When Will Our Christian Families Fare Well?

Text: Colossians 3:17-21

17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, while giving thanks to God through him. 18 Wives, arrange yourselves under your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not irritate your children, so they may not become discouraged.


The family is in trouble.  We know it.  We’re concerned about it.  We want to know what we can do about it.  Therefore, this sermon raises the question: “When Will Our Christian Families Fare Well?”  The answer is simple: “When Husbands And Wives Fulfill Their Duties; and When Children And Parents Fulfill Their Duties.”

When will our Christian families fare well?  Dr. Martin Luther answered the question very simply in a little poem: “Let each his lesson learn with care, And all the household well shall fare.”  Let each family member learn to carry out his or her duties, and all will go well for the family.

Vince Lombardi said the recognition of a person’s success was directly proportional to his striving for excellence.  If we desire our family to be a success, we must strive for excellence, to make it the best that we can.  We will strive to make it the best that we can in order to honor Jesus, our Savior, and to give thanks to God for saving us, as this text says: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We are sinners.  If we have any doubts about our being a sinner, we need look no farther than our family circle, where we have spoken unkind words, behaved selfishly, and sinned against our family members.  Our sins within the family were sins against God, for which we deserve his eternal punishment.

God has shown the magnitude of his grace toward us, however, in forgiving and saving us through Jesus, his Son. God showed his love when he sent his one and only Son Jesus into the world that we might live through him.  Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and for the sins of the whole world.  Through Jesus, God’s Son, we have God’s peace and gift of salvation.

In response to this gracious salvation, we will honor Jesus’ name and thank God for his salvation in everything we say and do.  We will, then, also conform our family to God’s design for it.  Each of us will fulfill our respective family duties, which are briefly explained in this text.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered toward them.”  In our American society husbands are embittered toward their wives and become harsh with them.  A 1992 study entitled “Female Victims of Violent Crime” reported 56,000 wives were assaulted by their husbands every year during the 1980’s.  Included in these staggering figures of physical assault are cases where Christian husbands assaulted their wives.  Pastors, like myself, have had to deal with cases of the physical abuse of the wife within the Christian family.  Thus this admonition is in place: “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered toward them.”

For the family to fare well the husband must love his wife.  The word “love” in the Greek denotes a love that gives for the good of the wife and does what is best for her.  We husbands are to love our wives by doing what is good for them and in their best interest.  When we love our wives in this manner, we will follow Philippians 2:3, 4 which states: "Do nothing on the basis of selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility consider one another better than yourselves, not each of you looking out for your own interests, but each of you looking out for the interests of others.We husbands, following Ephesians 5:25, will love our wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  We will love our wives self-sacrificially, putting her and her needs even before our own.  When we husbands love our wives in this manner, our families will fare well.

If we husbands want our wives to treat us as kings, we must treat them as queens.  We can treat them as queens if we heed 1 Peter 3:7 which states: “Husbands, in the same way live with your wives with understanding, showing respect as to a weaker vessel, the female, as also to a fellow-heir of the grace of life, so your prayers may not be hindered.

Gentlemen, we don’t have to be rocket scientists to figure out how we can live with our wives in an understanding manner.  When we must make decisions for the family, we consider what is in our wife’s best interest by talking things over with her before any decision is made.  From day to day we will also understand that our wife has but two hands and twenty-four hours just like we do.  When they work outside of the home, we can’t expect them to have the time to do all the things around the house after work that they would do if they were home all day.  We need to give them a hand instead of hibernating on the couch like a couch-potato.

On the other hand, so our Christian families fare well, “Wives, arrange yourselves under your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  The words "arrange yourselves under" have been translated as “submit to” and “be subject to.” The feminists raise the roof over marriage vows that include the wife’s submission and obedience to her husband.  They have but two other alternatives for marriage, then: either a headless marriage, which becomes like a rudderless ship adrift on the sea, or a two-headed monstrosity in which the husband and wife compete for power to rule the roost and which leads to chaos.

The feminists fail to perceive that God designed marriage to have both partners submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  God never intended the husband to be a tyrant in the marriage.  The word “submit” in the Greek means to arrange oneself under.  According to God’s design for marriage the husband submits to his wife, arranging himself under her by loving her self-sacrificially and putting her interests before his own.  The wife in turn submits to her husband, arranging herself under him and his leadership as his helper to care for him and his needs.  Each submits for the good of the other.  What could be a better relationship than this?

When husbands love their wives self-sacrificially, the wives will not resent having their husbands as the leaders of their families, for their husbands are always putting their needs and interests first.  What wife wouldn’t be happy with such a husband as her head?

For the family to fare well, the wife will devote herself to following Titus 2:4, 5 that say: “. . . encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, working at home, kind, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be slandered.  When a woman makes her marriage vows, she makes her marriage to her husband and her caring for their family her number one priority.  Caring for her marriage and family takes precedence over her career or anything else.  Such a commitment is essential if the family is to fare well.

For the family to fare well children and parents must also fulfill their respective table of duties.  “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.”  Paul, who wrote this duty of the children, also foretold children would not obey their parents.  He wrote in 2 Timothy 3 that terrible times would come in the last days. People would be disobedient to their parents. Today we are seeing these terrible times when children disobey their parents.  Their disobedience is a sign of the coming of the end.

Children, you are to obey your parents in everything.  The Lord has given you your parents to teach you right from wrong, to raise you to be God-fearing adults, to instruct you from their personal experiences, so that your life may go well.  When you obey your parents, you please your Lord who gave you your parents.

Parents, on the other hand, have the duty to train and discipline their children.  They are to teach their children to obey.  Parents who do not teach their children obedience are doing no favors for their children.

Permissiveness was tried in the past.  It failed.  It produced unruly children who had no respect for authority and for what was right.  I remember when parents were told that if their child felt like throwing a brick through the picture window, they should let him to do it to vent his frustrations.  I remember when parents were told they should never discipline their children but let the children do as they please.  Outcries are still being made against parents spanking their children.

Permissiveness is not part of God’s design for the family.  Children need a sense of boundaries to feel secure.  Discipline, properly administered, sets those boundaries. The children then know what is expected of them in this big world with which they are trying to cope and in which they are trying to grow up.  They also know their parents love them, because their parents take the time to be concerned about what they are doing and to teach them right from wrong.

When it comes to discipline the Lord says in Proberbs 13:24: “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him is intent on disciplining him.” What is more, the Lord says in Proverbs 19:18: “Discipline your son while there is hope; But do not desire to kill him.” And in Proverbs 23:13 the Lord says: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die, meaning he will be saved from God's just judment. Simpy stated, what the Lord is saying in these Proverbs is this: it is better for the children to suffer the punishment of their parents for their sinful misdeeds and learn from it to do right than not learn to do right and suffer the everlasting punishment of God for the sins they keep committing throughout their lives.  It is a dreadful thing for them to fall into the hands of the living God.

Parenting is a trying, stressful occupation, but an all important one.  This is the nature of parenting: the Lord places into the hands of the parents a child who is a precious soul for whom Christ died.  The child is sinful by nature, having a heart that is inclined only to evil all the time, and a youthfulness that is inclined to foolishness.  The parents’ job is to take that sinful child and through training and instruction raise that child into a God-fearing, independent Christian adult, who stands on his own two feet to walk in the ways of the Lord.  This is a challenge and a full time job.  By the time parents learn how to be a parent, they have worked themselves out of the job, for their children have grown up and left their nest.

In parenting remember what Colossians 3:21 says: “Fathers, do not irritate your children, so they may not become discouraged.”  No two children are exactly the same.  Thus parents must learn to deal with their children on an individual basis.  What may work with one child will not necessarily work with another child.  For example, when my children were young, I could scold my one son and he would take it right in stride without it seemingly bothering him.  But if I so much as looked sternly at my daughter, she would burst into tears.  I had to deal differently with my daughter than I did with my son, so as not to crush her spirit.

Our children have tender spirits.  Some children show their tender spirits more readily than others.  We parents must be mindful of their tender spirits.  In teaching, training, and disciplining, we parents must be careful not to crush their spirits.  We must not irritate, embitter, and exasperate them, so they become discouraged and feel that no matter what they do, they can never do the right thing to please us.

So as not to irritate and embitter our children, we parents must differentiate between the children’s simple mistakes and their disobedience.  For example, little children, because they have not yet achieved their motor skills, because they have not yet learned how to coordinate their growing limbs, and because their attention is so easily distracted, will spill their milk.  Generally speaking, unless they are obviously having a temper tantrum and openly defying us, they don’t spill their milk to be disobedient.  They simply have an accident.  We must then treat it as an accident, not as disobedience and a rebellion against our authority.  Thus we don’t punish a spilled milk like we punish a sassy mouth.  Our children know when they are unjustly and unfairly punished.  Punishing them when they do not deserve it irritates and embitters them and turns their hearts sour against us.

Bitterness in the family is the last thing we want.  We want to make our Christian family the blessing that God intended it to be.  This being the case, and having heard the Lord’s table of family duties, “Let each his lesson learn with care, And all the household well shall fare.” Amen.