One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.
— 1 Timothy 3:4
Once while traveling on an airplane, I sat next to a lady who had taught public school for thirty-five years. I asked her, “What can you tell about a family by the way a child behaves in school?”
She answered, “Everything! I can usually tell by the way a child acts if his or her home is peaceful or tormented; if the parents pay attention to their kids or ignore them; and if the father and mother have a good relationship. Almost everything can be determined by watching a child’s behavior. It’s usually a mirror of what’s happening at home.”
Of course, I know there are unique situations in which parents do everything right in raising their child, yet the child still becomes indifferent toward God and develops a rebellious and disrespectful attitude toward others. But often rebellious children are a symptom of a deeper problem in the family. If only one of the children in a family is rebellious and unmanageable, you might be able to dismiss the situation as a freak development or an attack of the devil. But if every child exhibits the same disturbing behavioral problems, you can surmise that something is not right in that home.
Paul considered the condition of the home so important that he wrote that a leader must have “…his children in subjection with all gravity” (1 Timothy 3:4). This is important to understand, because what happens in a person’s home is usually the true picture about what kind of leader he is going to be. So when I personally look for new leaders or for people who will represent me and my ministry, I look at their children to see if they are respectful and understand authority. If the children aren’t being taught this at home, it may be a sign that this parent doesn’t value the things I count as important.
But what age of children are we talking about? The word “children” that Paul uses in First Timothy 3:4 is the Greek word tekna, the word used to describe children who are still under parental guidance at home. After a child grows into a young adult and leaves home, the parent is no longer responsible; however, as long as the child remains at home and under the authority of his or her parents, those parents have a God-given parental responsibility to teach that child how to live and how to act toward others.
Paul says in this verse that a leader’s children should have “gravity.” The word “gravity” is the Greek word semnotes. It presents the idea of a person who carries himself with dignity and treats other people with courtesy and respect.
Through the years, I’ve learned that the way a person’s children speak to each other and to others outside the home is very revealing about what’s really happening behind closed doors in that home. As noted above, children usually mirror the true situation in a home. In other words, how they speak, carry themselves, and treat others usually reflects the quality of relationships in their home.
If parents are constantly arguing and screaming at each other until it has become a pattern and a way of life, the children will usually speak to each other exactly the same way in that home. When siblings engage in chronic patterns of strife, name-calling, and mutual accusation, these destructive patterns probably exist in their parents’ marital relationship as well. Children repeat what they see their parents do.
I’ll never forget the time I was called upon to mediate a very difficult situation between a husband and wife whose marital problems could no longer be hidden. On the surface, they always smiled and acted deeply in love. However, the behavior of their children let me know that serious problems existed in that marital relationship.
Those kids frequently told each other:
- “I hate you!”
- “I wish you were dead!”
- “I can’t stand you!”
- “I’ll be so glad when you grow up and move out of this house!”
- “I think you stink!”
It was very revealing to me that the children spoke so freely to each other like this and that no one at home stopped it. It told me that it was probably the kind of language spoken by everyone in the home — including Dad and Mom.
Then the true story came to light, and the facade of marital bliss this couple tried to project was removed. The truth was that this husband and wife fought like cats and dogs. He yelled and she screamed; he threatened and she threw objects. That house had been filled with strife, discord, quarreling, and squabbling for many years. This long-term destructive behavior was exactly what those kids mirrored in their own behavior and conversations with each other.
If a home is filled with love, respect, and teamwork, this is also evident in the way the children conduct themselves. For instance, just recently a leader and his family came to our home for dinner. I watched that leader’s children interact with each other all evening while they were at our home. By watching those children, I knew exactly what I needed to know about this family. Those children possessed a respect and courtesy for each other and for other people that had been passed down to them by their parents’ example.
When children are disrespectful toward authority and resentful when they’re asked to do something they think is too low for them to do, it usually means they come from a home where a servant mentality is nonexistent. If their parents were true servants, their children would reflect that servant mentality themselves. Leaders who are servants most often have children who are servants.
So if you’re looking for someone to serve in your church or to hire for a job, never forget to take a good look at the potential candidate’s children. If you see a house full of children who are content to sit and watch other people work, be careful. You may be inviting someone who lacks a servant’s heart into your team of leaders. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule, but you will most often find that what you see in the children is what you’ll experience with the parent as well.
I am certain this Sparkling Gem has raised questions for you. My prayer is that it raises a warning flag to make you think twice about your own children and to cause you to move more slowly when choosing a leader who has disrespectful children. I’m NOT saying that a potential leader whose children are rude and disorderly can’t be used. But you should enter that relationship with both eyes wide open.
If your own children are disrespectful toward each other and toward authority, maybe you need to ask the Lord to help you analyze the real situation in your life and your home so He can show you what is out of order. Then once He reveals it to you, determine to start taking the proper steps to put things in good shape!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, thank You for speaking to me through today’s Sparkling Gem. I ask You to help me truthfully evaluate the situation in my life and honestly analyze how I am doing at rearing my children. It is difficult for me to be honest with myself about my performance as a parent, so I need You to give me the grace to see the truth as You see it. After You show me where I have erred, please quickly teach me how to bring correction into the situation. I am willing to be corrected, and I am waiting for You to help me clearly see the situation. I determine this day to do whatever is required to put my home in good working order.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am growing and developing as a parent. My parental skills are getting better and better all the time. My home is filled with love; my children speak with kindness and respect; and I am rearing them to be godly leaders for the next generation. With God’s Word as my guide and the Holy Spirit as my Teacher, I am leading my family in a way that pleases God and that is an example to others.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. When considering the behavior of your children, would you say they are respectful or disrespectful toward authority?
2. Do your children play one parent against the other parent — going to the second parent to get approval for what they want to do after the other parent has already denied their request? If yes, what does this communicate to you?
3. Do your children speak kindly to each other and respectfully toward their parents? If the answer is no, what does this reveal about you as a parent?