(The following is the substance of a speech given at an officebearer’s conference on April 5, 1977.)
The choice of this topic by the committee shows that the dual responsibility of the member of the consistory or of the school board member, puts the family man in a difficult position. It is to be assumed that the committee is not referring to those who will take on responsibilities in the church or school because they want to escape the family. Nor do they refer to those who use the family as an excuse not to be an officebearer or school board member. Rather the committee had in mind those men who very seriously bear the responsibilities of their families, but also seek to fulfill their responsibilities towards our churches and our schools.
It is best then that we consider what one’s responsibilities are towards the family and towards the church. Finally, let us consider what the proper relationship might be between these two.
When we speak of the family, we really refer to one’s responsibilities towards his wife. The reason why the emphasis should fall on our responsibility to our wife, rather than to our children, is that God says that a man must leave father and mother and cleave to his wife. This speaks not only to one just married who must concentrate his attention on his wife rather than his parents, but also to the family man who must remember that the basic relationship in the home is not the relationship between parents and children, but that relationship which exists between the husband and the wife. Simply put, this means that the way one can be the best father to his children is to be a very good husband to their mother.
The question which must be faced then to determine one’s responsibility to the home is: what is involved in being a husband? The Song of Solomon 2:16a and Song of Solomon 6:3a says that the husband possesses his wife. The wife becomes a part of him and he is incomplete without her. He needs her to be complete and can never do without her as long as it is God’s will to keep them alive. Because the husband possesses his wife he must therefore care for her by nourishing and cherishing her. But these verses in the Song of Solomon also say that the husband is not his own, but belongs to his wife. He leaves father and mother and is joined to his wife by God. Nothing may be allowed to interfere in this relationship. And the husband is not his own because he gives himself to his wife in love. As the husband’s love for his wife must be a reflection of God’s love for the Church, so he must love her so much that he gives his all to her and for her. That the husband is not his own but belongs to his wife is so much a fact that it can be said that “the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” (I Cor. 7:4)
The intimacy of this relationship between husband and wife is also shown in I Corinthians 11:12, “For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.” This text teaches that the man does not live apart from his wife, as if he were independent of her. Rather the husband must live his life by, or literally through, the wife. Wherever he is or whatever he is doing the husband must live through his wife. Not to do so is to be independent of her, and such independence is rebellion against the ordinance of marriage. A very practical example of the application of this truth to the work of an officebearer is that he may not forget that he is married as he counsels a woman of the congregation. (Parenthetically, every husband, no matter how long he may be married, should know how he lives his life through his wife, just as he must know how he lives his life to the glory of God.)
The intimacy of this marriage relationship shows the need for the importance of communication between husband and wife. They must maintain communication as it is described in Ephesians 4:25-32. This is obviously true because one cannot be compatible unless he is open and honest and truthful with his wife. It is through communication that the marriage relationship is established, grows, and is maintained. The husband (and also the wife, of course) therefore must tell his wife everything. He should not be selective in that which he tells her. Only the deepest recesses of one’s heart in which he speaks personally and secretly with his God is to be kept to himself. What kind of relationship exists when the husband and wife tell each other only a part of their everyday life? Such a relationship would be a very poor example of the perfect union between God and His people.
Because he is the head of the home, the husband and father also has responsibility to his children. That he has this responsibility is well known to many of us and is shown to us very clearly in Scripture. It is the father who is admonished to provoke not his children to wrath, but to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4. Dwelling within God’s covenant and loving Him with our all, we must educate our children in the testimonies of God, so that they will keep God’s covenant and testimony,Psalm 132. As the head of the home he has promised that he will instruct his children to the utmost of his power. This requires all of his strength as he must diligently teach in the house, on the way, going to bed and rising up.
In conclusion, to be married, let alone having children, is a full-time job with very great and grave responsibilities. For the fulfillment of these responsibilities he must answer to God.
The responsibilities of an officebearer or of a school board member are also very great.
First of all, let us remember that an officebearer (and the same is true of a member of the school board) is called of God and is placed in his position by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). He does not take this upon himself, but God takes him out of the home and takes his time, his talents, and his energy and uses them for the cause of His kingdom, in the church and in the school. The question arises, “May we then say ‘No’ to God?”
The responsibility of an officebearer is taught us inHebrews 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” The responsibility of an officebearer is to watch over the souls of God’s people. This watching is the constant vigilance of a shepherd who can give an alarm at the nearness of danger. He bears this responsibility at all times. Knowing that he must answer to God, for the watchfulness and care of God’s people weighs heavily upon him.
The child of God learns to love the cause of God in the church and in the school. Acts 20:28 teaches us that the responsibility of officebearers is the flock of God which He purchased with His own precious blood. No love can compare with that of Calvary. Being mindful of that love gives great incentive to devote oneself eagerly and carefully to the care of the flock. It follows that unless one is faithful in carrying out these responsibilities, he becomes guilty of profaning the precious blood of the Son of God. Therefore it must be a work of love. An officebearer must be careful to say that he does not have time for that for which God gave the blood of His only begotten Son. Officebearers must express that love to the extent that they are ready to give their life for the sheep of God. David was ready to give his life when he fought a lion and a bear for a single lamb. We may never grow weary of our love for the church of God, but must give ourselves wholly to it.
Very great, very important, and very serious are the responsibilities one has as a husband and father and as an officebearer or school board member.
It is the humble opinion of the undersigned that when these two responsibilities are compared with each other, one’s responsibility as husband and father is more important. That the family is more important than one’s responsibility towards church or school is implied in I Cor. 7:32, 33: “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.” A married man’s ability to work in the church is curtailed. John Calvin in his commentary on this passage speaks of the fact that marriage brings many distractions along with it: “Paul had good reason for reiterating the recommendation of celibacy for he says that the responsibilities of marriage are far from light. One married must provide food and many other necessities for the support and sustenance of his family. The married man must reckon with the fact that he is married. He may not withdraw from the duties his family imposes upon him.
That one’s responsibility towards his wife and children is more important than that responsibility towards the church and school is also implied in I Tim. 3:4, 5, 12. These verses speak of the fact that one must rule well over his own household to be qualified as an officebearer. It is obvious then that he must maintain that good rule over his household while he is in the office. To maintain that good rule one must be home sometime.
There are some practical problems which one faces when he bears this dual-responsibility of being a proper husband and father and of being a faithful officebearer or school board member. Let us face some of them.
First, there is the problem of not being able to talk to one’s wife about everything. It is obvious and needs no proof that as an officebearer and school board member there are many things about which he may not go home and tell his wife. He may not do this no matter how much they may bother him. It has been said that this makes the husband independent from his wife in this aspect of their life. That one may not tell his wife everything does not make one independent. It can make one independent, but it may not be allowed to do so. Extra effort must be made and will have to be put forth not to allow this to interfere. Also in this regard, the husband and wife can talk without going into the details. A wife can meet the needs of her husband without knowing every little detail of his life. A good wife knows him and his needs without knowing every detail. And she can meet his needs then, too. She can encourage him. She can direct him to pray and commit his anxieties to God. She can talk with him about the faithful and good care of God over His people in the past. She can tell when he is feeling sorry for himself and must be encouraged to go on diligently. She can comfort him.
Secondly, it is obvious that because time, effort, and energy are expended for the church and school, extra effort must be put forth to be with the family, especially the wife. This time set apart for his family should be flexible, but must be of high priority. It is never the quantity of time one spends with the family that is, important, but the quality of it. Whenever there is a consideration of the time spent for the church in comparison to the time spent for the family, one must also take into account all of the rest of his time and how he spends that. It is unfair to pit the time spent for these two responsibilities over against each other without taking into consideration the time we spend for so many other things.
In conclusion, I am firmly convinced that God gives grace to qualify those whom he has called to work in His kingdom. This means that He not only gives grace to fulfill the responsibilities towards the church or school, but that He also gives grace to that man as a husband and a father. Also this means that our merciful Father gives more grace to the wife while her husband is faithfully dispensing an office of Christ, because of the increased duties which might be hers. Also this means that He gives grace to the children of those families. This grace does not just fall from heaven. It comes from God to us through hard work and diligent effort by the husband and father, as he seriously strives to fill his God-given responsibilities.
(Even as there is opportunity given for a question and answer period after a speech at an officebearer’s conference, feel free to contact the writer if you have any question.)