How Family Has Changed

Hey Friends,

It’s book launch month for my new book Family Revision: Ancient Wisdom to Heal the Modern Family that was just released on all formats: Paperback, Kindle and on Audio.

You can pick it up at FamilyTeams.com at Amazon or at Audible.

Below is a little excerpt where I contrast an ancient picture of family with a modern picture through the eyes of two twelve-year-old boys.


How Family has Changed

Often when I discuss these contrasting views of family and encourage others to begin to make a change, it can feel like I’m asking them to paint a picture of something they’ve never seen. What did a classical family look like in ancient times? So as we dive into the scriptural view of family, I’d like to demonstrate the contrast by introducing you to two twelve-year-old boys. I’ve written these two fictitious interviews to explore how different these ideas are especially as they are experienced by children. We’ll begin with a first century boy named Yitzach.

Yitzach Son of Asa and Brad Johnson

“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.” Proverbs 23:24

Yitzach’s bio: Yitzach lives in the village of Tekoa, south of Jerusalem. He has six siblings: three older brothers, two older sisters, and one younger sister. His family owns 23 acres of olive trees and 35 acres of land planted with wheat, as well as 84 sheep and 14 goats. They own a  family home in the village, as well as a variety of sheds on their land. They employ three full-time servants, two of whom assist with the household and one who is an assistant foreman for projects. They employ anywhere between two and 20 seasonal employees, depending on harvest time and other peak seasons.

All of Yitzach’s siblings live in his family home, including his older brother’s wife and their two children, his great aunt, and his grandfather, who is a widower and a village elder representing their family and serving their community.

Yitzach, please describe your family: We are descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribe of Judah and the line of Jahab, who led our family in the war against the Greeks 200 years ago. Before the Romans took over, our family owned 200 acres of olive trees, but we have slowly begun to sell our land to pay the heavy taxes put on us by the Romans. My father has asked me to learn a new trade for our family in case we lose the rest of our land.

Who are your heroes? My biggest hero is Jahab. We still have his sword and shield hanging in our home, and my grandfather tells us stories about him and other ancestors of our clan every Sabbath.

What do you want to do when you get older? I’m hoping to learn the skill of blacksmithing and to sell my wares and services to help my family keep our land—and eventually to buy more of it back from a Roman centurion.

What is your family hoping to accomplish this year? We are hoping to save enough from the harvest and from all the lambs that were born this year to buy back one of our acres, and to add on a room to the house for when my second-oldest brother is wed.

What would you like to accomplish this year? I’m learning ancient Hebrew from our Rabbi and hope to honor my family by being able to read the Torah well at my Bar mitzvah. My parents are also paying for me to learn some valuable skills from Joseph the blacksmith, and I hope to bring in twice as much this year as last year by repairing equipment for families in our village.

What is your biggest hope? That the Messiah would return and bring justice for my family for all the suffering we endured under the Romans. I also hope that our home and land would be established forever and that our descendants will live in peace in the land.

What is your biggest fear? That we would be forced to pay even higher taxes and sell the rest of our land, and that our family would have to hire ourselves out to other families. If this happened our name might disappear from the families of Israel.

Part 2 – Narrative of a pre-teen today – Brad Johnson

Now let’s consider the kinds of answers we might hear from kids today. Meet Brad Johnson.

Brad’s bio: Brad lives in a middle-class Christian home in the suburbs of Atlanta. He is 12 years old and has an eight-year-old sister. His dad works as a regional sales rep for P&G and his mom works part-time teaching preschool. He goes to Roswell Middle School and his grandparents on his dad’s side live in Richmond, Virginia. His other grandma recently moved into an apartment near their home where his mom can help care for her.

Please describe your family. My parents are nice but a little strict, and my sister is totally annoying. My mom helps me with my homework and my dad helps coach my little league team in the spring.

Who are your heroes? Huh, I haven’t thought about that before. I guess a few of the baseball players on the Braves are pretty cool.

What do you want to do when you get older? I’m not sure. I’ll probably go to college and have to decide then, but I think I want to be a pro baseball player.

What is your family hoping to accomplish this year? Uh, I think we want to go on another vacation to Florida this summer and maybe get a new car.

What would you like to accomplish this year? I hope to be a pitcher on my baseball team this spring, and to make more friends at school. I really hope I get the new iPhone for Christmas.

What is your biggest hope? That the Braves make it to the World Series and that this cute girl at school will notice me.

What is your biggest fear? That I won’t have any friends at school and will be treated like a nerd by the popular kids.

Now obviously these are fictional accounts I invented, but these pictures are not far from the mark. The first thing to notice is from where the kids get their identity. In the classical family, the sense of family identity was very strong—strong enough to be the primary force shaping the child’s view of him or herself. Today, family identities are typically short-lived, not extending back generations, but kids still need to find their identity somewhere.

So what replaces the family as kids’ identity-shaping agent? Usually it’s their peers. If their peers think they’re cool, then our kids think they’re cool—and if their peers think they’re a nerd, our kids believe think they’re a nerd. The family is often powerless in combating these peer-based identity labels because the family identity is so weak.

As I’ve studied these two views of family, the striking difference that stands out is that in a classical family every person understands who they are in the context of the family. Each family member is seen as part of a cohesive team. I like to describe this redeemed, biblical model of the classical family as “Family Teams.”

God has designed each Family Team to work together, and each person in the family—father, mother, son, daughter, grandpa, grandma, brother, sister, uncle, aunt and cousin—has a very important and clear role to play that provides the grounding of their family identity.

So let’s dive into the most basic questions about family, and try to understand what a modern western family believes, contrasted with the beliefs that come from being a Family Team…

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