According to God’s plan for human life, people do not exist in isolation but as part of a vast society, and they are fitted for their part in that society by being brought up in families (Eph 3:14-15; 1 Tim 3:4). Stability, love and cooperation in the family will help produce similar qualities in society as a whole. (Concerning illustrations of the family in relation to Israel or the church see CHURCH; FATHER.)

Parents and children

With his ordering of human life, God has put it into the nature of people to exercise and accept authority. He has, for example, given parents authority over their children, and children naturally recognize that authority (Gen 22:7-8; Exod 20:12; Luke 2:51). The Bible warns parents against misusing their authority or treating their children unjustly. It also teaches children that they must respect and obey their parents (Eph 6:1-4; Col 3:20-21). This does not mean that the family is intended to function in an atmosphere of harsh authority. On the contrary it will function best where there is an atmosphere of self-sacrificing love (Titus 2:4; cf. 2 Cor 6:11-13; Eph 5:25). Parents who love their children will fulfil their duty to instruct and discipline them. They will not be able to do this, however, if they are ill-instructed or ill-disciplined themselves (Deut 11:18-19; 2 Sam 7:14-15; Prov 1:8; 13:1,24; 19:18; 29:17; Eph 6:4; 1 Tim 3:2-5; 5:14; Heb 12:7-11; see CHASTISEMENT). They must encourage open communication between themselves and their children (Deut 6:20-25; Josh 4:21-24). If parents act responsibly towards their children, they can expect to produce children who act responsibly (Prov 10:1,5; 22:6; 2 Tim 1:5). The training that produces this responsibility begins in the children’s infancy, is carried out primarily in the home, and is based on the Word of God (Deut 6:6-9; 2 Tim 3:14-15). The teaching that parents give their children must be supported by the example of right conduct in the parents’ lives (Rom 2:21-24; 1 Thess 2:10-12). Parents must practise and teach self-sacrifice for the sake of others, so that the family is a place where people learn how to love others, forgive others, honour others and serve others (Eph 4:31-32; cf. Matt 20:25-27; John 13:12-15).

Wider responsibilities

Parents must be careful that concern for the family’s well-being does not make them or their children self-centred. By practising hospitality and helping the needy, parents will encourage their children to have a generous attitude to those outside the family (Rom 12:13; 1 Tim 5:10; James 1:26-27; 1 John 3:17; see GOOD WORKS; HOSPITALITY). Such attitudes and conduct, besides benefiting others, will help those within the family develop godly character and produce a happy home (Ps 128:1-4). Responsibilities within the family concern more than just the parents and children. They extend beyond the immediate family to those of the former generation who may no longer be able to support themselves. Regardless of the help that may come from the government, the church, or other sources, Christians have a responsibility for the well-being of their aged parents (Mark 7:9-13; 1 Tim 5:4,8; see also WIDOW).

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