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Grace Notes

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PUT YOUR FAMILY FIRST
by Philip Owen

          Okay, I hope the title disturbed you greatly. I hope your immediate response was to question the validity of the thought set forth in the title. I hope you recognize that putting family first is a recipe for disaster. Yet, we must admit that many believers do give first place to their families. Often times the decision to put family first is a conscious choice; although, admittedly, sometimes it occurs unwittingly. Regardless, the result will never be good.

            Far too often we fall prey to the notion that the way to build a strong family is to focus on the family. Far too often when we confront problems (would they be better identified as sin?), we seek a process or methodology to correct the problem. Yes, specific issues must be addressed, and, yes, specific sins must be dealt with scripturally. But unlike the focus offered through psychology, which has a humanistic emphasis, the Scripture says remarkably little about the family per se.

            Finding the right program is not the answer to raising a family blessed of God. What glorifies God? How do I honor Him? What pleases Him? It is the answer to these questions that is foundational to a holy personal life and a peaceable, God-honoring family life. “Keep seeking the things above” (Col. 3:1b) is Paul’s admonition to believers. Only as that begins to occur can we have any hope of raising godly children.

            “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Our focus must be on the Lord. Giving preeminence to the family guarantees disaster just as certainly as ignoring the family and the responsibilities of parenting does. The believer/parent who covets the salvation of his children and young lives dedicated to serving the Lord will begin by yielding his or her will to the Lord. His priority will be pleasing the Lord. Yes, he will teach his children the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and mother . . . so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2a, 3). But he will begin by emphasizing the first commandment in his own life: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Lk. 10:27b). And he will recognize that three other commands focusing on God and His proper worship precede the command that deals with the family; namely, that we must have no other gods (and that would include the family) before the One true God, that we must not take God’s name in vain, and that we must keep the Sabbath holy (which changed to the first day of the week following Christ’s resurrection).

            Chapter after chapter and verse upon verse in the New Testament call believers to a holy life, exhort saints to righteous living, and reveal the “secret” of victory. Remarkably few verses address the family and its needs in a specific way (see, for example, Eph. 5:22-6:4; Col. 3:18-21; I Pet. 3:1-7). In other words, Scripture would teach us that the key to a blessed home is for each person, beginning with the husband and wife/father and mother to seek the kingdom of God first. The more fully and faithfully we put the Lord first, the more likely it is that our children will be saved and yield themselves to serving the Lord as well.

            As reasonable as it might seem to the natural mind to put family first, emphasis on the family is actually a form of idolatry. Putting the family first may result, in some cases, in producing good, law-abiding, successful human beings. But that’s the best it can offer—temporal success. The Lord must “come to have first place in everything” (Col. 1:18b). There is a vast difference between selfish neglect of family responsibilities and giving Christ first place in our lives, but there is also a vast difference between giving priority to family and priority to the Lord. A truly blessed family is one in which every person is saved and seeking to honor the Lord by being faithful to his or her responsibilities before the Lord. May we put Him first.

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