Having a Happy Home
Having a Happy Home
Main Idea: The wisdom of Proverbs is the path to a happy home.
- Give Your Children Yourself More Than Your Money (24:3-4; 15:1-17; 17:1).
- Give Your Children Parents Who Are Following Jesus (24:3-4; 19:13).
- Give Your Children Training in Wisdom.
- Example (14:26)
- Instruction (24:3-4)
- Correction (13:24; 23:13-14; 29:15)
Stan Toussaint was a much-loved professor at Dallas Theological Seminary for forty-seven years. He loves the Bible. He also loves the family. In an article titled, “Building a Happy Home,” Toussaint addresses the importance of priorities in family life. He highlights six:
- Persons before things
- Home before occupation
- Partner before children
- Children before friends
- Partner before self
- Spiritual before material
He concludes his article by saying, “Priorities are indeed peculiar. But they are essential. And they’ll go a long way toward producing a strong, biblical, and happy home” (Kindred Spirit, date unknown). Unfortunately, what Stan describes is absent in many homes today.
That deficiency is multiplied throughout our country. There are lots of homes today that are dominated by tension and unhappiness. Even though the inhabitants have a lot in worldly terms, they walk on eggshells around each other and are not enjoying life. It could be that the parents are workaholics who are never around, the wife constantly nags the husband, the husband and wife constantly bicker in front of the children, or the husband loses his temper easily.
There are so many broken and unhappy homes, which raises an important question: “If the American Dream does not produce a happy home, how do you get a happy home?” Where are you going to find it? Are you going to look to the world? The world says that we should let children basically raise themselves, give them what they want, be their buddy, forgo rules, let them make their own choices, avoid spanking them, and leave their raising to daycares and schools. How has that worked out?
We need to look to the Word of God. It says that wisdom is the path to a happy home. Repeatedly, Proverbs says that God actively blesses wise families with happiness (10:1; 17:21; 23:15-16,24; 28:7; 29:3). And God actively curses the foolish family with sorrow by handing them over to what they want. So let’s look to the wisdom of Proverbs and see the path to a happy home. Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.”
Give Your Children Yourself More Than Your Money
Proverbs 24:3-4; 15:1-17; 17:1
Proverbs 24:3-4 says that the means to building, establishing, and enriching a household is wisdom. Many think this is not about literal money but rather a wealth of stable family relationships! (Garrett, Proverbs, 198). This truth is huge because one of children’s major needs is family security.
Both options could be true—wisdom is the path to a loving family and legitimate wealth. After all, Proverbs gives a balanced view of money. It does not give an unqualified endorsement of money; rather, it says both positive and negative things about money. Money gained through wisdom is good. According to Proverbs, it is good to be content, to be generous, to provide for your family, to save, and to leave an inheritance. On the other hand, money can become an idol that costs you your family. Money is only good in the proper context of contentedly enjoying it in a happy family! Proverbs says that if the choice you have is between a happy home and a wealthy home, choose a happy home every day of the week (Longman, Proverbs, 318). A happy, loving home rooted in biblical wisdom is much better than a wealthy home with tension!
Proverbs says this repeatedly. Proverbs 15:16-17 says, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened ox with hatred.” And Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better a dry crust with peace than a house full of feasting with strife.” The so-called Better Than sayings modify conventional wisdom (Van Leeuwen, “Wealth and Poverty,” 29; Waltke, Proverbs, Chapters 1–15, 108). Yes, Proverbs says that money can be a good thing, but not at any price! The fear of the Lord is better than money, and so is a harmonious home.
Solomon paints a vivid picture. Greens and crusty bread with no olive oil to dip it in is better than filet mignon in a home with tension where you walk on eggshells! How can veggies be better than steak? If you eat them in a happy and loving home!
The application seems clear: spend more energy loving your children and spending time with them than making money for them. I ( Jon) remember counseling with a young husband and father who was about to lose his family because he worked all the time. His statement to me was, “Well, I make the money and she raises the kids.” I think many men have that mindset. Yes, you are called to provide (1 Tim 5:8) but not at the expense of the parenting task. Your children need you. They need two parents. I have never counseled with anyone who says, “I was miserable as a child because my parents spent way too much time with me.” But I have counseled the opposite many times. So make quality time for your children. Go to their games and recitals, help bathe them, read the Bible and say prayers before bed, talk with them throughout the day, and be an active part of their lives. I am so thankful for a father who modeled this for me and made sure to put our ball games on his calendar so he would not miss them. He built a happy home!
There is a greater possession than money, and it is a godly life that fears the Lord and builds a loving home. Through wisdom, you build a happy home rather than a rich one by the world’s standards. The picture painted in Proverbs 17:1 is of a family who is outwardly religious—putting on a show for the public when celebrating the festivals—but on the inside things are awful (Waltke, Proverbs, Chapters 15–31, 39). Their so-called spirituality has not affected their daily life in the home. It’s a fake spirituality. If your Christianity does not shape the way you parent your children and order your home, it is not real Christianity. That leads to the next wisdom principle for building a happy home. How do you wisely build a happy home?
Give Your Children Parents Who Are Following Jesus
Proverbs 24:3-4; 19:13
Again, Proverbs 24:3 says that the means to building and establishing a home is wisdom. That makes perfect sense in light of the full context of Proverbs. God created and ordered the world through wisdom (Prov 3; 8). But Proverbs has also told us that wisdom is not a thing; Wisdom is a person—the co-Creator Jesus! Since God created the world and it works in a certain divine way, we need to pattern our homes after the order by which God created the world. Going against the grain is foolishness. Follow the pattern of creation to establish your home, but remember that pattern centers on a person—Jesus of Nazareth. Wisdom is a person to know, and once you begin a relationship with him, he makes you wise for daily life. God built the world through Wisdom, and we are to build our homes through him as well!
God created the world through Wisdom, which means order and harmony with God, each other, and the world around us. Tragically, that harmony was broken through sin and foolishness, so now there is disharmony. You can look at the first family in Eden to see that tension (Gen 3–4)! Proverbs tells us that Wisdom is the path to reestablishing that order and harmony in our families, living life the way it was meant to be lived—as God intended—because the world works a certain way. Admittedly, it does not always work out immediately in a fallen world, but it will work out ultimately. According to Proverbs, this pattern is a person to embrace through the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 8 presents Wisdom ( Jesus, according to 1 Cor 1:30) as the mediator that reconciles humankind to God and to each other. So a right relationship with God through Christ will lead to right relationships with others, including your family. If there is a lack of harmony in your home, it’s because there is a problem with Jesus. We need to be conformed to the image of Christ, who brings many sons to glory (Heb 2).
Proverbs 19:13 reveals how foolishness can lead to parental or marital relationships that are out of whack. “A foolish son is his father’s ruin, and a wife’s nagging is an endless dripping.” This foolishness exposes the fact that your relationship with Christ is lacking in some way. You can spend three hours in prayer daily and go to four Bible studies weekly; but if your home is filled with tension, it shows a problem with Jesus. Many seemingly pious people who are very involved in the church have family lives that are a wreck. It should not be this way. Repentance, confession, and pursuing Christ are the ways to get things back on track. Even confessing to your children that you are a sinner in need of Christ can go a long way!
If you want to have harmony in the home, it starts with embracing Jesus. Your children need parents who have vibrant relationships with Jesus and his body, the church. They need to see that this relationship is authentic by the way it changes your life and parenting. If you are in harmony with Jesus, he will then lead you to harmony in your relationships.
Give Your Children Training in Wisdom
How do we build a home by wisdom? How can we train our children in wisdom?
It starts with your example. Your children need to see a saved parent who walks in wisdom. Psalms 127 and 128 echo these important themes we see in Proverbs. Your children need to see you pray, read Scripture, attend church, sing the songs with a good attitude, listen to the sermons, and serve in the church. In the home, they need to see that you have a hard work ethic, but they also need to see you prioritize time with them and your spouse. They need to see you love well your spouse.
Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge.” Those who trust the Lord live securely because they are under God’s protection from the storms of life. The same is true for our children! Your wisdom shields your children because they get to experience the benefits and blessings of it—their lives are affected by your actions. But also, the wise parents, by virtue of their example and teaching, pass wisdom on to their children. Proverbs 20:7 teaches something very similar: “A righteous person acts with integrity; his children who come after him will be happy.” Therefore, the ones who model wisdom will pass it and its benefits on to their children.
Why is this so? This is true because children usually turn out to be like their parents. That is both a challenging and a frightening reality. And children are excellent hypocrisy detectors. My ( Jon’s) kids used to call me out all the time for my hypocrisy in using the “S” word, when I told them not to use it. They would say, “Dad, you just said ‘stupid’!” Children watch you closely, and you have tremendous influence on their lives. Granted, you cannot conclude that every foolish child is unwise because his or her parents messed up, but generally that is the way it works. So what example are you setting for your children? If they turned out like you, would that be a good thing? Chances are that they will!
The second way to train your children in wisdom is to instruct them. You must use your words to teach your children. There should be none of this “preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” No! Your wise example must also include wise words of instruction. This truth is one of the major concerns of Proverbs. It is all over the book. It is a dad following the commands of Deuteronomy 6 to teach his son, and pleading with him, “Listen to me!”
Teach your children the wisdom of Proverbs. That means teaching them right from wrong. That means teaching them spiritual realities as well as practical realities like a work ethic, saving money, and controlling their tongues, because there is no sacred/secular divide. God is concerned with every detail of your life. Teach your children the way that life works best.
Do not just teach your children what to do; teach them why they must do it. The “why” is the motivation for the behavior. Solomon constantly tells his son the consequences or benefits of walking in wisdom or walking in folly. He says if you do not do this or you do not listen to that, there are disastrous results. Teach your children why they should do their chores, handle money correctly, control their tongues, and develop conflict resolution and wise planning skills. Lay out both the benefits and the consequences. Teach them why it is a bad idea to buck authority, be too lazy to do their homework, be cocky, gossip, or have sex before marriage.
For example, my ( Jon’s) parents would not allow me to quit track in the eighth grade because they wanted me to learn to finish what I started. That was the reason. And there are so many things I would not have gotten through if they had not taught me that lesson—like my PhD!
You must be the teacher and authority in their lives on these matters. You must not have just “the talk,” but ongoing talks about dating, romance, and sexuality. If you are not the authority, their peers or the TV will be, and that is a bad idea. This is your role; you can’t farm it out to daycares, schools, or youth pastors. You are responsible to get them on the right path because they cannot choose it by themselves.
This also includes teaching them the Bible. Do not hide behind excuses like “That’s just not my thing.” Make it your thing! Read the Bible to them, share your testimony with them, talk to them in the car on the way home from church about the Lord’s Supper, and help them memorize Scripture. You can do it. You memorize meaningless sports facts and movie quotes, so determine to memorize God’s Word. It has never been easier. My daughters and I listen to the AWANA CD with memory verses on the way to school. There are free audio Bible apps for your smartphone. Take advantage of the resources!
Finally, this also means being alert for conversations. When your children ask questions, even questions that might make you uncomfortable (How can I get to heaven? Is it wrong to be gay? What is sex?), don’t shut them down or put them off. That will just teach them not to come to you with things that concern or interest them. Answer their questions kindly and directly in an age appropriate way. If you are not sure how to do that, just say, “That’s a great question. Can I have some time to think about it and talk with you soon about it?” Don’t be afraid to seek counsel from older, godly parents. But when your children want to talk, make every effort to make the most of the opportunity.
Correction (13:24; 23:13-14; 29:15)
The third way to train your children in wisdom is to correct them. You do not punish your children simply for the sake of punishing them. Discipline is about correction—putting them on the right path (29:15). That means instruction must accompany discipline.
Some people falsely think, “I just love my children too much to discipline them.” However, if you do not discipline your children, it is because you do not really love them. In fact, Proverbs says that you hate them (13:24). When my dad (Danny) was in high school, he was hanging out at a restaurant with some buddies when the subject of curfew came up. All the teenage guys reluctantly told when their curfew was, but one of the guys said, “I don’t have a curfew.” His friends were incredulous. “How can that be? You are so lucky!” But my dad said his countenance changed, and he said, “My old man doesn’t care if I ever come home.” The lack of boundaries did not show love; rather, it sadly showed indifference.
We must correct our kids because discipline is an evangelism mission to rescue our kids from hell. Proverbs 23:13-14 says, “Don’t withhold discipline from a youth; if you punish him with a rod, he will not die. Punish him with a rod, and you will rescue his life from Sheol.” Kids are sinful at heart, and left to themselves they will walk to destruction. It is not loving to be their buddy and let them make their own choices as they march off toward hell. You must start young with discipline. There is a temptation to give in during the early years for the sake of peace, but you must fight against that temptation.
Correction is a gospel issue. You teach them what sin is, that it has consequences, that they will be held accountable, and that it needs to be repented of. If you do not correct them, they will start to think that evil is good.
How do you correct them? Well, Proverbs clearly calls for spanking. If that upsets you, send your e-mails to Solomon not us because it is all over Proverbs, no matter how out of step with the culture it might seem. We all understand this principle when it comes to working out. You discipline your body—introducing a little pain—in order to make it healthier. The same is true with spanking. It is not detrimental if done properly. In fact there are studies that show adults who were spanked as children have a sunnier outlook on life and are more successful (Baklinski, “Young Children”). You should never spank out of anger or because the child simply is not doing what you want them to do—that’s called abuse. You should not spank for childish accidents like spilling milk. But you should spank for outright defiance, dishonesty, or rebellion. Do it in private so as not to embarrass your child and so you can talk—have a teachable moment.
This is an important moment for a gospel conversation. Tell them what they did or did not do. Secure an acknowledgement that they know why they are getting a spanking. That can teach them confession. Tell them you love them no matter what, and that your love for them is not determined by their behavior. Hug them afterward and tell them that you are a sinner too who understands the need for forgiveness. That is why you are thankful for Jesus because you have done similar things to what they just did, and you are glad Jesus has forgiven you. Spanking should wait until the child is old enough to understand expectations and can start responding to directions.
Proverbs also seems to call for an adjustment of correction as the child gets older. Proverb 29:15 states, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (ESV). As the child gets older, a rebuke (or restriction) should be enough to correct the behavior. Words are always part of the correction process.
Finally, here is some practical advice: Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to correction so that your children cannot play one against another. Give a big playing field and don’t be too legalistic, otherwise you won’t be consistent in your discipline, and you have to be!
The “Big Key” to having a happy home is to introduce your children to a Parent whose love is truly unconditional and unchanging—God the Father. And you need his unconditional love as well because you will fail as a parent. You will not do everything perfectly. But you serve a God who can make all things new! It’s not too late! Start building a happy home today through the Wisdom of God!
Reflect and Discuss
- Why do you think there are so many unhappy homes in one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world?
- Where do we often look for tips on how to order our families?
- How can you prioritize your children over work? Name some very concrete ways.
- In what ways can going through the motions religiously have a negative impact on your family?
- What are some practical ways you can introduce your children to Jesus?
- In what ways have you noticed your children observing and critiquing your example?
- How do you usually respond when your kids ask you uncomfortable questions?
- How can you keep your antenna up for important conversations with your children?
- In what ways can you lovingly correct your children through discipline?
- Why do you think we are tempted to not discipline our children? Why is that dangerous?