Thursday, December 23, 2010

Family Time

In his book, The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness, Tim Chester writes:

Often family and church are portrayed as being in tension. No doubt there are times when families need to be alone together. But what are your aspirations for your children? This is where the rubber meets the road.

People speak about putting the kingdom first, but in practice it's often second to their children. "I'd work on that difficult estate," people say, "but it wouldn't be fair on my children." And we all nod wisely as if this is self-evident.

But it's highly questionable. I shocked someone recently by asking them to name one occasion on which Jesus speaks positively about families. Every time Jesus talks about families he sees them as competing for our loyalty to him and his community.

I, too, find this shocking. Can anyone take up Chester on his challenge? Where is one occasion in which Jesus speaks positively about families?

What are the positives and negatives of this quote? Do you find yourself agreeing with Chester, or disagreeing?


  1. Larry,

    Here are some thoughts:

    Matthew 1:1-17 shows me that Jesus might value families, since the writer of Matthew makes a big effort to show that he comes from one.
    John 19:25-27 may have some bearing on this. During his most significant spiritual work Jesus took some time to provide for his Mother and friend.

    Also, this is an argument from silence, which is logically invalid. Also, pitting church against family is a false dichotomy. Why one or the other?

    Plus, there are many things that Jesus doesn't say in red letters that are made pretty clear in the rest of Scripture that must be held alongside Jesus' warnings about familial idolatry.

    Maybe the family and church are only in tension because the church has made them so through the overabundance of things to do that remove men from their primary ministry--the home.

    Maybe the false teaching has permeated the Christian church where people think that "doing something" for the kingdom only happens in some official church capacity and not by living as a Christian in the home and workplace. I believe the most amazing works of God might occur if men spent more time in their homes with their families praying for their churches, reading the Bible by themselves, reading the Bible with their wives and kids, and praying for lost neighbors, co-workers, and family members.


  2. I hope he wrote more than that Lar...I am looking forward to reading that book at some point, so if you can put that in your 'for Joe to borrow' pile, that would be great.

    From what he said though, the kingdom and children or family are not supposed to be in tension. Though I agree with him that Jesus didn't say anything necessary positive about families, it is not wise to limit our thinking on any topic only to what Jesus had to say about it. The red letters (the words of Christ) are only part of the entire scope of biblical teaching, no matter the topic. So although what Jesus has to say is vital and important, it is not the only thing.

    Throughout the entirety of the Scriptures, it seems pretty obvious that God values and works mightily through families. The nation of Israel seems like a good example don't you think? (You have to agree with this right Lar?) Though this certainly should not lead us to believe that a family's concerns trumps all kingdom concerns. Different times and situations will call for different things.

    I guess my initial and predominant thought in response to his quote is that one of the best ways I can seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness is by leading my wife and children well. If my home is not a picture of the kingdom, how well can I really serve the kingdom in any other capacity. In your role as a pastor, this fact is particularly obvious as weaknesses in your home will inevitably be seen in the church you lead. Home is a training ground for ministry in the church, but not only that. It is the place where your leadership and headship is most felt and therefore, I believe, the place where you have the greatest possibility for long-term impact.

    Just thoughts off the top of my head...had to respond to that one. Leads me to remember some good topics of conversation back when we started the Seeking Him blog!

    Peace out and merry Christmas...

  3. I'll write more on Monday, but for now, I think that the first sentence (Often family and church are portrayed as in tension...) is something that Chester disagrees with.

    He's not advocating the tension between family and church; he's saying that the tension, or dichotomy, that people often make between those two is wrong.

    So at least in that sense, I think he agrees with you both, though it seems as if you took him to be in favor of that tension.

    I'll write more on Monday, and maybe post another part of the quote.


  4. Hi, Larry:

    The quote from Chester and the comments by everyone above got me thinking about a conversation that Jenny and I had after one of the recent sermons that you preached on idolatry.

    Is it possible for family to become an idol? I think we would all agree that, yes, that is possible. In fact, from Chester's line of thought, it may be more common than we realize. Jenny and I surmised that this may be more of a temptation for moms than for dads. I would add that it is also a big idol for grandparents, regarding their grandchildren.

    We can idolize our kids or our spouses, I believe. How do we idolize our children? By esteeming too highly in our hearts our children's talents, looks, clothes, sporting exploits, educational achievements, personalities, etc.

    We can idolize our spouses by holding them too tightly from the ministry that they are called to. By becoming jealous when they spend time in ministry, in prayer, or the Word instead of "with me." We can idolize our marriages by thinking that we have the perfect marriage and subtly letting others know that they don't. Or by cutting ourselves off from other ministry and friend relationships because "we need time together."

    Certainly, I have seen the other side, too -- leaving family and marital responsibilities unattended to because of "ministry."

    So, as we used to always say in my former life group, it comes back to "balance" again, doesn't it? Seeking to eliminate the tension, and seeking the glory of God through family, ministry calling, and occupation requires seeking the wisdom of God -- through the Word, prayer, and the counsel of wise friends and mentors.

    But, back to my first point -- I wonder if Chester is getting at an idolatry issue here.

    Jim W

  5. I really will write more about this...but I don't think I'm going to be able to do it today!