The family is the basic
social unit around which everything in society
revolves. As the family goes so goes society. If you
destroy the family you will destroy civilization. A
strong wholesome family is the strength of society.
Dr. Nick Stinnett at the
University of Nebraska studied the characteristics
of strong wholesome families in different societies
around the world. Instead of studying the
dysfunctional family, he wanted to know what were
the strengths of a healthy family. He chose in his
research only families that had two characteristics:
those marriages that were considered happy and those
that considered themselves satisfied in their
parent–child relationships. Dr Stinnet discovered
several common qualities in these marriages
They are committed to the
family social unit.
They spend quality time
together as a family.
They have good
communication skills within the family.
They consistently express
appreciation to each other.
problem-solving skills in times of crisis.
They have a commitment to
a wholesome spiritual life.
I have observed these
same qualities in my own family and in others
through the years. The Word of God also emphasizes
many of these same characteristics. Let’s begin a
series of messages on the Christian family by
looking at our responsibilities.
RESPONSIBILITIES IN A
WHOLESOME FAMILY (6:4-6)
In his great sermon to
the congregation of Israel at the end of his life
Moses declared, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our
God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your might." Jesus called this great
passage "the first and great commandment." It is a
command to love the LORD God. Because they love Him
they will have a life–long fear, or reverence, and
We must learn to
love the LORD God as a priority (v. 4-5)
Verse 4 speaks of the
Shema, which comes from the Hebrew word translated
"Hear." It is a reminder of the great commandment
that is the major confession of faith in Judaism.
"The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" More
literally the Hebrew idea is, "the Lord, our God,
the Lord, one." It is "the fundamental truth of
Israel’s religion." The Jewish people believed that
"the Lord" (Yahweh) is totally unique, one in
essence and that He alone is God. He is unlike any
other deity. To the Jewish person there are no other
gods. They are nothing.
Pagan neighbors that
surrounded Israelites believed in polytheism. These
"gods" were always warring with one another. Each
pagan god was unpredictable and morally fickle. He
never knew which side to be on and therefore was
quickly changing gods to avoid their wrath. The
Israelites believed in only one God who dealt with
them in a consistent righteous standard contained in
the Mosaic Law.
The word for "God" is
plural (elohim), possibly implying the
Trinity, and "one" (ech·ad) suggests harmony
in the God–head. The plural in the context is not
referring to more than one God, but the fullness of
the Godhead. Echad always denotes
"compound unity," one in the sense of unity. There
is Divine unity in the Trinity. He is the only
Yahweh; there is none other. It is to Him alone that
the name rightfully belongs. Instead of the
convoluted warring among the pagan deities, the LORD
is One suggesting perfect unity of the Persons of
There were no gods like
Yahweh. The children of Israel had discovered that
the Egyptian deities were nothing. They were
powerless. They were hopeless. There is nothing with
which to compare Him. They had come into the
presence of the living LORD. He was a reality to
them. To Him alone belongs the name Yahweh. He is
the One absolute God.
There was none other like
Him. When He spoke there was none to challenge Him.
When He made a pledge there was none to cancel Him.
When He brought judgment upon His people, there was
no other refuge. He is unique, the One and only
omnipotent sovereign LORD.
Our fundamental duty is
to respond to His love. "You shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your might" (v. 5). The repeated
command is to have an intimate love relationship
with the LORD. (Cf. 7:9; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3;
19:9; 30:6, 16, 20). The idea is to love Him with
the whole person––body, mind and soul. We love Him
because He first loved us. "We have come to know and
have believed the love which God has for us. God is
love, and the one who abides in love abides in God,
and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16). God has
demonstrated that sacrificial love by sending His
only begotten Son to die in our place on the cross.
"These words, which I am
commanding you today, shall be on your heart" (v.
6). How do you keep God’s Word "on your heart"? You
do it by meditating on it. Only as we know it and
apply it to our own personal lives can we teach it
to our families. The Word of God must first be in
our own mind and heart then we impress them
diligently upon the minds of our children. "And
these words, which I am commanding you today, shall
be on your heart." There is no other way to do it.
They have to become a part of you and your
The "heart" is the seat
of our emotions in general and love in particular.
The "soul" is the center of our personality. When we
love the Lord, it is something we do it with our
whole personal being.
How can we
experience a growing love for God?
Love grows through a
deepening understanding, a better knowledge of the
other person, his thoughts and actions, and then
expressing through verbalization that new discovery.
"I love you because . . ." "I love the way you . .
." What are concrete reasons for loving Him? Reasons
for love increase the feelings. Making new
discoveries about the person adds to the content of
love. Love will grow as reasons for love are
discovered, thought about, expressed verbally and
remembered. Read God’s Word, write it down, speak it
out by sharing it with your family, friends and
colleagues and you will grow in your love for Him.
This is our first
responsibility. We are to keep His words on our
heart, to think on them, to meditate on them, to
reflect on them. We cannot give our children what we
do not possess. We cannot pass along what we do not
own. No one else can do it for us. Our children’s
programs, Sunday School and public school cannot
assume that responsibility. It is our responsibility
as parents. We are to love the Lord with all our
heart and to share that love with our children.
Our children are watching
us and modeling our attitudes and behaviors. They
are parroting back our attitudes about Christ and
His church. We cannot train up children to love the
Lord with all their heart if we do not first love
We cannot be healthy
wholesome parents until God re–parents us. Spiritual
growth has to take place in our own lives. Do you
have an intimate love relationship with Jesus
Christ? Do you love His church? Is He the priority
of your life? The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33 are
a good commentary of this passage. He said, "Seek
first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all
these things will be added to you."
Strong Christian families
believe in, value the Word of God, and model it in
their personal lives because they love Him. You
cannot teach what you do not have. I pray you will
set a priority in your personal life and in your
home to love the Lord with your entire person.
Furthermore, Moses admonished the children of Israel
to become role models of this love in their homes.
If you love Him, you will obey Him.
ROLE MODELS IN A
WHOLESOME FAMILY (6:7-9)
You teach from your
lifestyle (v. 7).
"You shall teach them
diligently to your sons" (v. 7). The idea of
teaching children by repetition is a theme that runs
throughout the book. P. C. Craig reminds us, "The
commandments were to be the subject of conversation
both inside and outside the home, from the beginning
of the day to the end of the day. In summary, the
commandments were to permeate every sphere of the
life of man." The word "diligently" means "to
sharpen," to pierce through, to give a sharp edge,
like sharpening a knife. It is an intensely strong
command with the idea of an assertive teaching
process in a family setting. The Amplified Bible
reads, "You shall whet and sharpen them, so as to
make them penetrate, and teach and impress them
diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your
children . . ." The NIV translates, "You shall
impress them on your children." When we "sharpen"
our children spiritually we are preparing them to
discern from God’s Word how to live in a pagan
society. We make them keen and sharpen their
perception of spiritual things. This teaching is to
be done anytime of the day and anywhere as the
teaching opportunity arises so that it sharpens our
sons and daughters in their spiritual life. It is
teaching from your lifestyle. Because you live it
daily you can’t help but teach it to those whom you
love. It is part of our new spiritual nature in
spiritual things in your home.
Moses stresses that
parents "talk" about spiritual things in an
easy–going conversational style. The stress is not
on formal teaching and training here, but you shall
"talk of them when you sit in your house and when
you walk by the way and when you lie down and when
you rise up" (v. 7). He doesn’t say lecture them or
beat up on them with a Bible. The idea is in your
casual conversation talk about the things of God.
Let it be part of your lifestyle. Be ready to seize
the teaching opportunity at breakfast, the normal
interruptions during the day, at mealtime and at
bedtime. Don’t force it down their throats, but on
the other hand don’t be afraid to speak up and seize
the moment. Talk to them the way you talk about the
football game last night, or the baseball game, or
the fun time you just had with them.
Moses is saying let
loving the Lord be a natural part of your daily
life. You are a poor model for your children if the
only thing they hear about God and the church is
when you are busy verbally running down people in
it. Teach your children to love the Lord in
everything they do, every day.
In order to accomplish
this you may need to work on communication skills.
If you must always respond, or have the answer, or
make everyone in your family think the way you
think, perhaps it would be very helpful if you just
listen and not say a word until the other person is
completely finished. This is true especially if you
have teens in your house. Just listen! Don’t say a
word. Learn to listen so you can take advantage of
the opportunity to teach.
Moses says, "when you sit
in your house" at mealtime, cook outs, back packing,
picnics, going for a walk in the park or in the
woods, fishing, etc. Let your conversation about
spiritual things be spontaneous sharing. What has
the LORD been doing in your life? What is God doing
for you as an adult? How has God provided for you,
perhaps a new job, a career change, your spiritual
life, the fruit of the Spirit, a promise that God
has fulfilled in recent days? "When you sit in your
house" is probably referring to your leisure time.
Seize the teaching
moments in life
"When you walk by the
way." What do you talk about while in the car? As
you journey through life observe people and
situations all about you and seize the teaching
moment to share the difference Christ makes in your
"When you lie down and
rise up" probably refers to those quiet moments
before you go to sleep. There have been many times
when our whole family has piled on the bed laughing
and talking about the day. Inevitably, it opens
teachable moments on how the day went. Look for
those moments and capitalize on them any time of the
day. Let it be part of your lifestyle.
Your life is an
open book to be read by all (v. 8).
"And you shall bind them
as a sign on your hand and they shall be a frontals
on your forehead." Jewish rabbis during the days of
Jesus took verse eight literally and tied
phylacteries on their clothing. These were little
leather boxes in which were placed verses of
scripture written on parchment. Moses is not talking
about adorning ourselves with religious jewelry.
Again, he is emphasizing the need to continually
teach the Word of God. Let God’s Word be bound up in
all we do and think. Your life is an open book that
is read daily by your family.
"And you shall write them
on the door posts of your house and on your gates"
(v. 9). The mezuzah was a small box containing a
parchment of Scripture. He is not talking about
plaques around the house and on the mailbox or
welcome mat. Let the Word of God be written upon
your lifestyle. Let the Lord demonstrate that His
love is in your home. If you love the Lord and
demonstrate that in the fruit of the Spirit you will
be a wining parent.
I thought how I might
illustrate this great commandment. Let’s look for a
moment at a family that puts Moses’ teaching into
WHOLESOME FAMILY (Luke 2:39-51)
How would you have liked
having Jesus as a child or as a teen with all the
responsibility that went along with that assignment?
Could our home stand up to the test? Is it any
different than Mary and Joseph’s?
The home of Jesus
They were not
half-hearted in their observance of spiritual
things. The parents of Jesus "performed everything
according to the Law of the Lord . . ." (Luke 2:39).
They did not have a take it or leave it attitude
toward God. Joseph and Mary were committed to the
Lord. They took their relationship with God
seriously. According to Jewish tradition, Mary
taught Him Scripture from the time He could speak a
sentence, memorizing great portions of it. In his
teens Joseph taught Him a trade and they continued
to memorize God’s Word and grow in wisdom.
maturation process (v. 40)
"And the Child continued
to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and
the grace of God was upon Him" (v. 40). A. T.
Robertson reminds us He was "a hearty vigorous
little boy." He was full of life. He was like any
other four-year-old! Jesus was not a harried child,
rushed through childhood years. He was allowed to
develop as a child at His own natural normal pace.
Jesus was normal. He continued to be filled with
wisdom. It was a process of continued action.
Nothing was abnormal about Him. You could not write
an abnormal psychology textbook based on His life.
He was perfectly normal. He sets the standard for
normality. Mary and Joseph modeled wisdom from God’s
Word. They modeled before Him the application of
Biblical wisdom in daily life. He continued to
increase in wisdom as He grew older.
A. T. Robertson writes,
"The process of filling with wisdom kept pace with
the bodily growth. If it were only always true with
others! We need not be troubled over this growth in
wisdom on the part of Jesus any more than over his
bodily growth." He quotes Plummer, "The
intellectual, moral, and spiritual growth of the
Child, like the physical, was real. His was a
perfect humanity developing perfectly, unimpeded by
hereditary or acquired defects. It was the first
instance of such a growth in history. For the first
time a human infant was realizing the ideal of
Let the spiritual growth
of your children be a natural process. Don’t rush
it, but don’t be insensitive to it. Take seriously
your responsibility as a parent. Be sensitive to
God’s leading in your child’s life.
I thank God for a mother
who was sensitive to spiritual things in my life.
When I was twelve years old, the church where we
attended had a summer revival. A large number of
teenagers made public their faith in Christ as their
personal Savior. I didn’t that Sunday morning. When
I got home after church I asked my mother "if I
could join the church." She was very perceptive and
replied, this is a serious matter and we will talk
about it this week and we will sit down with the
pastor and discuss it with him, also. During the
week my mother stressed that joining the church and
being baptized had nothing to do with becoming a
Christian. My need was far greater. I needed to put
my faith in Jesus as my personal Savior. I needed to
believe on Him as my Savior understanding that He
died for my sins and rose from the dead. She was
sensitive to what God was doing in my life. She had
been praying daily for months for her Sunday School
class that included all of the boys and girls who
had made decisions that week! She led me to faith in
Christ. How eternally grateful I am to her for her
spiritual sensitivity to what God was doing in my
life. When we buried my mother at 91, there were
many who came to her visitation and expressed
repeatedly how she was the one responsible for their
coming to Christ. Be sensitive to the spiritual
needs of your children. Take time to share Christ
We have three grown
daughters and my wife is an excellent example of a
mother who was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s
dealings with them. Make sure you have a right
relationship with God first. If you as a parent are
not right with God you cannot walk in the Spirit and
abide in Christ. You will evade, put off, run away
from spiritual things in your children’s life if you
are not right with God, and your child’s blood will
be on our hands. Be spiritually prepared and
sensitive to witness to your children. Share Christ
with them. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to talk about
spiritual things with them.
Jesus as a teenager
in the home (v. 51-52)
Jesus was submissive to
His parents. "And He went down with them, and came
to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them;
and His mother treasured all these things in her
heart" (v. 51). He was an obedient teen. "He
continued in subjection to them." The word denotes
"habitual, continuous subjection" to His parents. It
was His habit or custom to be obedient to His
parents. He was not a rebellious child. The word
"subjection" is a military term meaning, "to fall in
rank under the authority of another." Jesus walked
with His parents under their authority. He submitted
to their authority. The Son of God was the perfect
son of His human parents. What a role model for us
today. He learned obedience at the table of His
earthly parents (Hebrews 5:8-9). What an attitude
for teens to model. He was the perfect child with
imperfect parents; the King and they His subjects,
and "He continued in subjection to them." Just like
us, Mary and Joseph were imperfect and limited, yet
He treated them with respect. Robertson writes, "He
continued subject unto them, this wondrous boy who
really knew more than parents and rabbis, this
gentle, obedient, affectionate boy. The next
eighteen years at Nazareth (Luke 3:23) he remained
growing into manhood and becoming the carpenter of
Nazareth (Mark 6:3) in succession to Joseph (Matt.
13:55) who is mentioned here for the last time."
Jesus was balanced.
"Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in
favor with God and men" (v. 52). His development was
not one sided. He was not so spiritual that He was
of no earthly good. He lived in harmony with God and
men. Verse 52 reveals His development from age
12-30. There was normal maturation of His physical,
mental emotional and spiritual wellbeing. There was
normal vigorous growth. He grew "in favor with God
and men" means they loved Him and enjoyed being
around Him. He was a favorite with men, and He is
the most attractive personality the world has ever
intellectual, moral, spiritual development of Jesus
was perfect. "At each stage He was perfect for that
False pagan deities are
always ready to invade your home. The gods of
humanism, new age movements, the cults, materialism,
fame, fortune, popularity, power, greed, immorality,
drugs, etc. are always vying for our attention. How
do you live the Christian life in such a pagan
world? God asks us to place our hand in His and walk
with Him by faith. He will never let go. We find our
security in Him alone.
We live in a day when
there are quacks and cults all over the place, so
let me stress clearly God never asks parents to do
something that will harm their children physically,
emotionally, morally or spiritually. You be a
winsome witness for Christ in your home.
When we love the Lord
your God with all our being we make Him the center
of our home life.
It is easy to bring the
Lord into the picture if He is the center of your
life. You cannot help but talk about the one you
love. Let that love for Him make lasting influences
in your home. Get eternity into the picture and it
will change your home. As a family make a commitment
now to seek first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness. We cannot train our children to love
the Lord if we do not first love Him.
When you teach from your
lifestyle you teach from your whole person and you
sharpen your children to face a pagan culture.
Your life is an open book
read by everyone in your family. What are they
reading, dad? What are they listen to, mom?
When you are sensitive to
the spiritual life of your child you will see the
fruit of your love for Christ.
Don’t be ashamed to share
Christ with your family. Be sensitive to God’s work
in their lives and seize the teaching moment.
If you are a teen, please
be patient with your parents! God is still working
I have always thought it
was strange but we are never ready to be parents
until after our children have left the nest. Jesus
must have been extremely patient with Mary and
Joseph. He submitted to their authority. He had His
priorities straight. Jesus lived in harmony with God
and His parents.
May the Lord help us to
live Christ in a pagan society, and may our homes
honor and glorify His name.