It has been suggested that God established three great “institutions” for our benefit — family, church and civil government. As he planned them, they are without any defects. When problems come, it is because of man’s failings.
Let’s look at what the Bible reveals about God’s intentions for the family, which, in spite of the contrary views of some, is the foundation of every human society and, in at least some cases, animal cultures. As he designed the family, just what were God’s intentions for it?
God wanted a family that depended on God but independent of others. Following the account of Adam’s name of “woman,” Moses said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
The garden environment of Eden gives us an indication of God’s desire not only to bless man but also to enjoy a personal relationship with him that is loving in every way. He gave Adam work to do in the garden, providing the enjoyment of personal accomplishment. He gave Adam a “helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Eve was his partner and companion, and God planned for them to know the joy of children (and grandchildren). God and man enjoyed associating personally with one another in the garden. This is the only logical explanation why Adam and Eve were afraid when they heard God walking in the garden (Genesis 3:8–10). Adam and Eve were responsible to God for their actions and dependent every day on his help.
God intended for families to be as free as possible from dependence on other people. The man and woman literally were of “one flesh.” After all, Eve had been created from Adam’s rib. But that relationship is much more than just the sexual union of two people. It also involves a mysterious unity between them that Paul finds useful as an analogy of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).
God wanted the family to be dependent on only one person — him! He is our daily provider (Matthew 6:11, 25–34). Men (and women) are to “leave ... father and mother” and be united with one another. Extended families are good, but they normally function best at arm’s length. Every family needs to mind its own business and no one else’s. We can and should help others, but only with their permission. These lessons are sometimes hard to learn — but learn them we must, or live a miserable life!
God wanted a family concerned about the needs of its members. The father or mother who only cares about him- or herself is selfish and doesn’t deserve to be a parent. Even unbelievers know that we should take care of those who are too weak to take care of themselves. That is why the juvenile court system sometimes sees the need to take endangered children away from irresponsible parents. This is why we have laws regulating marriage — to try to preserve the sanctity of marriage and home.
God has placed some vital responsibilities on every member of the family — parents and children. Every member, regardless of his or her status, is a member and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Stepchildren shouldn’t be stepped on, and in-laws shouldn’t be treated like outlaws!
God wanted a family that would serve as a tool to help people serve him and go to heaven. He commanded the Israelites to make the law a part of their daily existence (Deuteronomy 6:7–9). In the same way, Christian parents are to teach their children about the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Again, husbands and wives are to live in a way that will draw the each closer to the Lord (1 Peter 3:7).
Everything God has made is “good and perfect” (James 1:17). What could be better, or more perfect, than the family? In spite of the criticisms of the institution and its human imperfections, men haven’t come up with anything that can compare.