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Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families

October 15, 2008
Young man

The response to our first article in this series has been phenomenal. The need was far greater than we imagined. The questions we’ve received have run in the same vein:

•    Is the Patriarchal doctrine scriptural?

•    What does the Bible mean when it commands us to honor our father and mother?

•    What can I do to stop feeling guilty?

•    How can I help my siblings escape their bondage?

•    How can I help my parents overcome their bitterness and rejection?

•    When and under what circumstances can I act contrary to my parents’ wishes?

This article is quite long, largely because we have recorded portions of more than a dozen letters. If I tried to convey the ideas you will read in these letters, you would think I was overstating the facts. These letters speak volumes. I am convinced that this “Patriarchal” evil disguised as righteousness will be disposed of by simply dragging it into the light. The facts are too embarrassing and shameful for this pretense to continue. Many have continued to be faithful to their patriarchal precepts in spite of the many indications of failure, convincing themselves that their poor family experience is the exception. They plod on in blind faith trying to do better, but they blame their failure on their children, accusing them of worldliness and rebellion. When things don’t work out like the model they have been presented, they shut the door tighter against the world outside, not realizing that their failure is visible to the whole world, and is actually a universal side effect of a very bad idea.

There has been a sacred hush over the exalted doctrine of the patriarchal family. None dare question a system that stands for a recovery of Biblical values and promises to restore the family to a Christian culture. The headline is respectable and is innocent-sounding enough—Patriarchal Family. After all, doesn’t the Bible tell us that the husband is the head of the woman and of his house and that children are to obey their parents?

I understand the motivation of the Patriarchal authors and purveyors. The crumbling of the Christian culture calls for radical solutions. The church is in desperate need to be reconstructed in accordance with the Word and the Spirit. The world seeps into our children like cold air into a log cabin in a Montana blizzard. Righteous parents are desperate for a solution. They looked for a scriptural means of correcting the problem, but believed a “Hath God said” partial truth—now clearly proven to be a lie.

The Patriarchal/Extended Family movement has been around long enough to demonstrate its bankruptcy. It is time to lay it aside and go back to the old-fashioned Holy Spirit-filled family—a family “in the world” ministering, but not “of the world.” These true families are overcomers, not barricaded babies. They are militant godly witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not fearful, isolated survivors of an evil and intimidating culture.

A Physician’s Perspective:

Dear Pearls,

As a family physician who sees many homeschool families in my office, I am fully aware of how much damage is being done to young women because of this “Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome.” It started with good intentions, but has grown so far out of balance that these families are becoming dysfunctional.

80% of my patients are Christians, and a good majority of them are homeschoolers.  I have worked with over twenty young ladies from 20 to 35 years of age who are so sheltered that they have no freedom to minister outside of their homes unless they work directly under their fathers. They have no freedom in Christ and must only associate with those who walk, talk, and look just as they do. To desire to be educated as an adult or to think on their own is forbidden. To have friends who do not belong to the “accepted group of believers” is unthinkable to the family.

This false teaching is creating a growing number of health problems in our young adult daughters in these homes, and also among the wives who are being forced to believe and teach these untruths to their children as truth.  Satan is using this new Patriarchal teaching to destroy families in the Christian community everywhere. The effects of it is destroying believers’ bodies due to extreme stress, and is taking them right out of their ministry to unbelievers, because they are too sick and are such a poor testimony to the world around them.

Please accept my gratitude for what you are doing, and please follow up on this important homeschool issue before more families are divided or destroyed.

Thanks for understanding.

Clip their wings

Dear Mr. Pearl,

While homeschooling my own kids many years ago, we read an article that told about how certain ants secrete a hormone that prevents aphids from growing wings and flying away, allowing the ants to “farm” the aphids for the honeydew they produce. This is exactly what my parents did to us. We weren’t just discouraged from exercising our wings and flying from the nest, we were prevented from growing wings at all!

I tend to believe that many of the Patriarchal families you speak of are really Matriarchal families. And if you think this is impossible, you have never experienced the power and mind control an extremely intelligent and manipulative mother can have over her (young) children’s minds, and to some extent (though it may take years), over her husband. I don’t know if she really controls my dad; I think he just gave up.

My 35-year-old (at the time) married sister once told me: “I won’t cross the street without asking Mom and Dad for their permission!” And she was proud of this. You can imagine what her marriage is like. She has also copied my mom’s manipulative tendencies and loves to cuddle up to my dad and “nurse” the wounds he suffers at the hands of my mother’s controlling spirit.

When my mother, with my father’s silent consent, tried to control her daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, they refused to submit, so mother treated them as unfaithful to the family, and expected the rest of the family to respond in kind.

We are expected to live our lives exactly as Mom and Dad ordain. We are to worship, think, believe, eat, work, and spend our leisure only with their approval. I watched as my mom became worse and worse in her “Queenship,” the older she got and the older her (once little) subjects became. The fruit of her control has been family infighting and divorce.

I wish I could say that I knew how to “handle” my mom (my family) and her ways, and that I had stuck around to try and witness to them, but I have no idea how to handle her (them). And I refused to sacrifice my wife and kids any longer while I tried.

So, I took my family and left. I have severed all contact with my parents and siblings. My parents have made it very clear to everyone how my family has hurt them terribly by this separation.

My siblings throw at me: “You are not honoring your parents, and they may die soon. You are not a Christian, because if you were, you would follow the program!”

Yup! This kind of bizarre stuff goes on! We need to wake up and say, “NO MORE!” And stop pretending this sickness is what God meant by “honoring parents”!

I do not regret leaving. However, I do regret that my parents do not get to be a part of their grandkids’ lives, that my kids don’t get to know their cousins, and that we miss out on extended-family get-togethers. All because of my mother’s refusal to let go, my dad’s refusal to be a man, and my siblings’ terror over admitting any of this! And my not knowing what to do to make things better!

Thanks again, A freed man

Got it right.

Dear Mr. Pearl,

I am from a Patriarchal Dysfunctional Family, as you put it.  At 25 years of age, I left my father’s home along with two of my younger sisters. We praise the Lord for providing wise counselors and pastoral support as we made the decision to leave the home. My father was the head of his own church, so we had to find counsel and pastors to help us realize the error of these teachings. I know that without them, I would have probably turned my back on Christ. To this day, we still do not have a relationship with my parents since we will not “repent” of forsaking our parents’ authority and leaving “their” roof. Even though we reach out in love to them, they will not allow us to have relationships with our younger siblings or have contact with them. Yet, all three of us attend strong Bible-believing churches and are actively involved in ministry.

In many ways, I have come to understand that my love for Christ must be stronger than love for mother or father. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). I never thought this is what my life would be like, but my love for my Lord has grown so much deeper. I hope others come to realize how devastating the Patriarch Movement is. Because my family was an “idol” in the Patriarch Movement (especially in the Vision Forum arena), the pressure and rejection we received was very severe when we left.

Thank you so much for addressing this issue. I know so many families who could benefit from this article. May the Lord bless you all richly.

Better late than never.

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Pearl,

This goes back to the question you asked in the article “Where are the Men?” Well, I became a man six years ago and eventually got out of Dodge! Thank you for your article. I needed that. Believe it or not, I still (occasionally) wrestle with guilt over leaving my family. My mom’s influence is still hard to break at 40-some years of age! Actually, the sadness I feel is not over what I did, but over what our family misses as a result of this mess.


Dear Mike & Debi,

I grew up in the worst of the cloistered dysfunctional families, and I can tell you the source of it is what God tells us we are not to have if we are His – FEAR. These parents FEAR too much. Just like the person who never leaves home for fear of being run over, these parents FEAR losing their kids. The parents believe they somehow are the only ones who know what is best for their maturing and adult children, and they thrive (literally) on their maturing and adult kids’ attention, honor and obedience.

The children they have worked so hard to teach and train their way are now, as young adults, treated like ignorant and hopeless individuals. For them, God is considered powerless…even in the most conservative Christian circles.

Did it Right!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,

I have just read your article, “Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome”, and just want to stand on a chair and holler, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I am a homeschool product whose parents raised as an individual, with an intricate part of our close family, but with unique giftings. By the age of 14, I was an equal with my mom and dad, helping to raise my five younger siblings, not as a slave, but as my mom’s partner and “right hand woman.” As her peer, I learned through her example wifehood and mothering. I was her buddy and friend, and she was my mentor and role model. My parents realized that I had a call for missions on my life,  and I spent my childhood and teen years nurturing independence and life skills so that I would be prepared for when we would be parted. As I write this from my living room in India, where I have served with my husband as a missionary for three years, I can’t help but feel grieved for those of my friends who just became an extension of their parents, or those who got fed up and left the fold. Either way, they never saw life with God as an adventure, because the only future they had was the one carefully crafted by their parents. Thank you again for your article. I pray that it serves as a wake-up call for parents before it is too late. God bless you!


Dead Inside.

Dear Mike & Debi,

I am a 25-year-old girl in one of these Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families. God gave me verses like Matt.10:32-39 and Luke 14:25-35, and asked me to give my heart fully to Him. He is, after all, a jealous God. My parents want me to give my heart to my father, and to follow them. I love my parents, and I do not want to hurt them or seem ungrateful. I actually enjoy being at home still, but feel as though I will be a perpetual child if I remain there.  More importantly, I know that the Lord is calling me out so I can follow Him. I’m not allowed to believe differently from my parents’ beliefs. Up until now, I have never had to trust God or have faith in Him, because I was just to follow my parents. But the longer I and my siblings stay at home, the more we are finding out that although we have been given the whole world, we are losing our souls. We are feeling dead inside. Is there a way to remain at home, under our parents, and be alive? Am I still supposed to relate to my parents like a child, or do I follow Christ as an individual? I was always taught that God wouldn’t speak to me unless He also spoke to my father and gave him peace. Anything else was attributed to the Devil leading me and wanting to break up our home. Where does headship come into all of this? I do still want to honor my father and have him be my head, but how? Can I move from home and be alive in Christ, or must I remain at home to stay in His will? I have not been allowed to make a ‘life’ decision, and I would like my father’s wisdom, but not his control.

No, my father doesn’t know I’m writing to you. He doesn’t agree with Michael Pearl, but agrees with Debi and the book, Created to Be His Helpmeet. He lets us get the No Greater Joy magazine, and each issue has an article that seems like you’ve been spying on our family by the way you address some issues. I just want answers so I can know my place. Thank you, if you can help me. I won’t be offended if you tell me to stay under my father, or if you won’t answer my questions without his ok.

What can I do?

I’ve already suggested counseling.

Dear Pearls,

I read your article, Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome. What do you do when your family is like this? What do you do when you are 23 and your father uses the word “submission” to control me, my mom, and my brothers and sisters? How does God want us to handle it? Is there any way to fix it, or does God want me to just wait for him to act? I’ve already suggested counseling, and they won’t hear of it. Should I just pray? I’m at a loss.


Dear Mr. Pearl,

I am a 27-year-old single woman who read your article “Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome” with great interest. How could you know what had been swirling in my head the past month? These past year(s)? I’m still at home with my parents, my family of three siblings (one is married), and am honestly directionless. I was raised with the mindset that I would get married shortly after high school, but after that didn’t happen, and I became 21 and 22, my parents kept feeding me that I just needed to stay home, be patient, and the right guy would come. When I was 25, I finally was given permission to branch out and serve full time in a ministry away from home. I loved it. I finally felt like I had something to love in my single years and knew this was where the Lord wanted me. But my parents called me home after 9 months. Since then, I have felt incapable of hearing from the Lord. I was 100% convinced that this was God’s leading to work at this ministry, and I went with my dad’s blessing (even though it wasn’t his first choice). It doesn’t seem right, I’m still considered a kid, and treated as incapable of making decisions. I’m being molded into what my parents want me to be, not what God may have for me, even if it is completely different. It’s incredibly frustrating. I don’t want to live this way until I get married or, the rest of my life should God choose not to bless in that area. I don’t want to be a rebellious daughter. I don’t want to bring them heartache and sadness. But I do want to follow the Lord’s leading—and what if that is different from their dreams? Can I do so and not be condemned?

How can parents learn to let go? How can adult children change their mindset so that they are not in rebellion to want to even think this way? Thank you for your time, and THANK YOU for your ministry.

A Reader

Angry Mother.

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Pearl,

I am a very concerned and frustrated 23-year-old daughter. My family has been having difficulties for some time now. I am no longer willing to be passive in regard to my mother’s control. She has poured her life into her children, and I am so very grateful for her, but when my brother went to work out of town, my mother had a nervous breakdown. She had to talk to him on the phone at least once a day and became completely distraught when he would only talk a few minutes, saying he had to get back to work. When my brother refused to promise that he would live at home until he was married, she considered this to be a breaking up of her family and wrote my brother an eight-page letter telling him how sinful he was.

This past summer, I felt God’s call for me to go to Bible college. God has impressed on my heart that NOW is the time for me to prepare myself for a life of service with whomever God calls me to marry. Mother let me go for one semester. There are those in my life who think a girl is not to leave home until married and does not need education like a man. I love being a girl and a keeper at home, and I expect to be a wife, submissive to my husband, but I will never be a houseplant. The very way God has made me requires me to learn constantly, to be active, and to live for more. I have a passion for learning and an adventurous spirit.

My father and I are very close, and I get his advice and blessing in what I do. When I returned home from college, I talked to my father about what God was teaching me, and I told him that I felt God was calling me to a different path, and that I wanted to return to college, and I wanted his prayer. I was so struck by how blessed I was to have a father with whom I can have such discussions. He was very encouraging and gave me his blessing, telling me he had been feeling the same way.

Then I went to tell my mother, and as soon as I said, “I am praying about returning to college” she blew up in tears and anger. In short, she wants me to stay home, get married, have grandkids, and live next door so she can have a big “multigenerational family.” My mother says “a guy might not like a girl too educated,” but I don’t want to marry a man who is intimidated because his wife is intelligent and informed.

I am not sure how to deal with this. My mother tries to wear me down by talking about it every day for hours. Yesterday, I spent almost five hours listening to her. She told me that she thinks I don’t respect her because I usually talk to my father first about things like college and such. Well, the fact is that my mother doesn’t agree with my father on much and fights over everything. I am not very close to her, but I do go to her because of respect, even when I know she will go against me and against my father. She said I am rebellious and sinful. She will “not give her blessing for things she doesn’t agree with,” and I “will have to live with the consequences and pain of that.”

She is chronically depressed, upset, and often points out the spiritual fault of all of us in this family—including my father. She thinks she is more spiritual than he is.

She says I’ve crushed her dreams and essentially ruined her life. She “doesn’t like who I’ve become.” Truly, my heart is to respect and honor both my parents, and I try so very hard. My father says that with him, I am being submissive and respectful. My mother says I am not with her…I should trust her judgment because she is a woman, and my father doesn’t understand about girls as much.

It is difficult living in a home that is ripped apart daily by anger and tears. Most of all, I want to know how to act towards my mother. What does one do with two parents of different views? What more can I do to honor a mother with bitterness and constant conflict. She is very, very “spiritual” and will often cry and pray hours upon hours and read her Bible and always comes away with a message for us. The house is neglected, she doesn’t want to see other people, and will not do any other activities unless pushed. I’m worried about her. I think she is mentally sick and, though this seems radical, oppressed by the Devil. Both my brother and I feel that our home often has a spirit of conflict and that can only be resisted by God’s spirit of unity. I will continue to try to be kind and respectful in every way. My mother is incredibly insecure, so I will show her love with cards, notes, true words of encouragement, etc. Then, I will try to do something with her—a deliberate activity—once a week. I will pray for 1 Corinthians love. God has been with me for the past few years with her depressions and blow-ups towards the family.

Nothing may change in my situation, but I need to live victoriously. I have been amazed at the joy, peace, and presence of God I have every day. I think my father is often shocked at the peace and quiet joy with which I carry myself…It is ONLY GOD’s doing. He is preparing me, and everything He does is on purpose, so I am not bitter or trying to get out of a lesson He has for me.

I have specific questions. Where is my place as a daughter? What is my role before marriage? Where does what God is telling me come in? Even more, what can I do to help her out of her prison? Life has to be miserable for her living like this. She is so unhappy and always worried. Guilt makes me feel that I am sinful and cannot serve God with the gifts He has given.

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to discover your article on this subject. It will probably make my mother mad. And I know I am not the only one in such a place. Please write more on this subject. My mother really needs to read it.

Mother raises independents adults

Dear Mr. Pearl,

I just finished reading the article called “Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome.” Our oldest daughter (19 at that time; we have four more children age 7–12) left our little nest in May to serve at a Bible Camp in Minnesota. The temptation to hold on to her was really strong. Our mission statement of sorts for our family is: To raise strong intelligent, independent adults who desire to love and serve Jesus. If we held on, it seemed then we would not have been allowing God to work, not only in her life, but in ours also. She will be home for a short while this Winter, then she is planning to return to the camp next Spring/Summer. Your article truly hit home, and I love what you said that as parents, it is our job to work ourselves out of a job.

Rectified Misunderstanding...

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Pearl, all I can say for your article on the Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome. In fact, it seems opposite of what most people “accuse” you of. I am most grateful that you have rectified this misunderstanding. We have had families in our church in the past who advocated exactly what you are writing AGAINST and saying that is how ALL TRUE Christian families should act. They say that Dad is the “high priest”, grown daughters should not show aptitude for anything, except perhaps midwifery or herbology, and should never venture out on their own (even at 20 or 30 years of age!). Single or widowed daughters must move right back home, because they are now again under their father’s authority because they are without a husband, etc. etc. I have been trying for years to put my thoughts into words, and you said it exactly! Thank you!

Thirty but seems twelve

Dear Mike & Debi,

Was I surprised! Your article hit home on the “cloistered family.” My brother is 30 but seems 12. Until Dad’s death last week, he made my brother live at home. While my dad lived, he NEVER let my brother get a job. He was simply there to do my dad’s bidding.  Now that my dad has passed, I have to figure out what to do with my brother. He is “mentally stable” but his social skills are pretty bad. Now I am trying to figure out what to do with him. I do not know where to start! I only wished my dad had your article to read 30 years ago. Seeing how Dad raised my brother helped me in seeing how not to raise my own children. Now, I TRULY LOVED MY DAD. But with his ways, he has put my brother and me down a road that seems to have no light at the moment. All because he was selfish. How do I get my brother to where he can take care of himself?

Stupid Guilt

Dear Mike & Debi,

A thousand thanks for your article, Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome. I was raised in a situation like the one you described. I have struggled with guilt for more than a decade over my decision to “fly away to breathe fresh air” against my father’s wishes. By God’s grace, I ended up marrying a wonderful Christian man and am continuing to follow after God, but I was left to my own devices with zero parental support for several years.

I’m in a reasonable relationship with my parents (Now that I’m married and in a new patriarchy, as they see it, they will talk to me.), but they still hold my leaving over my head, and I know they are waiting for an apology for the breach of their patriarchy. I know there is much to be gained from them even in our imperfect relationship, but I’m hoping that your article will speak to them and bring some peace to our whole family the way it has to me.

Thanks so much for sharing your insight.

My parents are in my brain.

Dear Mr. Pearl,

I just wanted to express my thanks for your recent article called, “Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome”. In reading it, I saw it fit my family to a “T”. My husband and I left my parents’ jurisdiction, so to speak, about 5 months ago. We have a little boy almost 2 years old. We have struggled on a daily basis with many doubts and insecurities and continue to face negativity from my parents. It has been hard, knowing that the decisions we make are not according to my parents’ beliefs. My parents are very much in the Patriachal thinking, and it has damaged my family in many ways. I am the oldest of five children and have just now left at 33 years old. My brother (the youngest) left my parents in December last year, and my youngest sister just left about 2-3 months ago. My sister after me is turning 30 and is still at home. I worry about her, as she has a very private personality. She has gone through a lot, and I believe she has a tendency to depression. She invests her life in a couple of dogs, which I think is used as an escape, because they make her happy. I don’t talk to my folks much because there is always a negative atmosphere or underlying attitude that is very hard for me to live with. I am not even in their presence, and yet I feel like my parents are in my brain. I fear what they think of me. I came to the understanding after I left my parents that I was using my mother as my Holy Spirit. I don’t blame my parents, because I know that I make my own decisions, but when the LORD helped me see this, I just cried because I see where it has led me. I just want to be able to feel and experience the LORD working in my life and be led by his Spirit, but there is so much confusion…

Michael Responds

We have been inundated with letters like these testifying of dysfunctional families. The last time we had this strong of a response to an article was years ago when we first published the article “Jezebel”. Reading your letters, we have come to see that the two issues are really one. Rather than speaking only of Patriarchal (ruled by men) dysfunctional families, we should also be speaking of the Matriarchal (ruled by women) dysfunctional families. It is a deadly combination. When a man adopts the doctrine of bringing his family under the umbrella of parental oversight, Jezebel, with her emotional need to be nursed beyond the toddler stage, seizes on the doctrine to justify and solidify her Matriarchal rule. Dad still needs a little nursing from time to time and doesn’t want to sleep on the lonely side of the bed, so he goes along with it, pretending to be the authority. Not fully understanding what is happening, he allows her to wield awesome power in his name, and will not speak his mind about how he really feels because he does not want to appear unspiritual.

And then, there are those families where Dad is the patriarchal head of his family and does not share the throne with his wife. His Patriarchal status readily turns to a monarchical rule. He jealously tightens his control until he squeezes the ambition and independence out of his children and his wife. Absolutism prevails.

Thirdly, there are those sincere families that just get caught up in the latest “Christian” trends. They desire the best for their kids and have no twisted emotional needs, no compulsion to be king and queen of an everlasting kingdom. They do hope to see their children marry and become independent, but the patriarchal system they have adopted has enslaved them as well as their children. The family is weak, maybe hurting, and their children are not maturing as they had hoped, and they are ready to see this sad movement in its true light. These articles will free them like the dove turned out of the dark and smelly ark after a year of confinement, having been tossed around on the waves of destruction.

Those with the King and Queen compulsions will defend their silly doctrine until the last kid leaves in bitterness or disgust. Those who are led by the Spirit of God will welcome the light of liberation and will throw off their own shackles and open their children’s cages.

Honour your father and mother

Men and women ranging in age from 18 to 80 are asking, “What does it mean to honor my father and mother?” The Patriarchal movement has capitalized on the misperception that honor means obey. The Scriptures are clear, there is no age limit on honoring your parents. In Matthew 15, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for not honoring their parents. But nowhere in the entire Bible is honor synonymous with obedience, and nowhere does the Bible even suggest that an adult should obey his parents. It speaks quite to the contrary.

Jesus said very plainly, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:35–37).

The Bible viewed in its entirety—not cherry-picked—throws a lot of light on the subject of honor to parents.

Foundational Passages

The word honor (honour) is found in the Bible 146 times.

Following are the two Old Testament accounts of foundational passage on honoring your father and mother, and the New Testament reference and affirmation of the commandment.

Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Ephesians 6:2–3 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

God promised the Jews that if they would honor their parents (no age limit), they would continue to live in the Promised Land, but if their society failed to honor parents, they would be cast out of the land.

What it means to honor

Leviticus 19:32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

1 Samuel 15:30–31 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.

Honor is Respect Due to a Person Based On Any Consideration

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

If honor implies obedience, or conformity to the will of the other, then a husband is to obey his wife.

Honor all men.

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

1 Corinthians 12:23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

1 Peter 2:17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

We know we are not to obey all men, but we are told to honor all men, so honor and obey are not synonymous. If honor were to equate with obedience, Samuel could not have honored Saul with his presence at the sacrifice.

Inappropriate honor

Proverbs 26:1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.

Proverbs 26:8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool. [It will come back and hit you in the head.]

Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour. [An otherwise honorable person who commits folly stinks.]

“Honour to whom honour,” but no honor toward a fool, even if it is a parent. You honor your parents as the ones who gave you life and dedicated one fourth of their lives to nurturing you, but you shouldn’t lie and cheapen honor by being blind. A grown woman who honors a father who molested her and has never repented and sought restitution, that woman is binding a stone in a sling and flinging it with a certainty of it returning and hitting her in the head.

Jesus on honoring your father and mother

Mark 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Jesus gives us a clear example of what it means to honor your parents. He was speaking to grown men in positions of spiritual leadership who found a loophole in the Jewish law which permitted them to abdicate their responsibility to care for their aging parents. They took their savings and, as it were, put it in an account labeled: “Dedicated to God.” Having done that, they couldn’t access it to spend on their needy parents. No doubt after the parents were dead, the money would be transferred to a retirement account for themselves.

Not honoring is:

•    Cursing parents (Matthew 15:4).

•    Withholding financial support (Matthew 15:5).

•    Not doing for them when they are in need (Mark 7:12).

There is no mention of descendants obeying their parents—never.

Honor is:

•    Being kindly affectionate (Romans 12:10).

•    Seeking the good of the other (Romans 12:10—“preferring one another”).

•    Respecting the office or position of a person (Romans 13:7).

•    Bestowing more honor than their level of gifts suggest (1 Corinthians 12:23).

Bottom Line.

Ephesians 6:1 Children, [Those being brought up—Ephesians 6:4] obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

2 Honour [Obedience and honor are separate issues.] thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)

3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. [Children, the ones who are to obey their parents, are being brought up—not yet adults.]

5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters [Parents are not masters; they are mentors, and children are not servants.] according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Obedience and honor are separate issues.

We know this to be true because:

•    The words are spelled differently.

•    They are never used interchangeably.

•    The context in which they are used demonstrates a clear distinction.

•    A distinction is made the only time the two words appear in close proximity.

(Ephesians 6:1–5). Children who are being brought up are to obey their parents (6:1). All are to honor their fathers and mothers (6:2). And servants are to be obedient to their masters (6:5). Different words, different meanings, different applications. It is all in the Word of God, but kept carefully separated and distinct from each other.

1 Peter 2:13–14 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

The language used here when commanding us to submit to government is conspicuously absent in those passages addressing the honoring of one’s parents.

What Age?

What is the age at which a person stops being a child who is to obey and becomes an adult who assumes responsibility for his own life?

We don’t need to guess. The Bible is clear.

Exodus 30:14 (38:26; Leviticus 27:3) Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.

Numbers 1:3  From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

Numbers 14:29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,

A Jew was counted as one year old when he was born, and became two years old when he commenced his second year, at the beginning of his thirteenth month of life. The way we reckon age, on one’s nineteenth birthday he is reckoned to be an adult, responsible for himself.

There is much more that needs to be said, which we will address in subsequent issues. Send your questions or comments. Feel free to challenge what I have said. I learn more from sincere challenges than from flattery.

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9 comments on “Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families”

  1. Man, I wanted to jump up and cheer. Honour does not equal obedience! I'm sorta a jaded idealist disgusted with the whole conservative home school movement. But, I've been THINKING that ever since I was seventeen and struggled with the fact that disagreeing with your parents is equal to rebellion. When you look at Christ and his disciples, the idea isn't even scriptural. Thanks Michael - you rock dude.

  2. I have always been confused when Jesus' earthly parents could not find Him and He was found in the temple - 'doing His Father's business'. At 12, he was not yet considered an adult , yet it would seem that He did not obey his earthly parents. No body can ever explain this to me.
    ps - i don't know if you meant it to be funny - but when you said honour and obey were spelled differently - it made me giggle.

  3. I grew up with a father who at least had the quality of candidness. He had no qualms about telling me or my mother that we were to hold the same opinions as him. As a teenager, I found this to be exasperating. For years now--I am 35--I have carried anger and hostility that has infiltrated and thwarted my own childrearing abilities. I know the way I was raised is not the way I want to raise my own children, but I often find that I do the same things, even against my own will. I cannot help but think of the verse that says the children will bear the sins of the fathers. I have experienced divorce, and I attribute it mainly to the demanding presence of my father and his anger when my husband would not obey him. I am living under his roof and find myself in a perpetual servant/master relationship with him. At best, it seems that I can only use my negative experience as an example to my children as they grow older to seek God first and follow His heart although I am not leading by example.

    The situation is made more dfficult--and I am sure that of many others--by the fact that no person is all bad or all good. My father has many good qualities, but fails to see that his demand for "appreciation" (as he says it) is not Biblical. I know that he struggles with issues from his childhood, but now, so do I.

  4. You state:

    There is no mention of descendants obeying their parents—never.

    What about:
    Jer 35:1 The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,
    Jer 35:2 Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.
    Jer 35:3 Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites;
    Jer 35:4 And I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door:
    Jer 35:5 And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.
    Jer 35:6 But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:
    Jer 35:7 Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.
    Jer 35:8 Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;
    Jer 35:9 Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:
    Jer 35:10 But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.
    Jer 35:11 But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and for fear of the army of the Syrians: so we dwell at Jerusalem.
    Jer 35:12 Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
    Jer 35:13 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.
    Jer 35:14 The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father's commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.
    Jer 35:15 I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.
    Jer 35:16 Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:
    Jer 35:17 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.
    Jer 35:18 And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you:
    Jer 35:19 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.

  5. Thank you, Mr Pearl, for writing this. I find that I disagree with you on a lot of things, but this article was like a breath of fresh air. I wish that there were more men who were willing to stand up and turn their backs on traditional patriarchy, if for no other reason than for the sanity of their women. Thank you for writing this.

  6. Here is the sad hard cold facts. Unfortunately because of the decline in our country running wild with divorce, we now have an over abundance of narcissist. They proclaim to be righteous Christians homeschooling there children. Their poor children have no life of ther own. They are brain washed. They are expected to do everything there parents say until there dying day. It would not surprise me any if This "Patriarchal Family," idea was conspired by a narc. Legalism only binds people. We cannot serve God with our whole heart if we are following a man. Just my thought and experience.

  7. After reading your article I have came away with the understanding that neither man nor woman can fully lead a family together or alone. In the patriarchial family the bible speaks of the man can only lead by heeding the Word that is Jesus. A wise man is saved by the blood, reads the Bible, prays daily, marries a woman that he can trust and hears her opinion while still following the Word of God. If a man chooses a godly woman her opinion should be tempered by the Word, just as the man's opinion should be. Of course the easiest way is for there not to be any men what so ever( according to modern society)!.

  8. I completely agree with this, but I do want to bring up a different point. I wish I had stayed home instead of going to college and such. I became independent and it has made it very difficult in being a keeper at home to go from such independence to submission. I also greatly regret the student loans for a piece of paper that did not educate me. Education comes from desire, not reading pagan books you memorize in short term memory for a test. My education began when I became withchild for the first time.
    Ladies, if you have a godly family, not perfect, and you desire not to blaspheme His Word and be a keeper at home, be cautious sowing an independent spirit. I wish I had spent my single years learning to submit to my father. If I can submit to him, how much easier should it be to submit to a man of my choosing?
    I agree that once "of age", you change from forced obedience to honour. But I also think when we are young, we need to sincerely seek the wisdom of our elders. If they are genuinely wrong, we must do what is right, but is that really any different than in marriage?
    We have young girls and a baby boy. Even our girls we want to learn many skills. We do not wish for them to learn these skills, "just in case" they need to provide for their family in case their husband dies, is a lazy bum, or leaves. We want these skills to be an asset to whom they marry. If they never marry, these skills may still be used, especially in ministry. But when they become a woman, or man, the roles will shift. If they choose to stay in our home, they will continue to live by our rules... Not as a child, but as a brother or sister in Christ. They will have all of the advice they seek, but they will not be micromanage or treated as a child. These are not our children, but His. Our goal is to help equip them and find God's will for their lives. Some of those things are already laid out in His Word.
    I would encourage any Christian adult lady who plans to marry to stay in a godly home until marriage as it helps prevent from sowing that independent feministic spirit. If a parent tried to control, go to them in love... In rare cases, it may be time to flee, but often that is not the case.
    I just don't want young women to read this as justification for leaving always being best. It may be, but it may not be. A child who CHOOSES to live in submission is not in some patriarchy cult, and I often hear people get that impression despite articles like these simply pointing out potential dangers in this moveme nt.

  9. I left home in my late 20’s, and my sister who is six years older, moved with me. I quickly embraced finding a church family, friends, finding a job and a place to live-with my sister. I encouraged her to build friendships, and try doing things she had talked about wanting to do for years. I encouraged her to explore jobs, education, and building relationships. She refused to make friends unless I created a relationship with the person first. She did not like the church I knew I belonged in. I offered to help her find a church that she believed was where she belonged. She refused, unless I went with her, permanently. She immediately disliked the man I began a romantic relationship with, after being friends with him for a year. She grew increasingly upset, claiming it was against God’s will, and the devil was using him to destroy me.
    She tried to use sleep deprivation to convince me I was doing the wrong thing, and finally told me if I didn’t repent she wouldn’t have anything more to do with me. She did all of this, because my mother told me she had a word from God: the man I was considering marrying was not my husband.
    I told my mother that I understood she believed God had told her that, but I needed to hear that from God, for me to follow and obey it.

    I prayed and fasted, as well as sought godly counsel. I became engaged to my now husband-holding my sister’s hand, while wearing my ring, and told her he had asked me to be his wife, and I said yes. After that, she told an elder in my church she knew nothing about my being engaged, causing them to become concerned about our engagement. She has treated me with hostility for nearly five years since. For marrying a man who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior for 30 plus years, and continues treating me with incredible kindness, understanding, consideration, and love. Matriarchal brainwashing and manipulation is real. Religious control is powerful and destructive in the hands of manipulative and fearful women. My mother’s fears and need to control has ruled my 6 siblings unchecked, since my father’s death. It is tragic, and has contributed to extremism, isolation, and mental illness. She believes it is patriarchy, because she “submits” to her oldest son. They only fellowship with themselves and 1-5 other people, who are sometimes okay, and sometimes they won’t speak to them, because they are in “unbelief”.
    I was raised homeschooled, wearing skirts and head coverings, and never seeing a doctor or taking medicine. I caught measles when I was in my late 20’s, and was told it was swine flu.
    I figured out what it was later, from the symptoms and the fact that my parents, siblings, and friends, who I was around when I was contagious, who had been immunized against measles, did not get sick. These are real problems, that continue to be perpetuated by bad doctrine and twisting scripture.