How do you Know When Family is Becoming an Idol?

So, how do you know when family is becoming an idol? So, some of the conversations we have with people is, they see that we really love this idea and design of family that God created as a multi generational team on mission. But Jesus had some incredibly harsh things to say to people who were putting family ahead of their discipleship or ahead of his Lordship. And so, a lot of times people look at this and they’re like, “Is this a contradiction?” Should we even be talking about family? Jesus said such intense things about family. And so, one of the things that we just wanted to dig into here, is to say, you guys, it is possible that family becomes an idol. And one of the ways that Jesus really addressed his Lordship to people, was he would oftentimes pick out the one thing that was a really good thing often, but that they were making an ultimate thing and he would use that to discern whether or not they were going to submit to his Lordship and to his discipleship.

And so, family for people in the first century, when Jesus was living, was the most, probably common, competitive thing that people would often put in front of their discipleship to Jesus or his Lordship. And so he’d oftentimes test them by seeing, “Okay, what, which comes first in your life?” And he said some really intense things in order to do that. And so, that is the place at which that family becomes an idol in your life. You have to ask yourself when you’re building your family team, are you building God’s kingdom or building your kingdom? And if you’re building your kingdom, then family is likely becoming an idol in your life. And it’s something that you have to really submit to the Lord. So we are first and foremost, disciples of Jesus, we believe in his Lordship. And part of what that means is that we receive all of the wisdom of scripture and all of the good things that God has designed and created.

And we want to receive them and family and being a family team is one of those things. And it’s really important to build those. But we don’t want to make family team or anything else that is a good gift of God, an ultimate thing in a way that it competes with the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. And so that’s something we always have to really be careful of, but we also want to be careful not to throw out the good gifts that God’s given us to actually create a life in his kingdom. And one of the best expressions of the kingdom of God that you’re ever going to experience is the beauty of a loving family. And so, it’s important that we don’t see them as mutually exclusive, or that you have to pick Jesus’s Lordship or family. That’s not what Jesus was doing. He wasn’t saying pick one, he was saying put them in the proper order. And if you put a family above his Lordship, then you’re going to get corrected by Jesus in a very intense way.

And so it’s really important, I think, for us to admit, “Hey, it is possible to make this mistake,” and that we are advocating you guys a hundred percent, that we want to be a part of God’s kingdom. And we want to submit 100% to Jesus’s Lordship as the one operating principle in our lives that we submit underneath. And so family is a part of that. And we submit as fathers, our family underneath Jesus’s Lordship, and we never try to elevate family in such a way that it competes with Jesus’s Lordship. That is idolatry. And that’s something we want to always resist. And part of this is to understand… Two main things that really helped me really get clarity in this area.

One is to really understand that this idea we’ve talked about before that we’re not talking about family and emission, which is like, “I have my family over here, my mission over here,” or family as mission, which is really that idolatrous idea, which is, “I just want to build a strong family and then that’s good enough,” but it’s really family on mission, right? It’s making the decision to take your family on mission. And the other thing that really helps me understand this, you guys, is that family is a temporary tool for the kingdom of God. It started in Genesis 1. It’s going to end at some point in the kingdom of God, where Jesus said that at some point we’re not going to even be married. And so we want to make sure that the tool of family is really well designed and that we really are leaning into it, but you don’t make the tool the end, right?

You need to make sure that the end, the means and the end are clear. And family is a means to an end, which is, we want to become people that are fully invested in God’s kingdom. We know what sonship is because he is our father. We get to experience all of the symbolism of who God is and what we’re going to experience in his kingdom, through the family. But I really believe God designed family to get us to that end. And eventually all those things, like Paul says, all the shadows or symbols are going to be enveloped in their fulfillment, which we’re going to experience at some point in the kingdom of God in its fullness. And so, this can be an issue. We want to really call it out and make sure that we’re not elevating this in a way or ordering our lives in such a way that family becomes an idol. But, Jeff, how have you wrestled with this one?

Yeah, no, I think you nailed most of it. I think the only thing I would say too, is that I think the context of the first century world is really important in what Jesus was speaking to. And it was clear that the scriptural narrative sees Israel, right, as the family of God, right? So we’re dealing with the same themes here. That is meant to be a nation of priests and to be a light to the nations, meaning the only reason that Israel is Israel, it seems like to me, in the arc of scripture, is to be a vehicle to bless the rest of the nations and welcome them into the fold. So that they were to be on mission, right? Or to be a vehicle towards that. And it’s very clear that they weren’t by the first century, right? It’s very clear that it was insular. It was, “Because I’m this, then you’re not.” Exclusive and stuff of that nature.

So even out of the three examples you said, which I actually agree, those are the three prominent ones today. I would say Israel’s was none of those, there’s was almost family, no mission, right? It was like nothing. Just us. And that is why it’s very clear, if that’s the case. So then Jesus’s words are not an indictment on the specific nature of family, in my opinion, as much as they are on the collective nature of how family was making Israel insular and exclusive. And so I just think that’s really important. And we can make that same mistake today. A lot of us. That’s a little bit of the version of the family as the mission, meaning insular.

I think in the American way, it’s we do that for more about how it looks and to be squeaky clean and to be all good. I don’t think they did it for that reason, but it’s a very similar DNA. And so, yeah, I would just say wrestle with that. It’s clear in scripture. He has clear indictments of it. There is a problem that that addresses, but I also don’t think, yeah, that it’s as simplistic or mutually exclusive, which is just, in my opinion, as bad of a problem.

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