Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What does God's Word say about relationships?

God's Word on relationships

God's Word is a book filled with a series of relationships. The Bible begins with God's relationship with man in the Garden of Eden and that relationship continues to this day; He continues to draw men and women into a relationship with Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible also addresses man's relationship with his fellow man: family relationships, friendships, professional relationships, and relationships with fellow believers.

The Ten Commandments (and Judaic Law in general) marks the beginning point where God through Moses officially addresses man's relationship with those around him. The first four commandments address man's relationship with God, while the final six focus on man's relationships with others: 5. honor your parents, 6. don't murder, 7. don't commit adultery, 8. don't steal other's possessions, 9. don't lie (false witness) against another, and 10. don't wrongfully desire (covet) someone else's stuff.

The following is not meant to be an exhaustive listing of verses on relationships, but rather a brief overview of the importance that God places on our relationships with others.

Family

The closest relationships we have with others are our family relationships - our parents, our spouses, and our children. Our success in our journey through life is largely dependent on right relationships with those closest to us. In general, those who have close, healthy relationships with family are happy, well-adjusted individuals in society while those who have strained, unhealthy family relationships seem to be somewhat dysfunctional in their life journey.

  • Parental Relationships. Throughout Scripture, we see the mandate for children to honor their parents. Jesus Himself addressed this issue with the religious leaders in Matthew 15. He told them that through their actions with their own parents that they were violating this important commandment. Instead of taking care of their aging parents, the scribes and Pharisees were using the excuse that the money that might have been used to help their parents had been "already dedicated as a gift to God." They were attempting to exempt themselves from honoring their parents in the final years of their lives, and Jesus called them out on their violation of God's Word. Jesus led by example in this area, most notably when he was on the cross. While hanging there dying, He asked John to take care of His own earthly mother, Mary (John 19:25-27).
  • Spousal Relationships. From the beginning of time, God instituted a very special and unique relationship between a man and woman - marriage. The ultimate purpose of this relationship is to create a family through which offspring will be born and raised in order to multiply the human race on the earth. But, there are other significant aspects to this relationship that I won't delve into here. That being said, God desires a close, intimate, and loving relationship for those that have chosen to marry. The Apostle Paul addresses the relationship between husband and wife in Ephesians 5:22-33. In this passage, he briefly advises wives to submit and respect their husbands. Paul spends more time, though, admonishing husbands to love their wives as much as they love themselves. He points to Christ's deep love for the church as an example to be followed in the marriage relationship.
  • Children. Children and grandchildren are a blessing from God. Psalm 127:3 says, "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him." Proverbs 17:6 states, "Children's children are a crown to the aged..." In our modern world with it's climbing abortion rates and abandoned kids, I fear that children are viewed as more of a burden or nuisance than a blessing. The Bible is clear, though, that we as parents should take our parenting role seriously. We are commanded to "Train up a child in the way he should go...." (see Proverbs 22:6a and Ephesians 6:4). Christian parents, we have a vitally important role to play in raising our kids according to the principles laid out in God's Word. View your children as a gift from the Lord and don't take them for granted!
Friendships

God's Word is filled with stories that revolve around friendship. In fact, the word "friend" is found some ninety times in Scripture. One of the earliest Biblical examples of friendship is the unique relationship of God and Abraham. In a few key passages in both the Old and New Testaments, Abraham is even referred to as a "friend of God." There are verses that point to the value and importance of lasting friendships. In order to have friends, we are instructed that we must be friendly (Proverbs 18:24). Having someone along with us on our journey is better than doing it alone (Ecclesiastes 4:8-12). A true friend not only helps us when we are in trouble, but they love us enough to call us out when we are wrong and in need of counsel (Proverbs 27:6, 9). One of the ultimate examples of true, Biblical human friendship is the relationship of Jonathan and David. We should follow the example of Jesus, who is our ultimate role model of friendship. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:13-14).

I know in my own life, I have been thankful for the friendships that I have cultivated with fellow believers over the years. In some of my darkest life experiences, I have been blessed with people who have chosen to stand by me and lift me up through the trials of life. We can't make it through life on our own. We truly need each other.

Employer, employee, and business relationships

Although the modern day workings of business and the workplace are vastly different today than in Biblical times, there are a number of key principles that we can apply from Scripture. We should submit and obey those who are in leadership over us. The closest Biblical example we can point to is the relationship of master and slave. In Colossians 3:22, the Apostle Paul says, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord." Paul goes on in this passage, encouraging us to be hard workers. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:23-24).

Living a life of integrity is a hallmark of the life of a Christ follower. If you are a boss or business owner, be sure that you maintain your integrity in all of your business dealings.
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Titus 2:7-10).
Everything about our business dealings reflects our own relationship with Christ. In the way you conduct your business, can you honestly say that you are making God your Savior "attractive" to those you interact with on a regular basis?

Conclusion

In conclusion, take time today to examine your life relationships. How are your family relationships? Are you honoring your parents, loving your spouse, and parenting your children according to Godly principles? Do you have strong, God-honoring friendships that are encouraging you in your journey? And finally, are you living out a life of integrity in your workplace or business? Are people attracted to the Lord through your hard, honest work? Do you honor your boss, your employees, and your clients through how you are conducting your life in the workplace?

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