Chapter 2: Fathers: Rule the Family Well
“And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable” (Isaiah 3:4-5). In today’s society, children rule. They exercise a certain dominance. It is “normal” for children to be not a precious blessing but an onerous curse! More and more quickly, children are transforming from delightful babies into negative, criminal, violent and even murderous youths!
“As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (verse 12). Notice how God emphasizes this aspect of rule: Men are absent, women rule the families, and children—untaught and undisciplined—oppress their parents and make life miserable for the whole family!
Who defines what makes a family right-side up? The children? The parents? The society? No. The definition of how family should function comes from the Creator of family. He provides clear instructions in the Holy Bible for family structure and functioning.
The only homes that will thrive are homes with right-side-up families that follow the Bible and have God and Jesus Christ at the head!
Is a right-side-up family just a nice thing to have? Is a strong family something you can just take or leave?
Family, a Building Block
“The very foundation of any stable civilization is a solid family structure,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in “Where This Breakdown in Family Life Is Taking Us.” “Today’s civilization, with its foundation disintegrating, is itself on the way out!” (Good News, August 1985).
The foundation of a person’s entire life is greatly influenced by how he was raised (or neglected) in his family (or lack of family). Consider that this person is likely to go on to have a family (or neglect to have a family) of his own. What he does within his own family affects his community and his nation.
Unfortunately, statistics show that family life is breaking down worldwide. Divorce is rampant. Violence and murder within families is becoming common. Millions of children are being neglected.
Any child reared in an upside-down home is going to develop into an upside-down child.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
The building block of the nation is the family. The family is also the building block of God’s Church. And like society, the Church has also suffered from problems within its families.
“In era after era of God’s Church, it is a repeated fact that after a few generations the local congregations are no longer generally composed of truly converted brethren, but of unconverted children and halfhearted believers of whom many go astray into error” (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1968, Lesson 51).
Time after time, a new era of God’s Church started out zealous to serve God and obey His commandments. But after a generation or two passed, the youth who grew up to replace their parents lacked the same zeal. The Church would become spiritually lazy and weak.
The current era of God’s Church has now lasted more than a quarter-century. That is an entire generation!
God’s people must always fight against descending into a lukewarm, indifferent attitude toward God and His way of life. That includes fighting against it happening in the next generation.
For God’s Work to thrive, His people must constantly think about the future—and the future is our children! We must think ahead about the next generation.
Families are the building block of the nation, the building block of God’s Church, and the building block of the Kingdom of God.
Change the World—Starting With Your Family
“God is a Kingdom—that is, the supreme divine Family that rules the universe! The whole gospel, which Jesus Christ brought from God for mankind, is the good news of the coming Kingdom of God.
“And the united, closely knit together family of Christians—the Church—will, at the coming of Christ and the time of the resurrection, become the Kingdom of God!
“The Kingdom of God starts with a family relationship—first the physical human families; second, the one compacted together Church; and, finally, when the Church is changed to immortality, the God Family—which is the Kingdom of God!” (Good News, op cit).
God has called His people to change the world. That miraculous transformation begins with the families in His Church!
The Bible defines strong families as having God the Father as the ultimate authority, Jesus Christ under Him, the father under Christ, the mother under the father, and the children under both parents. The father submits to God and Christ, sacrifices, and exercises godly authority over the mother, and both parents exercise godly authority over their submissive, thriving children. This is the only way to have happy families and ensure the survival of the nation!
This means that you have to really work at building a strong family.
It might be easy to think, I have some problems now, but once I am born into God’s Family, I’ll be perfect and I’ll be able to rule and help Christ the way I know I’m capable of. But that is backward! God has specifically given parents the opportunity to exercise God’s Family rule now—before Christ returns. He will not bring us into His Family and give us rule if we don’t learn to rule God’s way now!
Father Must ‘Rule Well’
Jesus Christ calls His people the light of the world. When people see the families in God’s Church, they need to see God’s loving family government in action! And when our children wake up or come home from school, they desperately need to see God’s loving family government in action. In particular, they need to live in a home where the father rules!
Today, a family led by the father is rare. And a family led by a father who himself is in subjection to God is almost nonexistent!
1 Timothy 3:2-5 outline qualifications for a minister. Though these requirements apply to ministers in God’s Church today, they also apply to every man in God’s Church, especially those who lead a family. Every member of this spiritual body is preparing to minister to (or serve) the whole world when Jesus Christ returns!
What are these qualifications of a servant leader? “A bishop [minister] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?).”
Notice what God emphasizes in this list of prerequisites for a leading man in His Church and his role within his family. God could have inspired the Apostle Paul to write, “One that provides for his family, sacrifices for his family, spends time with his family, teaches his family and loves his family well.” But that is not what God emphasized. He emphasized that this man must be ruling his family.
For fathers in God’s Church, the main goal in the home is to rule the family well and to bring our children into subjection!
Compared to the world we live in and our natural inclinations, this is the difficult, uncomfortable, opposing way. But it is the way that builds a strong family, a strong nation, a strong Church and a strong Kingdom of God!
Fathers, you can choose the broad, “easy” way of life, adopting the ways of society and deferring to your own preferences, pleasures and laziness, and deal later with the disappointment, suffering and tragedy this way produces. Or you can follow God’s biblical instruction for strengthening your family.
If you want to take the straight and narrow path that leads to a strong, stable, enjoyable, godly way of life for yourself, your wife, your children and your Church, ask yourself: Is God’s government clearly evident in my marriage? Are my children in subjection to their father’s rule?
“A minister must excel at child rearing,” Gerald Flurry wrote. “We have all started at different points, and some tend to be better at this than others are. But the ministers must be getting this right in their lives, and always improving and growing in this area!” (Royal Vision, July-August 2014).
If you are a father, are you improving and striving for excellence in how you administer your home? This process leads to a strong physical family, which leads to a strong Church family, which leads to the divine Family of God!
We fathers have a serious responsibility to rule our families well. This includes bringing our children into subjection.
Children Need to Be Restrained
In our liberal society, many people believe that any use of restraint is oppressive, evil and wrong. Many parents feel it is their duty to remove as many restraints as possible from their children’s lives. But these “free,” unrestrained children are growing up miserable, and they are making other people’s lives miserable as well.
Children need restraint—the right kind and the right amount of restraint. Think of a car seat. A child may not like to use those restraining belts. He would much rather be free to roam around the cabin of the car, maybe even climb onto your lap and hold the steering wheel with you, maybe even steer it himself. But he needs to be compelled to stay in his seat and to wear safety restraints!
Think about just this one issue: the Internet. It is an ocean of every kind of information—including appalling evils. Does your child need a healthy amount of restraint from images, influences and people who can scar his mind for life? Or should he remain unrestrained, with a smartphone of his own and a laptop in his bedroom behind a closed door?
If evil influences are scarring your child through the Internet, your family is not being ruled well! Most children want a smartphone, want a computer, want unrestrained Internet access. You can attempt to reason with them. You can get on your knees and cajole them. You can even threaten them—and they’ll still want what the Internet offers. They will find a way to get what they want. So how do you protect them from harm? You have to rule! You have to exercise your God-given authority to restrain your children in order to protect them! (You can learn more about this subject on page 203.)
Children who have lacked restraint have suffered and caused others to suffer since the very first child, Cain. The Bible records several detailed instances of parents allowing children to live without restraint. Here is what God recorded about one of David’s children:
“Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? …” (1 Kings 1:5-6). The New King James Version renders that last sentence: “And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘Why have you done so?’”
What does God emphasize in this verse for us to learn from? He focuses on the fact that David did not train, challenge or correct this son! Perhaps he felt guilty because he was so busy or had so many sons that he was not with Adonijah often enough. Maybe when he did spend time with Adonijah, David did not want to restrain him because it might come across as “negative.”
Moffatt translates that sentence as, “His father had never checked him all his life, by asking what he meant by his conduct.” David never said, “No”! He did not challenge his son nor tell him to explain his behavior. Verse 6 mentions that Adonijah was “a very goodly man,” indicating that David saw good traits in his son, making it all the more unpleasant and uncomfortable to restrain him.
But what eventually happened to this unrestrained child? He led an armed rebellion against his father!
If you want a child to learn God’s way of life and not depart from it, do not neglect him, coddle him, or avoid proper restraint of him. Train him up in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6).
God used Herbert W. Armstrong to restore all basic truths to His Church in this modern era. Mr. Armstrong came to learn what the Bible teaches about raising children, and he learned it through hard experience. He used to tell stories about his two daughters who were very good and very loyal to their father and to the Work. But they did not endure in the Church. Mr. Armstrong later admitted that one of the reasons was that he did not test his daughters enough.
Our children need to be restrained. They aren’t born knowing right and wrong. They aren’t immune from evil influences. To protect and instruct them, God gave them parents! If you do not restrain your children from evil, your children will turn out with the same spirit that many of David’s sons did.
But God’s people do not just try to avoid raising delinquents or rebels. They work to raise kings who can rule under God’s government! They work to raise individuals who can help God change the world! If you are one of these parents, you have a heavy and pressing responsibility!
God also recorded what happened with the sons of another leader in Israel, Eli the high priest. His sons Hophni and Phinehas were “sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12). The Hebrew words convey the meaning that these grown sons were worthless.
Had Eli restrained these sons who grew up to become worthless? As they were beginning to commit worse and worse acts, did he correct them? Did he challenge them to repent?
These two sons used their offices as priests to rob people who were trying to worship God! (verses 13-16). They were stealing from God’s altar! They did not fear God at all. Yet Eli was content to consider them “ministers in good standing,” you could say.
Eli’s unrestrained young children became unrestrained young men who became unrestrained priests who abused their power to satisfy their own selfishness at the expense of God and His people.
Isaiah 3 prophesies that our generation will live under children who actually become our oppressors, with youths terrorizing their own families, schools and churches because they have not been restrained from following their own desires.
1 Samuel 2:17 records that the sins of Hophni and Phinehas were “very great before the Lord” and that people abhorred bringing their offerings to God! Verse 22 tells us that these two men committed fornication or adultery right around, possibly even inside, God’s tabernacle!
The unrestrained sinfulness of these sons was turning people away from God!
Now notice Eli’s response. This is the man who had the authority of a father, the authority of a senior priest, and the authority of God over the entire nation.
“And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress” (verses 23-24). The Revised Standard Version renders verse 25, “If a man sins against a man, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him? But they would not listen to the voice of their father ….”
Eli broached the subject of his sons’ wickedness in general terms—and that was it!
This father didn’t have the courage to stand up to his sons—not when they were growing up, and not even when they were disdaining their father, neglecting their duties, abusing their power, robbing their brethren, sexually abusing women, and corrupting the worship of God that they and their father were supposed to be upholding! This is where lack of restraint can lead.
And where does lack of restraint end? “[I]t was the will of the Lord to slay them” (verse 25; rsv). As these and many other biblical examples show, if we fail to restrain our children, we will face disaster!
In verses 27-29, God sent a nameless prophet to confront Eli, Why do you honor your sons above me?
“Eli could not keep the God Family structure in his own family, despite the authority God gave him. So God vowed to slay his sons. Still, that didn’t bring Eli to repentance,” Gerald Flurry writes in The God Family Vision.
Godly fathers are required to administer the government of God! We need to realize how much is on the line. If we do not restrain our children the way God commands, we are guilty of committing the very same sin!
Prepare Children to Honor Their Heavenly Father
The first four of the Ten Commandments sum up our overall approach to life: putting God first in everything, upholding and esteeming His position and office above all else, reverencing Him and everything He stands for. These are commands to honor, fear and love God our Father. The Fifth Commandment bridges the necessity of honoring God to the human level.
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
Here in the Fifth Commandment, God commands children to reverence, or to promote, their parents, akin to the deferential respect one gives a dignitary. This commandment flows right out of the spirit of the first four commandments.
The First Commandment requires mankind to give honor to God’s high office of authority as Creator. The Fifth Commandment requires all men to honor the highest human office—that of parents. This commandment then forms the bridge between the two great sections of God’s law. We will never attain true spiritual and physical success without giving honor and obedience to God. Do we see that the same is true of our human parents?
Regarding children, Mr. Flurry wrote, “[T]he main thing you want to be able to teach them is to honor the father. The father is the head. That is God’s way—and it always will be as long as there are families!” (Royal Vision, July-August 2014).
The very first form of government with which the child comes in contact is the government within the home. If there is no authority, no government in the home—how can the parents expect their children to respect the authorities and governments in the society? …
To a tiny, squirming infant—his parents are “god.” That is, they are the supreme authority in his life. They constitute his life-giver, his provider, protector, his law and his ruler. If the little child cannot have an orderly existence, and cannot be kept within certain bounds which he is made to understand, he becomes confused, frustrated.
The parent who truly loves his own children will want to discipline them in the right manner, at the right time, when they are doing things which will cause much greater hurt.
To a tiny, newborn infant, his parents reign supreme. He knows of no other authority, no other law, no other governing influence, no other protector, provider—and he knows of no other love. Recognizing this fact, parents should again realize that the time to begin training their children is early in life.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
God is the supreme authority in our lives, in the same way we parents possess awesome authority over and above our children.
The Father’s Correction
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5).
Paul quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12 and notes how easy it is to forget the divine purpose for correction. Everyone needs chastisement and correction. These are great blessings. God looks down and actually steers us toward those things that are for our own good and benefit. How joyful! But human nature resents correction, whether it comes from God the Father or a human father.
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6).
Almighty God punishes His children because He loves them! True Christians today receive God’s merciful chastisement, His just punishments, His loving admonitions, His corrections, His rebukes and His comfort and encouragement.
God gives us His Word to correct us, to chastise us, to rebuke and to reprove us. That is the nature of our Father. And He has assigned us to be fathers like Him. Fathers must learn how to mete out just, merciful and loving punishment. Mothers must learn this as well.
One of the very characteristics of a loving God is His nature of meting out just, merciful and loving punishment when it is needed! Of course, God also comforts and encourages in time of need (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 7:6-7).
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Honor Your Father and Mother
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right,” (Ephesians 6:1). According to Thayer’s Lexicon, obey means “to hearken unto a command, to be obedient to, to submit to.”
Children first learn obedience and come under authority by obeying their parents. God’s commands to children regarding their parents are clear. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 1:8). “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:20).
Because of his total lack of experience and judgment, it is absolutely necessary that a child be taught to obey his parents instantly and without question. Explanations and reasons may and should be given to the child from time to time. But at the moment a parent gives a command, there may not be time or opportunity to explain why!
Therefore a child must be taught the habit of unquestioning obedience to his parents. For, until the child matures, his parents stand to him in the place of God. And God holds them responsible for teaching and directing the child properly.
When a child disobeys, the Bible teaches that he should be corrected—not in frustration, not in revenge, but in love. Verbal or corporal abuse of a child is not correction, chastisement or discipline. Fathers are accountable not only for avoiding wrong “discipline,” but for implementing right discipline.
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18). “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
Notice that God commands children to obey their parents “in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). This means parents must be living up to God’s high standards.
“Honour thy father and mother” is the “first commandment with promise” (verse 2). The word honor means to revere or venerate. It is in the top 10 of all basic spiritual principles governing all human conduct—one whole command is dedicated to children obeying their parents!
[O]ne of the greatest lessons any of us can learn is a deep inner sense of respect for authority. … Children should be taught to look up to the office and authority of their parents. The child who truly loves his parents will be able to experience an even fuller love if he is also taught a deep inner sense of respect toward his parents. This may be evidenced in the manner in which the child answers the parents.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
A child must obey God’s commandment, and his father can make it easier to do so by living honorably. He should also make it easier for his child to honor him by reminding and compelling him to obey God’s command—not for his own comfort or vanity, but in order to obey God. Even fathers using their manly voices to give clear instructions helps reinforce this. Living God’s way, in public and in private, makes it easier for your children to love, respect and honor you—and to keep the Fifth Commandment.
A mother plays a crucial role in upholding the honor of family offices. She must live honorably, making it easier for her children to honor her. Her honor for the father is crucial. When a child sees his mother, a great authority in his life, honoring his father as an even greater authority, the office of the father takes on a more important, more honorable role in the child’s life (see sidebar, “Many Hours a Day,” page 46).
God divides His supreme law of love into two overall commands: love toward God and love toward fellowman. The first four commandments instruct us on loving God. Then God begins the last six commandments with this: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
When Paul mentions “the first commandment with promise,” he is referring to this promise. He continues in Ephesians 6:3 by saying, “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”
Here is a definite promise! Obedience to the Fifth Commandment automatically results in building habits and character that will lead to a long, productive life. Ultimately, if that obedience and honor later extends to our spiritual Father, God promises that we will live long on the Earth!
The relationship of children to their parents is an exact type of the spiritual relationship between converted Christians and God the Father. The lessons of honor, deep respect and obedience learned in the parent-child relationship stay with a child for life—even into eternity! In the eyes of a small child, a parent stands in the place of God. A parent is the child’s provider, protector, love-giver, teacher and law-enforcer.
Teach Your Child to Obey
Here is an eye-opening statement Gerald Flurry wrote to ministers in the August 26, 2004, Pastor General’s Report: “Many ministers still tell me they feel that perhaps the biggest problem we have is parents who are afraid to tell children what to do. Rather than telling them and getting results, they’ll try to coax them into doing what they’re told. When the children disobey, they get coaxed into obeying, rather than getting spanked!
“Of course, we should never be brutal. We must love our children most of all, and teach them secondarily, but when they won’t obey, spank!
“It has to be done God’s way. But I think sometimes our brethren can just spank in rituals and not really know what kind of effect it’s having in getting to the minds of those little children made in the likeness of God” (emphasis added throughout).
Spanking the right way means spanking a child out of loving discipline and loving chastisement, not out of anger or frustration! It means spanking for long-term results in character, not short-term relief in forcing a child to stop doing something you find annoying. It means spanking for disobedience and rebellion, not for making childhood mistakes without knowing any better. It means remaining calm, being firm, informing the child of the disobedience or rebellion that necessitated the spanking and giving him or her an appropriate number of swats on the behind where it will not injure but will sting enough to instantly attract the child’s full attention! This type of corporal punishment gets a child’s attention, demonstrates that sinful actions result in immediate and painful consequences, and saves the child, if he responds correctly, from much worse, self-destructive consequences.
Mr. Flurry has said that the greatest weakness of parents in God’s Church is being too permissive. This means that parents need to make sure the boundaries are clearly drawn and firmly enforced.
Remember, your child’s first exposure to authority and government is right inside your home! That is a weighty responsibility for us as parents.
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
[A] constant attitude of negativism—of only saying “No!” and never saying “Yes!”—of only showing a child what he should not do, and never showing him what he can and should do—punishing only in a negative way, will, in the long run, “provoke your children to wrath.”
God always punishes His children in love—never in anger and wrath.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The command in this passage is for children and parents. Parents have a God-given responsibility to bring the children up right. We advocate 100 percent love, made up in the ratio of 5 percent disciplining in love, 10 percent teaching in love, and 85 percent loving!
The Whole Man
Compulsion can accomplish some things, especially when you are raising young children, but you cannot compel a child to ultimately love God and be born into His Family. God does not compel us; He lets us choose. Your training, teaching and love must aim to teach the child to ultimately obey God, not from compulsion but from willing, loving submission!
God will not have a disobedient child in His Family! By the end of our physical lives, we must have learned to willingly choose to submit to and obey God! The first and great commandment is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and might—willingly! And we must teach our children to do the same.
Mr. Flurry wrote, “Why must you have your children in subjection with all gravity? Is it just to have them under control so they don’t get on your nerves? No. You bring them in subjection with all gravity so you can teach them how to honor God! You can’t teach a child who isn’t in subjection; he won’t listen because he hasn’t been taught to listen! Go to any school, and you’ll see that fact demonstrated clearly.
“But if a little boy and a little girl are in subjection with all gravity, you can teach them so much. You can teach them the fundamental lessons: Why marriage? Why family? Why sex? Does that have anything to do with being born into the Family of God? You’d better believe it does—it was created for that purpose! But unless you have your children in subjection with all gravity, you can’t teach them these things.
“And the main thing you want to be able to teach them is to honor the father. The father is the head. That is God’s way—and it always will be as long as there are families!” (Royal Vision, July-August 2014).
How much faster and how much better young people will develop, and how much more right knowledge they will acquire, if they begin with this right attitude! A young child has almost infinite faith in his parents. They are his main source of protection, sustenance, authority, happiness. He unquestioningly believes his parents’ instruction and teaching, from learning his first word and even before that.
God always intended this to be the case because He wants us to use that awesome position of responsibility to teach our children God’s way! And He wants us to develop that same infinite faith in our spiritual Father.
Satan is destroying that beautiful type of God the Father by ripping apart physical families, by twisting the roles of parents, by forcing both parents to work, by putting young children in day-care centers, through public schools constantly expanding their size and scope, by taking the child away from the parents in whatever way possible—anything he can do to make parents forget that they are the prime educators for their developing children!
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Fear comes first! Then comes learning and doing God’s commandments. That’s true education.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever” (Psalm 111:10).
“Parents: How will you prepare your children for God’s Work? You have a major responsibility to get them ready for that: to teach those little children why family, why marriage, why children—to declare the Father to them” (The God Family Vision).
What does having children have to do with the Kingdom of God? It leads directly to the Family of God—which is the Kingdom of God!
Again, from the Royal Vision (July-August 2014): “A little child in a family is the first step toward the Kingdom of God. You recognize how precious that is! You begin to take on God’s perspective, and it reconfigures your entire view of all these family matters!”