Leading Question: If we keep score of the family relations in the book of Genesis in order to determine which side wins, the dysfunctional family or the supportive family. What is the result?
It would seem that of all the family histories recorded in Genesis, the dysfunctional ones far outnumber the supportive ones. Note this list:
Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth
Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth
Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Ishmael, Isaac
Isaac, Rebekkah, Jacob, Esau
Laban, Rachel, Leah, Jacob
Jacob and his twelve sons, including Joseph
Joseph and Asenath, Ephraim, Manasseh
Of all those families, Joseph would come closest to the ideal – yet his road was a rocky one indeed!
Question: How is it that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all listed as faith heroes in Hebrews 11:17-22?
Comment: The official lesson guide puts it this way: “God’s faith champions often fall short of their own and God’s expectations. These men are listed in Hebrews11 not because of their messy family relationships but in spite of them.”
Question: If we broaden our search to include all the Old Testament, do we find any ideal families?
Comment: In much of the Old Testament, the dysfunctional family is the rule, not the exception. Note these examples:
Moses, Aaron, and Miriam
Elkanah, Hannah, Peninah, Samuel
Samuel, Joel, Abijah (1 Sam. 8:1-3)
Eli, Hophni, Phineas
David, Bathsheba, Amnon, Absalom, Ahaz (evil), Hezekiah (good), Manasseh (evil – but in Chronicles he repents), Amon (evil), Josiah (good). See 2 Kings 17-23: Good kings produce bad kings, bad kings produce good kings (with exceptions)
Note the four women in Matthew’s version of Jesus’ genealogy: Tamar (incest), Rahab (prostitute), Ruth (finally (!) a good woman, but a Moabite and an ancestor of David) Bathsheba (adulteress)
Question: What is the secret of a good family.
Comment: God’s spokespersons often fall short of seeing their ideal fulfilled. God had great hopes for Abraham. But alas he and his family fell short of the ideal:
For I know him (Abraham) that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. – Genesis 18:19
And Timothy, in his guidance for bishops/elders and deacons, also set a high standard. These instructions from 2 Timothy 3, are worth pondering:
1 The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.
8 Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; 9 they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. 11 Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; 13 for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
On balance, this little narrative on “The Point System” may suggest the only solution for raising a good family:
The “Point System”
A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”
“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”
“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”
“Three points?” the man says, “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”
“Terrific!” says St. Peter. That’s certainly worth a point.”
“One point!?!!” “I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”
“Fantastic! That’s good for two more points,” St. Peter says.
“Two points!?!! the man cries, exasperated. “At this rate the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God.”
“Bingo! 100 Points! Come on in!”
In short, only the Grace of God can bring positive results in our families.