The Idolatry of Family
John 8:33, “We are Abraham’s descendants.”
Well over a week ago, I had promised you that I was going to begin a blog series on the idols that plague the American Church. Unfortunately, I couldn’t devote the time to studying and preparing for this as we had family and friends in town visiting over the last few weeks. But now I have a bit more time and wanted to get back to this very important subject for the church.
The church, the modern evangelical church in America is plagued by many idols today, but we are just going to focus on a few of the more prevalent ones. An idol is anything that we put ahead of our relationship with God. In Exodus 20:2-3 we are commanded, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol.” Some of these “idols” are not in and of themselves bad things. But when they become more important than our relationship with God then they become a problem; they become an object of worship and therefore an idol.
The first idol we are going to look at is the idol of family. Jesus was confronting this very form of idolatry in John 8. You see the Jews of Jesus day put a tremendous amount of weight in the fact that they were descendants of Abraham. In John 8:31 Jesus said to the Pharisees, scribes and other assembled Jews, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” What Jesus is giving them is the path to salvation and it was not through their family heritage. Look at their reply to Him in verse 33, “We are Abraham’s descendants.” In other words, “Why do we need you Jesus? After all we are saved because we are children of Abraham.” In verse 37 Jesus says to them, “I know you are Abraham’s descendants.” Of course, He knew they were descendants of Abraham, He was as well! Jesus continues in verse 37, “Yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore, you also do the things which you heard from your father.” Once again in verse 39 they tell Jesus again “yeah but”, “Abraham is our father.” “We don’t need you Jesus, we are saved because we are Jews! We are children of Abraham!”
In my 15 years in the ministry I have witnessed this very same idolatry time and time again in the churches in which I have served. I have sat and patiently listened to dear older saints try to convince themselves that their unregenerate adult children are saved because they raised them in a “Christian” home, as if that in and of itself is salvific. I’ve heard dear people say, “Our family have been members of this church for 50 years,” as if that guarantees the salvation of all of their descendants. I’ve seen grandparents and parents put undue pressure on their children and on their pastors and leaders in the church to baptize their very young children, because that is what is expected of a Christian family. Often quietly attached to this is the mistaken believe, even if unacknowledged, that baptism is somehow salvific. I’ve heard Christians say many times how their families are the most important things in their lives. They then center everything they do around the activities of their children, far too much of the time at the cost of taking their families, whom they claim to love, to church.
In many churches the perceived success of our families is seen as evidence that a family is a “good” Christian family. Pastors preach endless sermon series on how to make our families better, how to discipline our children, how to make our families thrive, how to have healthy and happy families. You want to pack an auditorium? Preach a series on family finances or marriage. But what about having a family that is holy? That pursues the things of God and not the trinkets of this world?
In Matthew 13:22 in the midst of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explained to His listeners, “And the one on whom the seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Too often we become too consumed with how our families are perceived by the outside world, and most of that perception is built on the falsehoods of family financial and material success. We assume, in our American view of Christianity, that if someone is truly blessed by God then their family will be successful and financially well off. What happens then is we pursue these goals of success and financial stability which too often leads to us getting tangled up in the “thorns” of this world which leads to being “unfruitful.”
What about being more concerned that junior loves the Lord than whether or not he’s the starting quarterback? What about putting Christ first in all we do in our homes? What about holding onto our children loosely? In the understanding that they are a gift from God. What about modeling for our families a desire to glorify God? What about encouraging our children to travel to the far corners of the globe, not in the pursuit of money, but in the pursuit of lost souls? Or what about simply encouraging our children to be faithful and godly men and women at home, at work, and at church?
In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus demanded that we put Him above everything else in our lives. We can try it the world’s way and our families may indeed be happy, healthy, and successful for a time. But they also may very well be completely lost and headed to an eternity in hell. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
We are to love our families as we should. But the best way and most important way we can love them is to model a truly Christlike life. We truly love them when we model a deep desire to glorify God, to honor God, and to make Him known. Put Christ first ahead of even our families.