“Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise… Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household.” (Proverbs 11:29-30; 15:27a)
The Bible makes it clear that God creates families, calls families to worship Him, and expects us to honor Him in our families, as family units. God’s covenant terms apply to “His people” (Isaiah 1:3b; 40:1; 1 Peter 4:17), “the family” (Amos 3:1-2); and the “household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). We who are in God’s family are called His children (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1). Biblical genealogies are numerous, offering further evidence of God’s concern for family history, the lineage of the Jews, and the continuity of His family from Adam to Jesus Christ. Clearly, God cares about families, just as He cares about marriages.
Today when we think of families a whole host of issues come to mind: the challenge of raising children, the effect of divorce on families, blended family concerns, adoption, and alternative family structures, to name a few. In the face of these challenges, we have encouragement, guidance, correction, and inspiration for raising children wisely and maintaining a healthy family environment in Scripture. This is hard work, both spiritually and emotionally; it takes much prayer and dedication to establish and keep a godly family in today’s world, just as it did in biblical times. But the rewards are enormous.
I have arranged our three verses today in the style of Proverbs, with warnings as the bookends that sandwich a beneficial truth. We are warned about troubling our families, which in this case includes anyone living with the family, such as nannies or friends today. One way that parents trouble their families is by making the accumulation of money or reputation a priority (Proverbs 15:27a). Avariciousness and covetousness will rob a spouse, children, and others of the time and love needed for healthy and encouraging family relationships. Selfish desires and tempers will not only leave a family wanting for love but stir up the same in others. Eventually, these family members will seek familial love from other people. Worldly values and priorities will be transmitted to the children, rather than the godly wisdom that will give them an inheritance they can rely upon in this life and the next.
Many Christians have stronger ties with our believing friends, co-workers, and church members than family members because of our unity in Christ. Jesus declared that his disciples had the status of his brothers, sisters, and mothers (Matthew 7:46-50) However, young children are to receive Christ’s love from Christian parents, and as we grow older, that love should increase, not decrease or be neglected. Rather than trouble our families we are to be a refuge of righteousness for their souls, as a tree is a sanctuary and shelter for birds (15:27a). Birds find rest and make their homes in trees, for protection and security. The tree doesn’t actually “capture” the birds, but the picture is of irresistible delight in the tree’s existence for shelter. Our love for God and faith in Christ is to be a place of refuge for our families, bringing them to the feet of Jesus at the cross, so that their souls are arrested by his mercy and grace. Believers are to be “fishers” of men (Matthew 4:19).
Have you ever seen a family where the children are wiser than their parents—when the “fool” is the parent who becomes the servant of the child (11:29)? This is what happens when we neglect to teach our children the wisdom of God. Instead, we ought to be able to say, “I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.” (Proverbs 4:11)