The order of family relationships
Published 8:59 am Friday, August 24, 2018
By TONY HOSS
Q. Does the Bible say that wives should place their husbands ahead of their children?
A. First, I want to thank the writer for the question this week. While the Bible does not lay out a step for step order for family relationship priorities; there are general principles for the order of our family relationships. As we consider the order of these family relationships, we should be careful not to over generalize the idea of placing one person ahead of another as, in any family. We should realize that there are often changes from one person to another depending on circumstances and need. However, I do believe that the general principle of a wife putting her husband ahead of her children is implied by a combination of Scriptures. Consider the following:
There can be no doubt that God comes first: Deuteronomy 6:5 KJV: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” This verse shows us that we are to make a total commitment to loving and living for God above any other person or thing in life. This involves a myriad of thoughts such as church attendance (Heb. 10:25), loving our spouses (Ephesians 5), and properly raising our children (Ephesians 6).
If a person is married, their spouse comes next in the order of life’s priorities. According to Paul a married man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:22-25). Beyond His desire to obey and glorify His father, Jesus’ first priority was the church. Paul discusses this natural order of familial relationships and in his example a husband should follow God first, and then his wife. In similar fashion Paul shows that wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.” This should help us to see that a woman’s husband is her primary concern following God. In 1 Corinthians 11:9, we read, “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” This Scripture refers back to God’s creation of Eve. God made her as a fitting helper and companion for Adam (Genesis 2:20-25). In Genesis 3:16 we read, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” According to scripture a woman’s desire is to her husband and when childbirth is mentioned, God tells Eve that her husband would rule over her.
Paul said, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31 KJV). If in the natural order of life spouses are second only to God and since they become one flesh then it seems natural that the offspring of their marriage relationship, their children must then follow in the order of priorities. Concerning the children, God explicitly teaches that we are to raise them in a manner to cause them to love God with all their heart mind and soul as well. Paul taught, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV).
There can be no doubt that the scriptural order of priorities is God, spouse, children, parents, extended family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and then the rest of the world. Consider Paul’s words in Colossians 3:18-22 KJV, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.” Then Paul taught in Galatians 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” See also (Titus 2).
Sometimes decisions must be made to focus on one person over another, however, the goal is to not neglect any of our relationships. If we try we have the ability to meet the needs of all our relationships as set forth by God in His holy Word. The biblical balance is allowing God to empower us to meet all of our relationship priorities, inside and outside our families.
Considering all things the Bible teaches that a wife’s primary responsibility is to God first and then her husband and then children all others follow. There are some husbands who act contrary to the Word of God in that they are abusive and spiritually neglectful to their families. In such cases, hard decisions must be made concerning the welfare of the family unit and the responsibility to raise proper children. Each situation is unique and should be handled on an individual basis depending on the situation.
(Tony Hoss is minister at the Centerview Church of Christ. He can be contacted at 423-737-2287 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)