Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Qualification of the Family

Instructions regarding Elders

He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not control his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)

1 Tim 3:4-5 NASB

This is going to be about men and priorities. I want you to know that I am going to be using my extensive knowledge of the male mind, gathered from years of research—by actually being a male. I will draw some generalizations that probably speak more about me than they do the corporate male gender. Take it or leave it.

“I do what it takes to get it done.” He boasted while chuckling.

We were talking about boundaries at work. At least that's what I thought we were talking about. In fact we were talking about how little we respect our wives and take seriously the role of minister we are supposed to have in our families. I got this point when we realized that we would both chew our own arms off if that's what it took to get to an appointment on time, but we would frequently leave work late without even a phone call to our waiting families back home.

I believe men will sacrifice their families for work or ministry because it is easier to see your success there than it is at home. What these men don't understand is that I don't think God will ever “grade” any outside activity/ministry a higher grade than what he gives to the man in his role as husband and father. A pastor who is a crappy husband but successfully leads a church of 5,000 is still a crappy man. I use pastor here not because I am thinking of any pastors in general, rather I am arguing from extremes—if a pastor doesn't get a pass on this, then no one does.

Let's start unpacking this a little bit. The above passage is one of many qualifications for a church elder. These are men that must be able to, in some way, state what Paul does in Philippians “If you need to know what the Christian life looks like, look at me.” Therefore, what applies to the qualifications of an elder applies to all men. We should all be seeking to cultivate the God-fearing attributes listed in this passage.

Paul tells Timothy that the effectiveness a man presents in managing his family is indicative of his ability to minister well in the church. He is to “preside” well, correcting his children with all dignity. This means he is not only taking care of their physical needs, but also mentoring them spiritually. This was part of the qualifying round. If this didn't pass muster, then the man was not allowed to preside over the church. This list of qualifications is not a list of capabilities. Must manage well. Familiarity with Excel, Word and Powerpoint. Proficiency with a guitar a plus. Paul is telling us that elders must be obedient to Christ. The reality of the Gospel, the Lordship of Christ that saved us from this body of death, must be evident.

Why is the family so important? Because the way a man leads his family tells the world how he understands God. God instituted marriage in Genesis 3 and then in Ephesians 5 he explains why. Marriage is the earthly acting-out of the relationship Christ has with the church. How he sacrificed all for her. How he leads her now, with all love and grace, correcting her when she goes astray. Being a man is not about football and beer. Likewise being a man does not mean you must always be in touch with your emotions and rent chick-flicks to watch with your wife. Being a man is about loving your family sacrificially. Laying down your life to mimic Christ, so that your daughters don't run to the first man that pays them attention, leaving the faith and getting pregnant at 16. It means teaching your sons perseverance and hard-work, scripture and prayer, so that they will have Scripture and your memory to fall back on when trouble strikes their home after you are gone. Men, the church is not made up of a sea of individuals, no matter how much modernity wants to tell you that. It is made up of Christian families, with the man as the head. You must shepherd your families the way the elders are to shepherd Christ's church.

Men who needlessly neglect their wives and children for the prize of success in business or ministry are men who work hard to stay in shape all the while not treating the cancer that is destroying them. We are to be little-christs to our families, we are to model to them what God is like so that they all will believe. NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT. These are the only people God has put in your life for the rest of your life. These are the ones you will be held most responsible for. I don't want God to ask me, “Zack, I gave you my beloved daughter and children for 40 years, is this all you have to show for it?” Be a real man, gentlemen. Get your houses in order. The rest will follow. Be obedient to the word.