The purpose of the family is 1) to maintain and nourish the one-flesh relationship between husband and wife, and 2) to prepare children to leave the home of their parents and establish their own home. The family does not exist for itself. Genesis 2:24 teaches that the husband-wife relationship does not exist primarily for children. Children are only temporary residents. A husband and wife are to remain together after the children have left. Parents, note this well: God wants your children to leave home. They are to move on. Parents are the ones who stay put.
When children become the primary purpose of family life, the focus of parents shifts to the enjoyment of children. Children become an end in themselves. In the 21st century, children are often wanted simply for the experience of having children. Famous single people, both homosexual and heterosexual, adopt children or bear them outside of marriage because they don’t want to miss the parenting experience. To be sure, the Bible teaches that children are a blessing from God. Being a parent should be a profound and wonderful experience. However, this experience must never become the primary goal of having children. They are to be raised for His glory and for His purposes. When people, married or single, Christian or not, have children and raise them for their own purposes, awful consequences occur. Wrong priorities distort the entire concept of family.
This shift in focus from the training of children to the enjoyment of children actually diminishes the pleasure of parenting. Children are selfish, devious and ungrateful by nature. Unless children are instructed and disciplined to follow God, they will follow their own natural ways. They will always frustrate the expectations of parental enjoyment. Parents looking primarily for enjoyment from such creatures are in for a major disappointment. Loving, enjoyable relationships between parents and children are a by-product of good parenting, not the goal. Even at that, the enjoyment of children is a blessing from God that should not be assumed or taken for granted. Many good parents have endured heartbreaking situations with their children.
People like Freud, Dewey, Hall, Spock and Piaget, who despise the very idea of the living God of the Bible, have shaped the world’s (and, unfortunately, many Christians’) thinking about raising children. These men teach that children are independent beings who must be free to make up their own minds about the world around them. Creativity and discovery must not be stifled. Lies are the expression of a child’s mytho-poetic capability. Sexual conduct must not be restricted. Sexual experimentation at almost any age is encouraged. Children must be free to choose what they want to be. Self-expression is the creed of the day, no matter how perverse that expression may be. It does not take long for children raised this way to become anything but enjoyable. Thus child abuse rises, broken homes become the norm and life for many families is an increasing frustration.
In this modern environment, the home functions not as a greenhouse, but as a stage. Children are displayed, not protected. Children are exploited, not trained. Sinful behavior is accepted and defended. Parents live for their children and children live for themselves. Many believe that small children cannot understand such complex concepts as God, sin, responsibility and substitutionary atonement. So instead of teaching children the hope of the gospel as the solution for the difficulties of life, parents invest in their children’s accomplishments and performance. If children are not on the honor roll, winning beauty contests or leading the team in scoring at an early age, parents are disappointed. No child can bear this awful weight.
Remember, the home is to be like a greenhouse. Its purpose is to help children grow in God’s way. The home is not a stage for displaying children. Over against the modern theme is God’s direction for parents to teach children about His ways and how He runs His world.