After speaking to the Ephesians about the relationship between a husband and his wife, Paul turns his attention to other relationships in the home, or the household. In the Greco-Roman world the household included slaves as well as true family members. So Paul’s instructions that a man be a good manager of his household, included managing every aspect of his family life, including slaves (1 Tim. 3:4). In a similar way households today are often larger than just a man, his wife and their children. Households are complicated and there are often other children, adopted children, and aged parents. The Bible does not allow for the redefinition of marriage, the debate of which is raging in American and Europe. That is the luxury of a wealthy and materialistic society that has too much time on its hands! The rest of the world is simply trying to survive, hold their families and households together, feed, clothe and shelter them. While Greek society was well-known for homosexuality, Roman society, once very strong in its family values, was wrecked by the breakdown of the family, but even they were not seeking to redefine the family or marraige. There was a recognition of the importance of the family or household in Rome, as the building blocks from which society was made. As the family goes, so goes society.

This lesson is something that we in America are just discovering. With the consistent breakdown of the family, there has been a corresponding degrading of American society and values. But what exactly is the cause or the nature of the breakdown of the family? The answer is amazingly simple, uncomplicated and straightforward. It is the result of the breakdown of relationships within the family. The deterioration of the relationship between and husband and his wife, the breakdown between a father and his children, a mother and her children, the rivalry between siblings, resentment between brother and brother, sister and sister, brother and sister. The answer being proposed is that we should simply broaden the definition of the family, as though a broader definition will solve the problem of the disintegration of relationships with in the home. It is the same answer given to schools when the results of education are disappointing, simply lower the standard by which you define success! That way you will include more within the definition of contitutes successful. However, lowering the standard almost always has the opposite effect, as more and more people make even less effort and fall below expectations. People almost never rise to lower expectations, but they will respond to a challenge and higher expectations. The problem is not the unachievableness of the standard, but the lack of effort to meet the challenge.

So Paul raises the bar. He raises the bar on husbands and calls for sacrificial love, that expends itself on the welfare of the wife (Eph. 5:25-27). He raises the bar on the wives and calls on them to quit resisting and obstructing their husbands, working against their leadership in the home, and show them the kind of respect the church had for Christ (Eph. 5:22-23). He raises the bar on children, “obey your parents, don’t be unruly!” (Eph. 6:1). He raises the bar on fathers, they are not exasperate their children with unattainable goals or expectations (Eph. 6:4). He raises the bar on the employer and tells them to treat their employees with respect and gentle kindness (Eph. 6:9). Employees are not to take advantage of the kindness and generosity of their employers, but render them full service, commensurate with their wages and responsibility (Eph. 6:5). The common thread in all of this is relationship.

What Paul is focusing on is the relationships in the family. They are important. But they are also different. The dynamics between the husband and his wife are different than dynamics between a child and a parent, a boss and his employee. So Paul lays down the overriding or core principle that is the driving dynamic of each relationship. For example between the husband and his wife it is love and respect, between father’s and children is reasonableness and obedience, between the employer and employee is fairness and just treatment of one another. In each case Paul lays down the benefit of faithfulness in the relationship.

To the children, Paul says, obey your parents. What is the governing principle, the driving dynamic in the relationship of children to their parents? It is obedience. We must first notice the environment of the obedience to parents, it is in the Lord (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc). This is a very significant and favorite phrase for Paul. It means that the context of our relationship to Christ governs the corresponding requirement or attirbute. Paul is calling on children to obey their parents, not just because they are parents, but because of the sphere in which they, the parents and the children live, which is in Christ, as believers. Even if the parents are not believers, children should respect their parents authority because of their own commitment to Christ, and consider respect for their parents as a matter of obedience to him. Children are naturally required to follow the instruction and demands of their parents, but Paul adds that it is a matter of spirituality and faithfulness to God for children to obey their parents. What is the payoff? To obey your parents honors God, and reflects the image of Christ. Also, God promised in the Old Testament, Paul said, to respond to such faithfulness by blessing and protecting them (Eph. 6:3).

Paul’s command to the children is expressed in two verbs obey and honor. Children are to both obey and honor their parents in connection with their own obedience and commitment to Christ. Obedience means to be compliant. Honor means to respect. Obedience is to act and behave in the way required by your parents. Honor means to hold your parents in high regard, and to not undermine them or their authority. The term obey simply means to do what you have been told! To honor you parents means to hold them in high regard in your heart and to signify that in your attitude (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). You are placing your parents on a pedestal! Assign a high status and level of importance to them in your life (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies).

What is the governing principle, the driving dynamic in the relationship between fathers and their children? It is being reasonable. Many a child has been lost to a dad because of unreasonableness. Men have a tendency to be unreasonable where their children are concerned. We have to fight against it. It has a death grip on some men’s lives, and they will put up with estrangement from their children rather than admit that their demands are too stringent, their goals too high, their attitude too rigid. It is like killing the relationship to win the point of an argument or principle! The word Paul uses literally means do not make your children angry. The idea is provoking your children to anger. Dad’s have a way of provoking their children to anger, either in good-natured fun that goes sour, or by unreasonable expectations and demands. Paul warns fathers that continually provoking your children to anger with you will result in killing closeness in the relationship.

This and neglect are to the two primary failures of fathers. So Paul addresses, indirectly the idea of neglect, by instructing fathers to both train and instruct your children in the principles of living a godly life. The word train literally means bring to maturity (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). By which Paul implies meeting psychological and emotional needs, as well and physical ones. It is not enough to provide for the home if you do nothing to show love and to build self-esteem and confidence in your children. It takes time to do these things. So Paul is arguing for fathers to engage in their home! They are also to teach, or admonish or instruct their children in the Lord. The idea fathers are to impart a firm and clear understanding of the Lord and the principles of the kingdom of God. The training is not in a vacuum, it is in the context of obedience and love for God. So it is the father’s relationship with God that informs his instruction and training of his children, who then capture the essence of loving and serving God.

What is the governing principle, the driving dynamic of the relationship between an employer and his employee? It is fairness, justice. Justice from the perspective of an employee, means treating the employer fairly by rendering just effort, out of respect. From the perspective of the employer it is being fair and just to your employee in terms of treatment and compensation, out of a spirit gentleness and kindness. What is the payoff? To be commended by God, because he is the God of both the employee and employer, and he will judge both!

One more area needs attention aged parents and their children. Paul address this in 1 Timothy 5 where he speaks first in general of the attitude and treatment by younger leaders in the church of older saints. This leads to Paul discussing the situation of widows in the church and the practical help the church should give to them (1 Tim. 5:3-4). These are some of Paul’s seemingly hardest words… that if a widow has a family, it is their responsibility to look after their aged parents so that the church is not burdened with the expense (1 Tim 5:16)! In fact, Paul’s earlier summary stands behind the instruction, if a man does not take care of his own relatives, or family he is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). At least unbelievers generally take care of their families, especially their aged parents. Now if Paul were writing today, he might not be able to draw that analogy so freely! But it is still generally true, most people feel obligated to their aged parents and it is not the responsibility of the church to foot the bill or render primary care for the aged when they have families of their own! What is the governing principle, the driving dynamic between a child and their aging parents? It is obligation and love, as well as obdeience to God.

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