In the introduction to this series, I indicated that our focus would be upon four principles which relate in one way or another back to God as our heavenly Father and our supreme example for parenting. In the last three posts, I have discussed the first principle, the second principle, and the third principle. In this post I want to consider the fourth principle.
Principle #4: Our heavenly Father teaches us the importance of a proper view of both a father's and a mother's role in the family.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked passages dealing with men's and women's roles is found in 1 Corinthians in a discussion of the way men and women wear their hair. When beginning a description of what is appropriate to men versus what is appropriate to women, Paul draws an important analogy between the relationship of God the Father to God the Son and the relationship of men to women. He writes:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
This is an important verse because it teaches us that, just as God the Son takes a subordinate role to God the Father even though they are equal with respect to their divine being, even so women are to take a subordinate role to men despite the fact that they are equal to them as bearers of the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and as those who possess sonship in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). That is, even though the fact that the Father and the Son share an ontological equality, they nevertheless take upon themselves functionally superior and subordinate roles. And this is precisely how we should think of the relationship of men to women in the church and in the home. Even though they share equality as bearers of the divine image and as joint-heirs in Christ, they nevertheless fill functionally superior and subordinate roles. Such a role distinction is clearly expressed by Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians:
NKJ Ephesians 5:22-27 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (See also 1 Peter 3:1-7)
Such a role is also assumed by Paul when he discusses the qualifications for elders in the churches. For example, he teaches that an elder must be “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
It could not be any clearer that husbands and fathers are to be the heads and rulers of their homes. They are to be the highest authority – under God – in the home. However, this does not mean that they are the only authority in the home, for mothers have authority over their children as well. Consider, for example, what the Book of Proverbs teaches about the importance of mothers:
NKJ Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother ….
NKJ Proverbs 6:20 My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother.
Notice that in both of these proverbs it is assumed that the mother has an authoritative teaching role in the lives of her children just as the father does. John Gill has observed this as well, and he has written that this verses applies to:
… any and every mother of a child, who having an equal or greater tenderness for her offspring, and a true and hearty regard for their welfare, will instruct them in the best manner she can, give the best rules, and prescribe the best laws she can for their good; and which ought to be as carefully attended to and obeyed as those of a father; and she is particularly mentioned, because the law of God equally enjoins reverence and obedience to both parents, which human laws among the Gentiles did not; and because children are too apt to slight the directions and instructions of a mother; whereas they carry equal authority, and have in them the nature of a law, as those of a father. (Exposition of the Entire Bible, e-sword)
The IVP Bible Background Commentary concurs when it states that:
The call to listen to the instructions of one's parents stands as a corollary to the law requiring children to honor their father and mother (Exod. 20:12). Thus the wisdom of mothers, who generally served as a child's first teacher, is equated with that of fathers. (e-Sword)
And why does Solomon assume that a mother's instruction may “carry equal authority” with that of a father, as Gill says? It is because Solomon assumes that she relies upon the law of God when she instructs her children, just as it is assumed that the father relies upon the law of God. He is speaking here of a godly mother, and he is assuming that the law of your mother will be none other than the law of God taught by your mother. As a matter of fact, some of the Book of Proverbs is actually a repetition of such a mother's teaching. Consider the introduction to the instruction contained in chapter 31:
NKJ Proverbs 31:1 The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him....
The teachings of King Lemuel's mother, which she apparently wrote in the form of two poems (the first in verses 2-9 and the second in verses 10-31), actually became a part of the inspired text of Scripture.
Thus we must remember the crucial role that mothers play in the training of their children, a role which they must take up in submission to their husbands, but a role which is one of authority in the lives of their children nonetheless. Mothers are therefore every bit as crucial to the raising of children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) as are fathers. Both fathers and mothers must therefore heed the Biblical teaching about parenting, and they must work together as one in the rearing of their children before the Lord.
Conclusion: We have considered at some length at least four primary principles from Scripture that are crucial in the parenting of our children. It is my prayer the the Lord will grant us by His grace the wisdom and patience to put them into practice consistently.