The Christian Home
It used to be quite common for people to have a plaque hanging on their wall saying, ‘Christ is the Head of this Home’. It sounded very good, but in many of these homes, one fears that Christ was not the Head. It is not what we say that matters but what we do. Let us beware of hypocrisy. Christ is the great King and one day every knee shall bow to Him. It is best to acknowledge Him now rather than be forced as rebels to bow on the Judgment Day. ‘Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little’ (Ps. 2:12). God gave us His Bible to be the guide as to how we should live and we find there all the directions we need for a Christian home. Remember the Shorter Catechism. ‘What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever’. What rule has God given us? ‘The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him’ (Cat. 1 and 2). ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (Jn. 14:15).
The Law of God
Some people think the commandments were only for the Old Testament. We, they say, are under grace or a new covenant. Yes, in one sense that is true. We are not under the Covenant of Works. That covenant was broken and there is no way that we can now keep it. It condemns us. We do not earn salvation by works. We are saved by grace through faith. Yet, having been saved by grace, the moral law is the standard for our lives. Spoken by God Himself from heaven, written in stone by the finger of God, it is an expression of God’s character and God does not change. It was there in the Garden of Eden and will be there forever. Jesus said: ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled’ (Mt. 5:17-18). The Ten Commandments are still binding. They summarise God’s law but the whole Bible is to be our guide.
God has given us a great privilege in that we can come to Him as our Father in heaven and address our prayers to Him. Pray for all your needs. Also pray for guidance. At times, pray on your own in secret. Jesus said: ‘When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly’ (Mt. 6:6). Pray in secret and you will be rewarded openly. But also pray with your wife or husband. There is an old and true saying, ‘Families that pray together stay together’. Whatever the crisis or trouble in which you find yourself come to God in prayer. In the marriage service couples seek God’s blessing, but it is not just once you are to do that. Seek it every day. ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened’ (Mt. 7:7-8).
When we study the Old Testament we see families worshipping God. To begin with there was no organised church. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob worshipped as families. When Israel began as the Old Testament church, though they had the tabernacle and later the temple, there was still much religion to be practised in the family. For example, the Passover was eaten by the whole family behind closed doors. Children were to ask, ‘What mean ye by this service?’ (Ex. 12:26) and fathers were to instruct their children. There were other feasts and festivals in which the family shared too. As well as secret prayer, be sure to pray as a family and to read the Scriptures together. If you can sing praise to God, do so. In the home in which I grew up, morning and evening, from childhood we had family worship. That used to be the practice in many homes. I practised it in turn with my own family. Our children learned the Scriptures as we worshipped together. They also learned to sing the Psalms. Many times we have read through the whole Bible. What a blessing! Pray together and sing Psalms to God. If we had guests or even just neighbours in the home we still had family worship. It was a good witness and showed what was vitally important to us as a family. This is an excellent Puritan and Highland tradition.
Where people are, there will occasionally be disagreements. Even in the most loving homes and between devoted husbands and wives, sometimes there will be quarrels. We are all sinners and make mistakes. Paul lays a duty on us, ‘If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord’ (Rom. 12:18-19). We are to strive for peace. We must not be sulky or seek revenge. ‘Let not the sun go down upon your wrath’ (Eph. 4:26). Before nightfall make peace. This is vitally important in a marriage and will guarantee no lasting resentment. Come to God with your quarrels and seek peace. When you pray together to God about an argument you have, it tends to disappear under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Work is a good thing and is an institution of God like the Sabbath rest. We are meant to work. It can sometimes be hard to obtain a job, yet all have a duty to try. Even if we cannot get paid employment we should still work and employ ourselves in helping others. Paul instructs us to seek work: ‘For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread’ (2 Thess. 3:10-12). There were some who thought the end of the world was about to happen and had wrongly given up their jobs. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might’ (Eccles. 9:10). It is good to be busy, but not so busy as to find no time for our soul or other duties. We should have a concern for others. ‘Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth’ (Eph. 4:28). Some despise the idea of making money but the Scriptures commend it as a way to help others.
Living within our means
It is not good to get into debt if at all possible. Be careful with money as it is a bad witness to live beyond our means. Jesus tells various parables about debtors. They warn us of the evil of getting into debt. It is a real danger. In a sense those in debt who do not repay their debts are living off other people’s money and in fact are stealing. Jesus warned us to carefully plan any outlay to be sure that we can meet it: ‘For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish’ (Luke 14:28-30). ‘Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law’ (Rom. 13:8). Money is at the root of many problems in marriages.
There was an old English saying ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’. There is a grain of truth in this. While we must not be house-proud, yet it is important to keep our house clean and tidy. It is a good witness. Let us show that conversion makes a great difference. The world has often noticed how conversion has affected even the appearance of a home. Laziness is sinful:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. Proverbs 6:6-11
Hospitality is pleasing to God. We should be friendly and have an open home. We ought always to be ready to welcome especially the Lord’s people. ‘Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares’ (Heb. 13:1-2).
One of the sadder things that has happened in our Western society has been the decreasing care for older members of the family. Children happily put their old parents into homes when it would be possible for them to look after them in their own homes. This is sad, but especially so if the people concerned profess to be Christians. ‘But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel’ (1 Tim. 5:8). Our duty to care for the old and the disabled is not optional but laid upon us by the Lord.
Jesus said ‘For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good’ (Mk. 14:7). They are a constant responsibility to us. James warns, ‘If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?’ (2:15-16) When Paul was sent out as a missionary he was reminded to care for the poor: ‘Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do’ (Gal. 2:10). Tithing is an important duty and it means that the church will have money to help the needy. Through Malachi God says:
‘Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it’. Malachi 3:8-10
We all have a duty to look out for the poor and needy and to seek to help them. The role of the deacon is to care for the poor.