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Father Forsakes His Family Duty

February 20, 2008

Dear Pearls, My family is facing something that I see happening to many families. I wish you would help us address it. My husband works very long hours. He is a good, faithful, hard-working man. He is also a deacon, church handyman, treasurer, and Sunday School teacher. Due to the hours spent at his regular job and all the hours he has to put in at church, we as a family only have about 4 meals a week together. There are some days that the children never see Daddy because he is required to be at church right after work. Is my husband serving the Lord, or an institution or club? Would the Lord take a man away from his children so that he sees them only a few hours a week?
- DP

Michael Answers:

You serve the Lord when you serve someone that he would serve if he were here. Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:34-40). If religious service has as its end the mutual blessing of those involved, it is selfish and vain, for Jesus said, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matthew 5:46-47). Any “church work” that diminished the family is an evil, for Paul warned the young minister, Timothy, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). There is much more to “providing” for one’s house than paying the rent and buying the groceries. Family always comes before church. If one’s life is properly ordered, and if the church is properly organized, there will never be a conflict between the ministry of the church and a man’s ministry to his family. One should ask himself, “Is there eternal value in what I am asked to do, or is it an organization promoting itself?” My suggestion would be that a married man should find a ministry that involves the wife and children and so enhances their spiritual grown and the fellowship of the family. A married man does not have the option of caring for the things of God aside from his family, for Paul was quite clear on this: “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:32-33). There you have it, perfectly translated from the original tongues and given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit! It is a married man’s duty to please his wife and minister to his family first. He sins if he does otherwise.

That is the answer to your doctrinal question. However, as the wife, it is not your role to “persuade” your husband to do his God given duty. You may appeal to him in humility and grace—without criticism or nagging—and be willing to accept whatever conclusion he draws. The children will do far better with an absent father than they will with an absent father and bitter mother. Finally, make sure you are giving him reasons to stay home in the evening. Be so cheerful and willing that he feels an emptiness when he leaves. Maybe you can tempt him to “backslide” and spend the evening with his family, as God commands him to.

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