How Not To Do Family

How Not To Do Family

In the last post we started a consideration of preaching on the family.  Check it out before you read this post.  In this post we’re going to consider how not to do family in your house.  A couple of caveats: first of all, there are more examples of how not to do family in the Old Testament, and so that is where we are going to begin; secondly, in this post I am deeply indebted to John Ortberg and a message that he preached in January, 2004.

Isaac and Rebekah on How Not To Do Family

The story of Isaac and Rebekah is told in the book of Genesis, chapters 24-27.  Remember that the two had never seen each other before they were married, and God guided Abraham’s servant to Rebecca.  So, in some ways, this was a marriage made in heaven.

After their marriage, they waited for 20 years before their first children were born.  Here’s the account of that birth:

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.  The first to come out was red, his whole body was like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau.   Genesis 25:24 

There are a couple of hints on how not to do family in this birth story.  Don’t name your children after their least attractive quality.  Esau means “hairy”.  Apparently, the amount of hair that he had was noticeable, but they ensured that he would be reminded of an unattractive appearance every day of his life.

Jacob means, “deceiver or supplanter”.  He got this name because he came out holding Esau’s heel, so they thought that he was trying to pull Esau back in so that he could be the first born.  It turns out, of course, that they were an accurate description in this case.

Don’t Have Favorites

Very soon after birth, it becomes obvious that there were favorites in the family.   We read the boys were quite different:

The boys grew up and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man staying among the tents.  Genesis 25:27 

Unfortunately, this resulted in the couple having favorites.  The story is defined further by saying,

Isaac loved Esau.  Rebekah loved Jacob.  Genesis 25:28 

When a child feels that they are not loved by one of the parents, it leaves a scar.  I was recently speaking to a man in his 80’s.  As we were talking about his family, he said that he knew that his older brother was always the father’s favorite.  Think of this: 80 years later this reality still bothered him!  If you really want to mess up your family, have favorites.

So, here’s a great hint for doing your family.  Observe your children.  Note their strengths, and help them grow those strengths.  Do this individually.  Assure each child of your love and your pride in what they accomplish.  When they fail, help them get up to try again.

How Not To Do Family With Favorites

The rest of this family story is a tragedy.  Isaac gets old and feels like he is going to die soon.  So, he prepares to offer the blessing of the First Born to Esau.  This was a big deal in that time.  The first born would carry on the mission of being God’s covenant people, and he would get twice the material possessions of any other children.  Note, too, that Isaac blows it here big time.  Each child was to get a blessing, but Isaac only is prepared to give one to Esau.  Again, the favoritism comes through.  He doesn’t even tell Rebekah what he’s planning.

So Isaac puts his plan in motion.  He calls in Esau and says,

God hunt some game, fix my favorite meal, and I’ll give you my blessing before I die.   Genesis 27:3-4 

The rest of the story you probably know.  Rebekah overhears Isaac’s plan, and arranges for Jacob to “steal” the blessing by dressing in goat’s hair and lying to his father.

This Not How To Do Family

If you are going to preach on how not to do family to your church, remind them powerfully of these lessons.  The things mentioned here are powerful ways to destroy a family.  So preach it!

We’ll look more at this topic in the next post.