The nations of the West are crumbling because we’ve mistakenly believed that our national or global governing bodies are the only governments that matter. We have forgotten that God instituted three governments: the family, the state, and the church. The only hope of fixing our broken state is relearning and practicing what the Scriptures teach about all three of these governments. These governments are all essential and must be kept in their proper place. Today, we introduce the government of the family.
Our culture elevates the individual over the family as the fundamental building block of society. How have we done that? We began by making marriage covenants easy to break through no-fault divorce. Individuals may leave a marriage at any time, for any reason. We have made singleness the normative relationship status. Look at the television programming over the last 3 decades. The most popular shows have been about perpetually single and promiscuous adults who never embrace responsibility for starting and raising a family. This life of individuality is glamorized. Not only have we normalized singleness, but with the aid of contraception (which can be a good thing) we have also normalized sterility. You can now have children when it fits your plans. Within the last 15 years, we have witnessed the erosion of the very definition of marriage and even “male” and “female.” Everyone does what is right in their own eyes. (Jug. 21:25) In other words, the individual, not the family is the fundamental building block of society. The individual defines themselves.
THE FAMILY DEFINED
When we read the Bible we see that families, consisting of a father, mother, and children are the fundamental building block of a society, not individuals. In the opening chapters of the Scriptures, God made an individual human man, and shortly after his creation, God declared that it was not good for man to be alone. (Gen. 2:18) God then made a woman from the man, and through their marriage and sexual union, a new generation of humanity was born. (Gen. 4:1) As a general rule, the human race is not called to a life of singleness or chosen sterility. Undoubtedly, that last sentence rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I can already hear the, “But what about…,” arising in your throat. We could make disclaimers all day long, but the Scriptural truth stands. As a general rule, the human race is not called to a life of singleness. Marriages are not to be childless. God intends godly men to actively pursue a godly wife and bear and raise godly children. The family, then, is a self-contained, God-instituted government given for the flourishing, protection, and propagation of the entire human race.
The family government has offices: husband, wife, child. These offices are not interchangeable, but rather distinct and crucial components of a healthy family unit. Husbands are not to have multiple wives or vice versa. Men may not marry men. Women may not marry women. Children are not to act as if they are parents.
The family government has rules and regulations prescribed by God. God requires husbands to take responsibility for the health of the family as they love their wives and teach their children. (Gen. 3:17, Eph. 5:23; 25, 6:4) Wives are to respect their husbands and care for the households God has given them (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 5:14). Children are to obey their parents. (Eph. 6:1-3)
The family government has boundaries that partition the family from other human societies. (Eph. 5:22-33; Eph. 6:1) Another way of putting this is that families have their own sphere of authority. Fathers and mothers are responsible to correct and discipline their own children, not every child. They are to nurture and care for the needs of their own children, not every child. (1 Tim. 5:18) While a family may choose to meet the needs of another family, they are not naturally obligated to do so. The covenantal relationship between husband and wife as well as the biological relationship between parent and child create both a covenantal and biological partition that surrounds and sections-off individual families from others. They create ties of ownership, responsibility, and accountability.
As a pastor, I often have conversations with individuals outside of our congregation who are seeking financial assistance. As I counsel them, I always ask about their family. I ask if they have any family who can provide financial assistance before the church steps in to assit. I don’t ask that because I’m stingy or cold-hearted, but because their family has a natural obligation to them that the church does not, and they have an obligation to their family. If their family refuses to help them, it may be an indication of their family’s sin, or their own. It may mean that they need to go back to their family and make amends so that the family can renew its duty to the individual or vice versa.
I give this example because it highlights a major problem in our nation: we no longer see the family government as binding. Rather, we see family as optional. Families often neglect their own. Family members often mistreat their families knowing they can get a hand-out from the church or the state. This is upside down. The church and the state can genuinely assist those who are vulnerable, but they must not seek to replace the family.
ONE MORE EXAMPLE
As parents, my wife and I alone are ultimately responsible for what our children are being taught. This is because our children belong to us. They are our possessions. They do not belong to the state, or to the schools. One of the fiercest attacks on the family today is seen as various school systems seek to minimize or remove parental oversight in the education of their children. A simple internet search would return scores of articles on school boards or teachers who sought to hide what children were reading in the classroom, or encouraging students who struggle with gender dysphoria to outright lie to their parents about their questions regarding sex and biology.
Why is this such a flammable subject? It’s because, in many cases, the state and school boards have overstepped their God-given boundaries. They do not own children. They may be entrusted by parents with certain responsibilities, but they are to serve at the pleasure of parents and under their watch.
Christians must boldly speak up for and champion the cause of the family government. This begins by starting and maintaining our own families according to God’s design. It means we must reject and repel attacks on biblical definitions of marriage, gender, and sexuality. To do all of this, we’ll need deep connections with other faithful Christian families within the local church. None of us can make this stand on our own.
FOR FURTHER READING
Much more can be said about the need for strong families. If you would like to dive deeper into this subject I would like to suggest a few resources. Begin by reading the Scriptures. Start by reading and studying the references in this post. Here is a list of books I have found helpful as well:
Biblical Foundations for the Family
Köstenberger, Andreas J, and David W Jones. God, Marriage, and Family Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. 2nd ed., Wheaton, Ill Crossway, 2010.
Biblical Foundations for Human Sexual Ethics
Heimbach, Daniel R. True Sexual Morality. Crossway, 9 Nov. 2004.
Biblical Foundations for Men
Phillips, Richard D. The Masculine Mandate : God’s Calling to Men. Sanford, Florida, Reformation Trust Publishing, 2016.
Biblical Foundations for Men & Women
Piper, John, and Wayne Grudem. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood : A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway, 2012.
Natural & Political Arguments for Marriage
Sherif Girgis, et al. What Is Marriage? : Man and Woman : A Defense. New York, Encounter Books, 2020.