The Priorities for a Christian Family
The Bible teaches that God comes first in the list of priorities for a Christian family. In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Loving God is the first priority.
The word here translated “heart” points to the feelings, desires, and will. It is the root of all behavior and the core of thought (Exodus 31:6; 36:2; 2 Chronicles 9:23; Ecclesiastes 2:23). The word translated “soul” refers to the moving force in man or the life but includes also his bodily appetites and desires (Numbers 21:5). The word translated “might” means “to increase.” It refers to the things that have been gained by a person in his life.
God the Father calls for all that a man is and has—his mind, his love, his will, his feelings, and his capacity for action (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The believer’s relationship with God should be built on love (1 John 4:19). For love is the basic theme of His character and law (Mark 12:29, 30). To love fully is to obey with all the heart (John 14:15; 15:10).
The spouse comes next in the order of priorities. A married man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Christ’s first priority—after obeying and glorifying the Father—was the church. And wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
A woman’s husband is second only to God in her priorities. The submission asked of the wife is of the type that can be given only between equals. It is not forced obedience, but a voluntary submission in the respects in which the man was qualified by his Maker to be the head (Genesis 3:16). This principle of submission is lasting, but its application may be different according to the social ethics. Paul wrote the following about the order of the family relationship between a husband and wife:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” Ephesians 5:25).
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 8,9).
“Wives submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).
If a couple has children, their children should be the next priority. Parents are to raise godly children who will be the next generation of those who love the Lord with all their hearts. The Word of God teaches, “fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The word “fathers” may be used to include both fathers and mothers.
The Lord’s instruction and discipline to His children are an indication of His love (Revelation 3:19), and so should be those of the parents. Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Parents are to “direct, educate, and develop,” their children in the way of the Lord.
It has been suggested by modern educators that a child should be left to form his own personality, morality and beliefs, since it is unfair to impose them upon him when he is too young to think for himself. This argument is faulty for it is impossible for a child to grow up without instruction and guidance of some kind. If parents or guardians do not teach their children truth, someone else will teach them error. Educating the children is the most important role of parents.
Parents are next in the list. The fifth commandment states, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Christ set an example for every believer when He provided for His mother’s care at the time of His crucifixion (John 19:25–27). Paul admonishes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). To “obey in the Lord” is to give the kind of obedience that springs from being “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1). On the other hand, parental requests should be in harmony with the will of God (Acts 5:29).
After parents, comes the rest of one’s family or relatives. The Bible teaches a person’s responsibility toward not just his parents but all other relatives who are close of kin and need help, especially widows. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
The next priority down the list is towards the believers in the church. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul instructs on how the church members should live together in harmony and love one another. They are to “serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13); “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32); “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11); and assist “one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
Sincere concern for the worldly and eternal well-being of others is the standard by which Heaven decides the sincerity of a person’s claim to love God. John wrote, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9–11 also 3:10, 14). Love is action. And it should be expressed in acts of kindness and mercy.
The final priority is to the rest of the world. Jesus Christ instructed that we should love and reach out with the good news of God’s salvation to all the people in the world. He said, “Go [a]therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Jesus declared Himself to be that light (Matthew 12:16–21). He was the light not of the Jewish nation only but of the whole world (John 8:12). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loves both Jews and Gentiles.
We are to share Christ’s goodness and teach that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Christ’s gospel commission effectively erases man’s national boundaries. And citizens of all nations find themselves part of one great brotherhood in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female,” for all are “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).
In His service,