Yesterday I received this message from Danny on Facebook: “Random question: what’s your vision for your family when your children are older (when culture states they should be out of your home)? I’m not sure I’ve read your vision regarding that.”
Such an important question.
If there’s one thing we seem to universally agree on in the West it’s that the goal of parenting is to make our children as independent and self-sufficient as possible, which results in their ability and desire to leave mom and dad’s home.
The sooner the better.
But is this vision biblical?
Are there models in Scripture of launching kids out of the home as soon as possible?
Let’s consider a few examples where we see young adults in Scripture.
- Isaac seems to never leave the household of Abraham. Even when he gets married in his 40’s we read, “Then Isaac brought her [Rebeccah] into the tent of Sarah, his mother, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her.” (Genesis 24:67)
- Every detailed account of families in the Old Testament from Saul and David to the families of the priests finds families living together multigenerationally.
- Both James and John and Peter and Andrew appear to be living with their families when called by Jesus.
- Most scholars agree that Jesus likely lived at home until he began his ministry at 30.
Then you have stories Jesus told about the Kingdom that often included the context of adult children living with and working with their parents.
- The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32)
- The parable of the tenants (Matthew 21:33-46)
- The parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28–32)
Finally you have Jesus’ description of eternal life including getting a room in the Father’s house, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” (John 14:2)
“Really?” I can hear most westerners say, “I don’t even get my own house?”
But to people of Jesus’ time getting a room in the father’s house was superior to having one’s own house.
So where do we get the idea that generations are meant to launch out on their own and live and work apart?
Some might say Genesis 2 where we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
But it’s clear this is referring specifically to the exclusive nature of the sexual union between a husband and wife and is never interpreted by Scripture as a call to buy one’s own starter house. In fact, it’s well known that throughout biblical history men would add a separate room onto their parent’s house just before getting married. A practice still common in the Middle East today.
Others point out Abraham’s call to leave in Genesis 12 “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”
But besides the fact that Abraham is 80 when he’s given this command, Scripture tells us why he was commanded to separate from his father “Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods.” (Joshua 24:2)
There is a clear call in both the Old and New Testament to separate from parents when staying would compromise one’s spiritual commitment (Luke 14:26).
So I think it’s safe to conclude that our obsession with launching our children out of our home early and often is a Western value and not a biblical one. This doesn’t make it wrong. Of course our kids must learn to be fully functional adults and a certain amount of independence is a part of maturity. But what does that mean for their living situation?
Well, to get back to Danny’s question, my vision is to give all five of my kids a room in the family house and a job in the family businesses for as long as they desire so that we can build this family together.
This is normal from a historical point of view and very strange from a modern Western point of view.
But I’ve been most unimpressed with the kind of families being built in modern western culture and will take my chances with this more ancient vision for the family.
One exception is we encourage our children to go out on extended missions during their single years, like the disciples did in the Gospels.
When our kids get married, we’ll encourage them to always put their relationship with their spouse first and to pursue whatever living situation will most encourage their oneness.
But our overall vision is one of family integration, not disintegration, and we’re excited to see where this leads.
This entry is a part of Jeremy’s Journal, a newsletter Jeremy sends out every Wednesday morning to encourage you on your parenting journey. You can sign up to get them every Wednesday here.