the family look forward with
anticipation to your return? Think of three reasons why this is so, or should be so.
2. You undoubtedly want to know about the current worries and joys of each family
member. How can you do this and at the same time show you are caring, not prying?
3. How can you support the emotional needs of each family member?
4. Although the father is the spiritual head of the home, what contributions can you make to
the spiritual health of your home?
5. How do you handle discipline problems when your husband is away?
6. The Bible makes reference to a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:1) as desirable
attributes of a mother and wife. How do you foster a gentle and quiet atmosphere in your
7. How are you preparing yourself and your children for the time when they must leave
home and face the realities of young adult life?
God also addresses those in the family who are not the parents. We call them pre-adults.
If you fit into this category, see how you measure up to God’s standard as described below.
1. Passages to Ponder
Write the main thought of each passage in the space provided.
a. Exodus 20:12
b. Proverbs 1:8
c. Ephesians 6:1–3
2. Principles to Ponder
• Parents are priceless. You would never have made it this far without them. They deserve
your honor.
• Parents are chosen—by God. Remember, He never makes a mistake!
• Parents are human. Humans are not perfect; they make mistakes.
• Parents are to be obeyed. You may not always agree with them, but God does expect you to
obey them.
3. Questions to Answer
a. Have you ever thanked God for parents?
b. Have you ever thanked God for your parents?
c. What specifically have you done to show your parents you appreciate them?
d. What is your attitude when you disagree with your parents’ decisions?
e. When you have disobeyed, have you called it what God calls it—sin?
f. Have you ever made the decision to obey God by consistently obeying your parents?
Family Worship
One practical way to communicate our convictions is through times of family Worship,
when we pray and honor God together. Many Christian homes don’t have family
worship—or when they do, it’s more of a bore than a blessing. Write below the reasons
why you don’t have family worship or why your family worship is less than meaningful.
Three of the most frequent excuses used for not having family worship times are: “I
don’t have the time,” “It’s not convenient,” and “We don’t know how.” Should any of these
apply in your home, perhaps the following creative ideas might improve your family
worship time this week.
Some Basic Principles for Meaningful Family Worship
• Keep the atmosphere informal.
• Make the time practical and applicable.
• Allow all members to participate.
• Use variety in the worship time.
• Set aside a fixed time; make it a habit.
• Keep it short.
• Make family worship child-centered—a time when children are to be seen and heard.
Some Methods for Changing the Pace
• storytelling
• music
• puppets
• handicrafts
• memorization
• Bible games and quizzes
• devotional books
• family skits
• starting a notebook on prayer requests to record how God answers your prayers
• creating a different theme and prayer subject for each day or week
Try planning a week of family worship. Include what you will do each day.
• Sunday: ________________________________________
• Monday: _______________________________________
• Tuesday: _______________________________________
• Wednesday: ____________________________________
• Thursday: _____________________________________
• Friday: _________________________________________
• Saturday: _______________________________________
Family Hospitality
So far, we’ve looked at family members and their relationships with one another. Now
let’s consider the family’s relationship with those outside their walls. Hospitality is a
distinctive mark of a Christian home. It’s important that your home be a positive witness
for Christ to the community around you.
Examine the following texts of Scripture and write what each says about hospitality.
1. Genesis 18:1–8
2. Genesis 24:17–20
3. Luke 14:12–14
4. Romans 12:13
5. 3 John 5–8
These passages from Scripture highlight the great hospitality of Abraham, Rebekah, and
Gaius, and they show the standards of hospitality set by Jesus and Paul. One of the greatest
impacts you can have for Jesus Christ is being known for your kindness and hospitality.
List some ways you can use hospitality in your home as an effective way of
communicating Christ.
• as a ministry to unbelievers:
• as a ministry to believers:
If you are single, the previous sections may not have seemed very relevant. But they set
forth God’s directives if you ever do decide to marry. Paul does talk about being single, as
opposed to being married, in 1 Corinthians 7 where he explains that God gives each person
different gifts.
Review and Remember
Before you move on to the next chapter, review and remember what you’ve just learned
about marriage and family relationships.
1. Where did marriage begin? We discovered that God instituted marriage in the Garden of
2. Why did God start it all? The Bible tells us that God saw that it was not good for man to
be alone. He needed companionship.
3. When did it go wrong? We discovered that when sin entered the picture, it was the
beginning of family problems.
4. What does God expect of each marriage partner? The Bible gives us several specifics.
Review the roles and responsibilities you wrote down above.
5. What about raising children? Through proper instruction, discipline, communication, and
family worship, children can be taught to love and obey.
Memorize the following verse and make it central in your thinking. Decide for yourself
which of the options listed by Joshua you want to choose for your home and your family.
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will
serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River,
or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will
serve the Lord.
—Joshua 24:15
Joshua was describing the world around him—a world that was serving gods of
pleasure. Instead of following the example of others, he set the example for others to
follow. His commitment was, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

EvanTell and R. Larry Moyer, Growing in the Family: 8 Vital Relationships for the Growing
Christian (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), 85.