Here’s one area where the ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’ mantra is probably true: taking care of your family. Chances are, you are likely nominal at worst, and phenomenal at best at caring for the diverse needs of your family. You probably don’t regret (mostly) the expensive grocery trips or the back-to-school shopping sprees; no, you were expecting those important events. You never once entertained the thought of dropping your children off at school unclothed, without breakfast or lunch money, or without the promise to pick them up again once the bell rung after the last class period. These things are natural to most parents (though I could argue the minimal standards for these are sliding every year…have I really seen kids at school dressed in their bedtime pajamas and eating Cheetos for lunch?)
For me and my wife, providing for our family has always been a way of life. It was demonstrated well for us by our own parents. Providing life’s necessities of food, shelter and clothing takes little or no thought. We work, pay our bills (and taxes), purchase the necessary things we need, and save the rest. Our efforts are not superhuman. We are able to do all these without much thought and often without faith; even unbelievers do this much (remember Jesus asking, “If your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? You sinful people know how to give these gifts…” Matthew 7:9-10). But have we truly cared for them holistically, carefully attending to their most important need: their love for God and their love for their neighbors? Now this takes more than a little thought and it takes great faith.
This is where imperfect care for our families becomes dangerous. Paul in his encouragement to Timothy writes: “Those who don’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers” 1Timothy 5:8 (NLT). This exhortation truly scares me. It means that if (or when) I don’t supply the needs, and especially the right needs, for my family, I have denied the true faith.
We read about Jesus talking about the most important commandment. John tells us that this new commandment is not a new commandment at all, but a really old one; and he was right. God gave Moses the ‘Greatest Commandment’ in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” [NLT]. God is telling us something important: the spiritual affections of our family are your HIGHEST priority. Everything else in your family’s life flows from this first and greatest concern.
Let me ask you a serious question: how many minutes each week do you care spiritually for your family members in the ways Deuteronomy mentions here? How does that number of minutes compare with other lesser things? How about sports, or TV, or online activities like Facebook and games? The list could continue indefinitely, but the list isn’t important. If there is an imbalance in your family care, a shift in priority from the greater (God, and our love for Him) to the lesser (all that world offers), could it be that you’re in danger of denying the faith – both theirs and your own?
This means at least a few things for the care of our families.
- It’s possible for us to profess faith in Christ and even be decent church members but deny our faith by our works. One way we do this is by neglecting the spiritual needs of our family. What this means is that we shouldn’t take confidence in our standing before God just because we attend church, read our Bibles, and even evangelize at work. If you are not leading your family closer to God, you are in danger of making shipwreck your faith. Don’t neglect the spiritual care of your family. This is your first and foremost duty as a father or mother.
- The spiritual care for your family is more important than any other kind of spiritual care. Leading your family to greater affection for Christ is more important than your service to the church, your position as church leader, or your various church and para-church ministries. I’m not denying that the lost are important, nor am I denying the Great Commission. Far from it. In fact, further study in Paul’s letter to Timothy show us that spiritual leadership at church begins in the home and qualifies a man for church ministry (1 Timothy 3:4). To neglect your family’s spiritual growth is to discredit your own testimony of faith in Christ. The care you give in shepherding your family spiritually should not be less than the care you normally give other outside your home. Don’t add to the long list of men and women whose zeal for the church outweighed their zeal for their family’s growth in Christ and have had their ministries crumble underneath the weight of their failure and carless neglect.
- When you make your family’s love for Christ your first priority, you will find yourself trusting with greater and greater confidence Christ’s promise to sustain your physical and spiritual needs. Indeed, faith means resting in God’s Word of promise that He will care for our many needs. Jesus says, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT). God’s Word is clear: love Him first and greatest, and He will supply what you need. Caring for the greater takes care of the lesser.
What does all this mean? How can we put these things into practice and make a huge difference in our family’s spiritual legacy? Love your family enough to care for their greatest need: loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
Article by Zach Zajicek