Building Households for the Glory of God
BUILDING HOUSEHOLDS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
“The man is the head of the house, while the woman is the heart of the house.”
If you think that 21st American society is flourishing in moral beauty, cultural wholesomeness, and political wisdom, then you might consider setting aside this article that has somehow come to your attention. You and I are worlds apart in our thinking, and I doubt that anything I say will be persuasive to you.
But if your eyes are open to the distressing cultural ruin and moral insanity that is all around us, then I bid you to read on. You might find this helpful – and if you do, perhaps you would consider it a joy to join me in building a community that is rooted in Christ and that has something compelling to offer the world.
When a Window Breaks
Where does the current moral insanity come from? How did we get to the point where gay marriage has been legalized and normalized, where transgenderism is promoted and celebrated, where young people are confused about basic issues of male and female identity, and where a nominee to the Supreme Court is unwilling to define what it means to be a woman? What we need to understand that all of this is the natural outworking of decisions that were made decades ago.
God’s design, which has been so faithfully set forth by the prophets and apostles, is like a beautiful and large window. If you break one part of the window, you have actually broken the whole window – although the breaks in other parts of the window may not show up or be observed for some time. You can’t break one part of the window and expect to maintain the beauty and integrity of the rest of the window. The whole window is, in principle, broken by means of that first break. Over time, the break bleeds, the fracturing expands, and the ugliness spreads.
One of the early cultural ‘window breaks’ I have in mind is the proposition that men and women are interchangeable in terms of basic role and function. This proposition was accepted broadly in American culture decades ago, and scores of evangelicals compromised on this point. Evangelicals could not have compromised on this point unless: a) they didn’t care what the Bible said; or b) they did interpretive gymnastics to silence what the Bible said. But once you don’t care what the Bible says or you’re willing to dance around what the Bible says, be sure that more compromises will follow.
Now when a society believes a) that men and women are interchangeable in terms of basic role and function, and b) that ‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’ are fluid categories without any definite meaning, then it is only a matter of time before society acts consistently with these beliefs – and ‘acting consistently’ means accepting gay marriage, promoting transgenderism, multiplying gender categories, conferring upon men awards that were intended for women, and confusing everyone (especially young people). Welcome, folks, to our interchangeable world in which objective boundaries are rejected and personal feelings are enthroned. All of which means: broken families, shattered lives and famished hearts, for which no amount of individual self-expression will compensate. Today’s Americans are eating the bitter fruit of the seeds of confusion that were planted in the 1960s through the free love movement and through second-wave feminism.
A Spiritual Battle
But this bitter fruit is exactly how the serpent plays. Satan hates well-ordered families: he wants the woman to rule the man (Genesis 3:1-6), he wants to violently eliminate offspring (Exodus 1:15-22, Matthew 2:16-16), he wants to turn brother against brother (Genesis 4:1-8), he wants to divide children from their parents (Malachi 4:6, Luke 1:17), he wants an unfaithful generation to arise that is completely disconnected from the faithfulness of the previous generation (Joshua 1:6-10), and he wants the highly-educated elite class on camera telling the whole world that because they don’t have the requisite academic degree, they are in no position to define what a woman is.
Against all this bitter fruit, the Bible proclaims that strong and stable families are essential to human flourishing, and to forming children into secure and mature adults. Strong families are the building block of strong local communities, strong Christian congregations, and strong and prosperous nations. Psalm 113:9 says, “He [the LORD] gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” Notice that Psalm 113:9 didn’t say that He makes the barren woman an executive in a Fortune 500 company.
Getting to the Heart of God’s Plan
God places such high value on godly families, that He gives the following instruction on how women should flee from the schemes of the devil. How? By settling down into family life and running a household:
“So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:14-15)
Frankly, the vast majority of Christian women – and the vast majority of Christian men – don’t have the ability to live profitably for the Lord as a single person. If you can live profitably and single-mindedly for the Lord as a single person, then the apostle Paul encourages you to do it (1 Corinthians 7:25-35). Otherwise, get about the holy business of building a family.
An Important Question
But if we’re going to devote ourselves to this holy enterprise called family, then we really need to understand what a household is. As 1 Timothy 5:14 indicates, a married woman should have children and manage her household. What is this household that the wife is instructed to govern? Let me attempt to unpack what a household is, and help you to see that having an 'integrated household' is integral to the household.
But First, A Word to Men
Christian Men, the household is so important in God’s design for the world, that He calls your wife to give herself wholeheartedly to its management and prosperity. While the women of this world are storing up treasures on earth that will soon fade into insignificance, your wife will be directing a kingdom-of-God-outpost that participates in God’s plan for the ages. Slow down and appreciate the significance of your wife’s God-given assignment.
Now it is very important for you, my brothers, to understand that the purpose of your wife’s domestic assignment is not to free you to play billiards with your buddies at the bar three nights a week. On the contrary, you also must be ‘all in’ to your household. You are the head, the leader, the pacesetter, the vision caster, the one who bears primary responsibility for the navigation of the ship. To do this well, you’ll have to be energetically and lovingly present; you’ll have to open up the Scriptures; you’ll have to give instruction and correction; you’ll have to address deficiencies in the household (starting with the ones in your own soul); and you’ll have to set an example – not unlike how Jesus stooped low to wash the feet of His disciples. Your wife’s role as household manager is meant to flourish under your overarching leadership.
What is a Household?
So, what is a household? A household is an organized arrangement of relationships centered on a husband and wife and their children, and historically often includes extended family members and may also include servants. This organized arrangement of relationships has a home base (the home!), has possessions and financial resources, has a way of subsisting and gaining wealth (homesteading, the family farm, the family business, outside employment, investments), and is designed to participate in God’s mission to the wider world. The entire household is supposed to be pulling together in the same direction, with each household member participating as a steward in the overall work of the household, all in keeping with the Great Dominion Mandate (Genesis 1:28) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). When the household is gutted of this relational and vocational richness, it becomes a mere ‘rest area’ for a few individually-minded people to make a pit stop at the end of a long day.
Now don’t get me wrong: even in this ‘home as a glorified hotel’ situation any practical care that we extend to each other is still of vital importance. Overall, though, a hotel-like household of individualistically-minded consumers is not God’s intention for your family. And managing a ‘glorified hotel’ is less inspiring and less compelling than managing a more integrated ‘family on mission’ household that is working together to produce beautiful works to advance God’s mission. An integrated household is the sort of thing that makes love shine brightly in and through an entire network of relationships.
The Fragmentation of the Modern Household
Now here’s the problem: You need to understand that the fragmentation of the modern household makes it difficult for you and me to truly grasp the potential of a thriving household. Twenty-first century Americans were handed a world in which ‘the good life’ is thought to happen outside the household. For so many people, work and school and ministry and social activities take place ‘out there’, apart from the household. But is this how things are supposed to be?
In Genesis 2:4-25, the man’s work was designed to be co-extensive with his life at home. The garden was his home, and the garden was a productive homestead. The man and his wife, and the children to be born, would do life together – and in many ways work together – in their home/homestead/household.
Just yesterday I came across a description of work that dovetails perfectly with the thinking and writing that I had already done in preparing this reflection. In the Friday, April 22, 2022 edition of ‘The Briefing’, Dr. R. Albert Mohler commented,
“If you are looking at previous millennia and centuries of human existence, work was basically, first of all, defined by the work of the family, the work of family in the home and the work of the family on the farm. Those were the big defining issues.”
In this kind of situation, it is easy to see how family members would have a unified understanding and experience of their life and work. When the husband runs a farm or a family business, it is immediately apparent that the wife and children can participate with him in all kinds of helpful and profitable ways. Family members would very tangibly work together in the stewardship of the household – including the stewardship of the economics of the household. Furthermore, when the family farm or family business operated within a small town or local community, taking products to market and buying/selling/trading within the township would not be disjointing activities. Two children accompanying their mother to the farmer’s market in order to sell fresh vegetables is co-extensive with the integrated work of the household.
Now I realize that we cannot hit ‘rewind’ and transport ourselves back to an earlier time. But even so, we should attempt to understand the situation that we find ourselves in, and then we should attempt to develop practices and structures that will help our households to flourish.
So what is the situation in which we find ourselves? For many modern American households, the situation is characterized by fragmentation. The life and work of the household is not even close to integrated. Instead, family members are flying in all kinds of different directions as each individual attempts to find meaning ‘out there’. Let’s think about some of the challenges.
Challenge #1: Disconnection of ‘Work’ from the ‘Household’
While the Industrial Revolution benefited the world in many ways, it weakened the household because it disconnected so much economic activity from the household. It meant Dad spent less time at home. Now Dad had a factory job, and his wife couldn’t really help him in it, and his children couldn’t observe him in that work or apprentice under him.
Challenge #2: Disconnection of ‘Learning’ from the ‘Household’
Public schooling disconnects education from the home. Of course, not all public schooling is equal. In certain contexts, public schooling might be a natural extension of what the parents are teaching their children in the home. But the more that public schooling is driven by federal and state government, and the less that public schooling is directly locally by parents and by Boards of Education that see themselves as accountable first and foremost to these parents, the more painful the disconnection will be. But I have in mind more than just what we call ‘education’. The household is supposed to be a place of learning: learning the Scriptures, learning to be a disciple, learning to live well in community with other people, learning to see all of life and every subject matter from a biblical worldview perspective, learning all kinds of practical skills, and apprenticing to acquire specific skills. Now when one household freely partners with other truly like-minded households to accomplish these things, that is very much to the good. But the situation we have now is that the overwhelming majority of learning takes place ‘outside the home’ and often in contexts that are not friendly to the biblical worldview.
Disconnection #3: Disconnection of Nuclear Family from Extended Family
God’s design for the family is not disconnected nuclear families. By ‘nuclear family’ I mean a man, his wife, and their children, period. I completely agree with Dr. Mohler’s assessment that he gave on another recent edition of ‘The Briefing’. What he said wasn’t new to me, but reinforced what I was already thinking. Mohler said:
“The nuclear family and the natural family are not the same thing. Christians believe in the biblical revelation of the natural family, not so much the nuclear family….
“The natural family is the family that emerges from parenthood and from the children who come out of that family and then extended kin. So, you’re looking at grandparents, you’re looking at aunts and uncles. The natural family means that the very center of the family is the unit that starts out with marriage….
“But the biblical conception of the family is and has always been multigenerational. This is most clear, actually, in the Old Testament where you have, of course, the patriarchs and you look at their line and you look at the fact that if you see Jacob or Joseph, you’re looking at a long line, a long multigenerational line of family.”
Yes and amen to God’s design for the family!
Are you beginning to see the problem?
Dear reader, are you beginning to see the problem? What I have described above is nothing less than the gutting of the household (by ‘gutting’ I mean ‘emptying something of its substance and true significance’). When you export economic productivity out of the home, and you export the majority of learning outside the home, and you sever the nuclear family from the natural extended family, what remains is a home that is basically a landing pad for individuals who are doing life ‘out there in the real world’ – and you can see the empty nest coming. Are Charlotta and I the only ones who are profoundly troubled by this decades-long, centuries-long attack on the household?
Instead of an integrated household, what emerged was a situation in which Dad was off to work, the children were off to school, and the nuclear family was increasingly isolated. On top of all that. technological advancements (another mixed blessing!) made certain tasks much easier. Less and less was happening at the home. Less subsistence, less wealth production, less education and apprenticeship, less doing life together. Then eventually someone comes along and says, ‘The women should go off to work, too.’ And when she goes off to work, it only adds more disconnection to the disconnection that already exists: now her work is disconnected from the household, and her work is also disconnected from her husband’s work, and there is even less that holds the family together.
In this modern-day situation which is played out in millions of households, the purpose of childrearing is less about bringing up children to carry on the family legacy and continue the family work and participate in the family mission, and more about setting the child up for individual success. By the way, when you have a vision for an intergenerational family on mission, it’s not as if you don’t care about an individual’s success or about honing an individual’s gifts. But for so many people, individual success has become the main thing. For Bible-believing Christians, individual success should always be understood as part of something bigger, namely, the flourishing of the household and the flourishing of God’s household.
When you add up all these modern-day trends, what you get is a gutted household (a household that has been emptied of its substance and true significance). Be sure of this: the Proverbs 31 woman was not managing a gutted household. The call upon a woman to manage her household is not a call to confinement within four walls where hardly anything is happening except for eating and sleeping. Instead, it is a call to manage a working household which is the wellspring of ‘the good life’ and which overflows in blessing to the wider community.
Join Me in Recovering Lost Ground
Is the above picture over-simplified? Of course. Human history and everyday life are both complex, and they involve a whole range of possible circumstances on a spectrum from ‘not good’ to ‘good’ to ‘very good’. So what I have done is painted a picture of two contrasting approaches to the household. But with that brief qualification in mind, let me say loud and clear: even though modern society has professionalized and dis-placed the traditional functions of the household, I am on a mission to recover lost ground. I do not want my household to be a fragmented mishmash of individually-minded people who are going in seven different directions. Instead, I want my household to be as integrated as possible – a household in which we are enterprising together in accordance with God’s mission, in which we are intentionally involving our children in our work, in which we are linking up in practical ways with other like-minded households, and in which our activities are deliberately aimed to bless a widening circle of other people. And, in keeping with God’s design, under my leadership I want Charlotta to devote her very best energies and competencies and gifts to turning this long-term vision into everyday progress.
Friends, Satan is happy to build an efficient culture that is godless, homeless, and divided, with all kinds of trivial entertainments to distract you from the wastefulness of your life. But God has always been building an extended inter-generational family on mission that is godly, grounded, connected, and unified, with the deep joy that comes from “bearing fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10).
Most of us can’t restructure our lives ‘on the dime’, and in any case it is impossible to ‘turn back the clock’ to some previous time in human history. Furthermore, we can’t un-do the long chain of decisions that got us to where we currently are. So don’t panic at the realization that you might be more adrift than you previously realized. At the same time, don’t throw up your hands as if you are helpless. Instead, under God’s good grace, take steps in the right direction. God specializes in transforming our lives – so lean in!
If your household lacks the relational and vocational and missional richness that God intends, or if you are facing pressures or temptations that would take you adrift, don’t try to fix everything all at once. Homesteading or starting a family business or operating a small farm might be something that some of you get to eventually – and I know that some of you are already functioning in this manner. But don’t underestimate the significance of doing some very simple but important things to build up your household as an integrated family. Cut back on individualized busyness, and spend time together. Set aside daily time for family devotions. Prepare and eat meals together. Do household chores together. Run errands together. Work together on a service project. Carve out times for extended family and church family. Make it a collaborate effort to show hospitality to others. Take time to learn a new family game, and then play it spiritedly, with everyone learning how to win or lose graciously. Watch a movie together with buttery popcorn. I don’t mean that every family member is always involved in every activity. I also don’t mean that individuals never get alone time. And I don’t mean that family members never go off and have encouraging time with friends. What I do mean is that there ought to be a pattern of partnership and collaboration within the family. All hands are on deck, and everyone pitches in. Share the responsibilities and privileges of doing life together. Discover the peace and joy of working side by side in things that matter and building something that reverberates with the value system of God’s everlasting kingdom.
A Word to My Brothers
Finally, a word to my brothers. Christian men, the first thing you must do is catch a vision for this. Catch a vision for your marriage as a display of Christ’s love for the church, and catch a vision for your household as a vibrant center of training, productivity, and service that links up with other like-minded households and that overflows to bless the world. Men, some of your God-given responsibilities will sometimes mean time away from your family – but you should minimize that time away. You cannot effectively lead your family unless you are energetically present with your family. Therefore, structure your life to be consistently and purposefully present. And make a concerted effort with your wife to build the mindset and practice of meaningful work, hospitality, and service in and through your home.
Will you join me in building a community that is rooted in Christ and that has something compelling to offer the world?
 Douglas Wilson, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families. Audiobook, Chapter 11. Book Published by Thomas Nelson, 2012.
 Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 For helpful instruction about the fragmentation of the modern household, along with a positive vision for building a purposeful, integrated, and productive household, see:
Jefferson Bethke, Take Back Your Family from the Tyrants of Burnout, Busyness, Individualism, and the Nuclear Ideal. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2021.
C. R. Wiley, Man of the House: A Handbook for Building a Shelter That Will Last in a World That Is Falling Apart. Wipf and Stock, 2017.
C. R. Wiley, The Household and the War for the Cosmos: Recovering a Christian Vision for the Family. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2019.
I am significantly indebted to Bethke and Wiley for my understanding of the issues that I discuss in the present article.
 R. Albert Mohler, The Briefing, April 22, 2022, Part 1: “Building a Resume? LinkedIn Adds Stay-at-Home Parent to Job Titles List”. Available online: https://albertmohler.com/2022/04/22/briefing-4-22-22.
 R. Albert Mohler, The Briefing, April 12, 2022, Part 1: “Is the Nuclear Family in America Passing from the Scene? Understanding the Difference Between the Nuclear Family and the Natural Family”. Available online:https://albertmohler.com/2022/04/12/briefing-4-12-22.