I well remember that when I was a boy we had a rather large family living in our neighborhood to which my mother and several neighbors often referred as “Een huishouding van Jan Steen.” When I was a rather small boy I never had heard who Jan Steen was, but I certainly knew what was meant by the expression “A household of Jan Steen.”
The particular family I am speaking of at present, was not a well-regulated family. The father was a drunkard, and the mother of the home was slouchy and always gadding with the neighbor ladies; she was a veritable walking news-paper. The children were very unruly and naughty, and it seemed that everybody in the family did what he or she pleased to do. If you saw the members of the family on the street they looked untidy, grimy, and their clothes hung like bags around their bodies. We children avoided those boys and girls. And if you happened to peek into their home you would see at a glance that these people were poor. They had very little furniture, and what they did have was all scratched and marked-up. The shabby looking chairs were creaky, not so much of age as of abuse. You’d get the impression that the beds were never made, clothes were never hung on their proper places. Everything in the house was turned up-side down, disarranged and strewn all over the place as if a cyclone had struck the house. Yes, and the moment you’d put your nose inside the door an offensive odor greeted your nostrils. In the morning when the children came out of bed they all scrambled for their clothes. What a noise and yelling before everybody had found what belonged to him or her. Socks were gone, dresses had disappeared and nobody was ready for school on time. Hastily the children snatched a bite to eat and quite often they were late for School at that. And the teacher had a very hard time to teach them a few manners and a little orderliness. And then you ought to come around when they had dinner or supper. It seldom happened that all the children were home. And the way everybody behaved, father and mother included, you’d think that there was a miniature warfare going on. Sometimes the Bible was read at the table, but there never was any reverence. They were always poor and had plenty of debt besides, although at times they made a lot of money. Well, to make a long story short, after a number of years this “household of Jan Steen” left the Reformed Church. And even unto this day the members of this family do not amount to anything, with the exception of one girl who worked for a good, respectable family for years.
What was the trouble with this “Jan Steen” family? Perhaps you say: “The fear of God did not dwell in this home.” That is, of course, quite correct. But the point I want to emphasize at present is that this particular family was a disorderly family. And disorder means: to throw out of order, disarrange, disturb the natural functions. And that was exactly characteristic of the “household of Jan Steen.” And, alas, there are in our Christian circles, why should we talk about the world, more households of Jan Steen, although in varying degrees. Perhaps the Jan Steen family can teach many of us a little lesson about order in the home.
It seems to me this rather long introduction vividly illustrates, by way of contrast, the idea and meaning of an orderly home. An orderly home is a well-regulated home. A home where there is system, harmony, proper arrangement. To be very specific on this point, let us by way of illustration mention a few things which can be found in an orderly home. To begin with, an orderly home is one where the furniture is arranged in the proper way, and the moment you enter such a home it strikes you the manager of the house displays good judgment as far as the arrangement is concerned. Everything stands in its proper place, it looks neat, tidy and immaculately clean and glistening and bright. Such a home has the finishing touch. But also as to the arrangement of the work, a stranger will soon observe that the house he has entered is a well-regulated family. Mother works on schedule as much as circumstances permit. The work in the home is done at the proper time. Meals are served on time, dishes are cleaned on time and not left to accumulate and clutter the sink to such an extent that the girls don’t know where to start. And whether you look in the closets or in the drawers, everything has its own place. And all of the children know where to find their clothes, playthings, school-books, etc. And even though mother may be busy everything gets its turn, and the house smells clean and fresh. And if you happen to step in during meal time you will notice that all the members of the family are seated around the table. In an atmosphere of quietness they partake of the meal. True, the baby can be quite noisy at times and the smaller boys will transgress the laws of proper table manners. But on the whole there is an atmosphere of quietness, rest, and there is a feeling of security. And when father reads the Bible and leads in prayer the entire family shows the needed reverence. For the children there is a time to eat and a time to rest, a time to play and a time to work. And the entire family seems to have an interest in the things that are going on and everybody has a task assigned to him, and that task is carried out. There is law and order. Of course the family is punctual in Church-going, they never miss a service. The children are in school on time and the teacher is well pleased with their behavior. The family is respected in the neighborhood, father is known as a hard worker and mother as a diligent house-keeper. The entire regulating of the family, both in the home proper and outside the home, is a matter of team work.
Such a home we can rightfully call “An orderly home.” I am afraid that you find no home where perfection is reached, but I hope that in all our homes we strive for the ideal.
We might ask the question: does Scripture give us instruction as to the orderliness of our home? Does God command that our home should be orderly? Indeed! To mention a few things: God Himself is a God of order. All His works both in nature and grace reveal this. God’s work is not one grand confusion, on the contrary it is one harmonious whole. God is a God of order and system. Think in this connection of creation, which is one great harmonious whole. Think of the description of God’s majestic work in nature as we find it in Psalm 19 and many other places. Think of the succession of days and months, of seasons and times, etc. The order, symmetry, harmony of God’s works reflects the harmony of God’s being and His glorious virtues. But this is also true in the realm of grace. Everything happens at the proper time, and history is one great unfolding of the plan of God’s salvation. Nowhere is confusion and disorder but all things in heaven and on earth, in the world and in the church are thus guided by God’s providential care that they will reach their climax and culmination in the day of Jesus Christ. Besides this the Bible, particularly in connection with the Old Testament ceremonies often emphasizes the idea of order and arrangement. And, to mention one more example, when you read in Proverbs 13 the beautiful description of a virtuous woman, you will understand at once that her home is an orderly home.
Many more things could be said about this subject, but I must hasten to the end.
I think we all can agree that we live in a world of confusion and disorder, of hatred and war. We also can agree to this that the present confused world reflects the life of the disorderly home. After all, your State, your Nation, your Church, your School, your Society is but a reflection of the home. Where the home, the smallest cell of the human society is disorderly and ruined, you will have a disorderly, ruined, confused world. It is always true, a stream never rises higher than its source.
As to the value of an orderly home, and I am speaking now about our Christian homes, we come to the following conclusions and observations:
- An orderly home reflects the grace of our covenant God. Our life, our conduct, our home must be a reflection of the life of our God. A disorderly home tells you that there is something basically wrong with the fear of the Lord in such a home.
- In the second place, because God has placed us in an orderly universe, and because He accomplishes all things in an orderly way, we are bound to God’s law and order which are everywhere apparent. Hence, only by being orderly ourselves in every respect, can we fulfill our life’s calling in the sphere of God’s law and order.
- With respect to our children it is absolutely necessary that our home be orderly. You can only properly instruct your children, also in the ways of God’s covenant, when your home is orderly. Because an orderly home is instruction in itself by example and precept, but also gives you time and opportunity for specific covenant instruction.
- In the fourth place, our children will reflect in their behavior, outside of the narrow circle of the family, their home-life. Teachers and preachers can tell you that they can know, to quite an extent, your home life by the behavior, manners and orderliness of your children.
- And, finally, it is a great blessing for the covenant child to be reared in an orderly home. He will learn to obey, he will know the value of discipline, of work, of duty, of harmony, of system. He will develop into well balanced maturity and grow up to respectable man and womanhood. And the child will practice in his future life what he was taught at home. Confused, unsystematic, disorderly actions bespeak a confused, disorderly mind. And it is very hard to quit bad habits. Therefore also with respect to orderliness the saying of Scripture can be applied: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Indeed, our Christian homes should be orderly homes.