by Jeff Strite
I looked up every reference I could find that used the words “commit”, “committed”, & “commitment” and I was surprised at what I DID’T find. I never found the Bible teaching that we should put our family first! Why?
Author and speaker Zig Ziggler loved golf and once took his son with him out to the golf course. His son was still relatively new to the game, so Zig was very impressed by his son’s performance on one of the par 4 holes.
At the tee, the boy lifted the ball straight and true down the fairway. A second shot got him onto the green within 14 feet of the cup. Wanting his son to succeed, he went to great trouble in sighting the shot for him and gauging the lie of putt and then told his son just how he ought to play it. His son stepped up to the ball and putted the ball perfectly into the cup just as his father had taught him. His first birdie.
Then it was Zig’s turn. He also had made the green in 2 shots but his putt was far easier. For a moment he considered flubbing the shot so that he would not overshadow his son’s achievement, but then he decided against it because it would go against everything he had taught his son about doing his best. He sank the putt easily and also birdied the hole.
As they were walking away to the next tee, Zig casually asked his son “Well, son, were you rooting for me on that last shot.”
“Dad,” the boy replied, “I always root for you.”
I always root for you… that is the kind of commitment you find in the best families. It’s a commitment that always seeks the best for our spouses, children and parents. It is always seeking a way that they can succeed. Always wanting them to get ahead and win at life. And that’s the kind of commitment God wants His people’s families to have for each other.
And so, in Deuteronomy 6, God says to Israel: If you want your families to succeed in life… if you’re truly committed to your household – then here’s what you have to do: LOOK THERE WITH ME starting with verse 5
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you— a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant— then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”
This is the formula for success: put God first in your family.
Put God 1st in what you teach your children
Put God 1st in how you live your life
1. Now, as I prepared for today’s sermon, I looked up every reference I could find that used the words “commit”, “committed”, or “commitment” and I was surprised at what I DID’T find
I never found the Bible teaching that we should put our family first! In fact Jesus Himself taught us that we dare not do that.
In Matthew 10:37 Jesus said: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”
But, now wait a minute…
I thought the church would be a great place to raise my children
I thought it would be a great place to strengthen my family
I thought if I went to church, I’d have a stronger marriage
Well, yes you will… but not if your commitment first is to your family. You will have the kind of family you want only if your commitment comes to God first. In fact, you have a promise to that effect:
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)
Why would that be?
Well… this is how it works:
God knows that WHO I’m committed to will determine WHO sets the rules.
1. If I’m committed to my family first… then if they’re not happy, then I won’t obey God
For example, I know of one family where little Johnny couldn’t do anything wrong. And being a precocious little boy, little Johnny would periodically misbehave in Sunday School. One day when he was corrected for behaving badly in Sunday School one day, the parents didn’t talk to the Sunday School teacher to find out what had happened (she had acted properly, by the way) … they simply didn’t bring him back to church. Why? Because little Johnny is their priority… not God. They ended up divorcing themselves from God because little Johnny wasn’t happy.
2. If I’m committed to my family first… then I’ll do what I (rather than God) THINK is right
I once met a man who told me of the great movies he and his grade school sons had watched together. Now, this man wasn’t a Christian, but I was appalled at what he allowed into his house. I knew these movies were PG-13 fare I wouldn’t watch if it were just me at home.
Granted, I’d never seen these movies, but from the advertising and the nature of the actors in those movies, I knew they displayed disrespect for authority and were loaded with profanity.
I tried to be tactful (because I was trying to win this man to Christ) and I noted that I would be worried about bringing that kind of movie – so filled with cursing – into my house with my two kids.
He scoffed and replied: “They’re going to hear that kind of language eventually, they may as well hear it here in my house with me.”
To him this made sense. These were his boys and he wanted to share the movies he liked to watch with them. AND because he wasn’t a Christian – God standards were not a priority to him.
It is a firm principle of Christian life if you and I put our families first… then sooner or later, God will come 2nd
But when I put God 1st then my family will benefit BECAUSE THEN God will then set the rules on how I should treat my family.
In 1 Peter 3:7 tells us Husbands to “be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
What God is saying is that if we husbands mistreat our wives – He won’t listen to us. He won’t hear our prayers.
In Ephesians 5:33 Husbands are told we “must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Wives are commanded by God to respect their husbands. To not put them down or belittle them.
Then in Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”— which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
God is telling our kids that if they want to survive in this world, they need to learn to honor their parents. If they don’t, they’ll suffer and live lives that won’t be what they’d hoped for.
And Fathers are told, “do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
Notice… all these are commands from the Lord. We MAY NOT ALWAYS WANT to do these things, but even if we don’t want to do them – if God is our 1st priority/ if we’re committed to pleasing God above all else in life – then we’ll follow them because this is what God wants us to.
You see… if I’m totally committed to God, then I understand that once I became a Christian I signed my entire life over to Him. I don’t own anything. I don’t own my home, my car, even the clothes on my back. AND, I don’t own my wife or husband or my children. They all belong to the Lord. And God tells me that He thus hold me accountable for the things that are now His. He holds me accountable for how I treat my wife or discipline my kids. They are His, not mine.
II. Now… that’s only PART of the idea of building our families on the foundation of commitment
Why is that only ONE part? Because what I’ve just discussed is MY part of this commitment thing. We haven’t yet talked about GOD’S part
God says in Psalms 37:5-6: “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and HE WILL DO THIS: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
In other words: You put God first… God will put you first
Now, there are people who believe the pagan concept of “God helps those who help themselves”
This is a false doctrine. It is not Biblical.
God has NEVER said that and has NEVER endorsed that
God does not help those who help themselves.
God helps those who honor Him and put Him first in their lives.
NOW I don’t care if someone is a Christian or not: every parent… every child… every grandparent…. really want what’s best for their family. And sometimes those who are not Christians will do by instinct what God commands us to do as Christians. Perhaps their parents modeled this lifestyle for them. Perhaps they’ve seen Christians who’ve treated their families Biblically and have copied that… or perhaps they intuitively know that this is the right thing to do.
Thus, we all (Christians and non-Christian alike) try to make sure our family is well provided for.
Our children to have the best education
The best health care
The best opportunities for a good job when they graduate
We want them to marry well
We want them to raise children/grandchildren that we be proud of
If it’s WITHIN OUR POWER, we want them to have a financial help they may need to get ahead…
If it’s within OUR power…
Many families will do much of what they do “within their OWN power”. And by extension… they teach their children to rely upon THEIR OWN power
One day a small boy tried to lift a heavy stone, but couldn’t budge it. His father, watching him, finally said, “Are you using all your strength?”
“Yes, I am!” cried the boy.
“No, you’re not,” said the father. “You haven’t asked me to help you.”
What God is saying here in Deut. 6 is: teach your kids to ask me for help. And you will teach them this by helping them to remember that God helped YOU in the past.
If you and I make it a constant part of my life to REMEMBER what God has done for us in the past (when we have been faced difficulties and obstacles in our lives) we’ll be more inclined to look to God for help when we encounter problems a 2nd and 3rd and 4th time in life.
And if that’s true in our lives… then our kids will be more inclined to look to God when life gets difficult for them.
This type of mindset should almost be “missionary” for us. We should be as consumed with this as we are with any other aspect of life we consider vital to the health of our family.
For example: my kids are still in grade school and when they get ready for bed Diana yells up at them: “Don’t forget to brush your teeth!” Every night she does this.
Then, in the morning, before the kids leave for school, she’ll shout to them “Did you remember to brush your teeth?”
Every morning and every night, my wife pursues this with a missionary zeal. Why? Because she wants to make sure our kids have the same teeth they have now til they die!
Likewise, we should deliberately pursue teaching our family about God’s power in our lives.
Years ago in Reader’s Digest, one young black woman told of how her dad used to teach God’s providence to his kids. She said she remembered this story from her youth:
Her dad said: “Seems like some of our neighbors expect to be sharecropping forever. But it doesn’t have to be that way, now does it? Look at the boy Joseph there in the Bible.”
She said that then her dad wove the wondrous story about a young man thrown into a dark slimy pit.
Then he said: “Joseph didn’t stay in that hole. Joseph expected to be a leader, not a forgotten young man at the bottom of a pit. And do you know what happened to him? One day…” and then he told of how God worked in Joseph’s life to pull him out of that pit and raise him up to be the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt.
It was such a powerful lesson that she remembered it even when she became an adult.
I personally like these “Chicken Soup For the Soul” books. I read them to Jonathan when he was growing up and they taught him that God really does work in people’s lives. He’s not just a distant God talked about in an old book that’s 100’s of years old. God works in people’s lives today.
The book has made such an impression on him that he took it to school with him just last week.
And I’ll tell him and Naomi stories of what God has done in my life and Diana’s life and how we’ve learned to depend upon Him for everything we have.
Deuteronomy 6 tells us we need to teach our children/ grandchildren – with a missionary zeal. It should be an all-consuming passion to get our kids to know that
God is good…
and God cares
and God acts in our lives
If we believe that God can act in our lives… if we’re convinced that God has acted in our lives… and if we’re committed to putting God as the central force in our lives… then our kids/ grandkids will pick that up. They’ll learn to trust in our heavenly Father because they’ve seen that we have learned to trust in our Father.
The story’s told of a stuntman who – years ago – pulled a tightrope across Niagara falls. He had announced that he was going to walk across both ways and a large crowd gathered for the event.
He started across the water on that tightrope and made it to the other side and the crowd applauded.
Then he started to walk back; he made it again and every body applauded. People who said it couldn’t be done suddenly became believers.
Then he took a wheelbarrow and walked the wheelbarrow across. By this time everyone was a believer where some had been scoffers before.
Then he asked, “Now before I take the wheelbarrow back once more, and I’m going to ask for a volunteer. Who will ride in the wheelbarrow?”
The applauding believers suddenly drew back. But one young child came forward, and climbed into the wheelbarrow. As he made his way back and forth across the falls with this young girl in the wheelbarrow, someone in the crowd asked “how could she be so trusting of this man?”
Another in the crowd responded: “Oh, didn’t you know? That’s her father.”
She believed it could be done… because she believed in her father. Likewise, our children should know how much we’re willing to trust God… because He is our Father.