The Idolatry of Family - They That Love Their Family More Than Christ, Are Not Worthy of Christ
Updated: Feb 25
In Matt 10:34-39 the Lord Jesus, in teaching His apostles in what to preach as He sent them out to evangelize, declared:
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
Everyone believes in something, either the true and living God of Heaven and the Bible, or an idol of some sort which can include self. The first of God's ten commandments warns against and forbids idols. Idols are whatever Satan and the world system offers as a replacement to God. The Apostle Paul in Rom 1 says men suppress God out of rebellion. The Apostle Peter in 2 Pet 3 says they don't want a boss, because they walk after their lusts. Many things can be an idol, but I want to write about an idol that Jesus talked about, the idol of family.
Everything that is an idol is something that God created. Men worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. And God created the family. The family might not be an idol, but it isn't God and God created it, so it can be one. Very often, the family supplants God. In Num 21 God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole for men to look at. Those that would look, would live. Jesus talked about it in John 3. However, in 2 Ki 18, Hezekiah destroyed that very image, because the people had made it an idol, burning incense unto it. Something of God's design became an idol.
The great commandment is to love God. The second is to love your neighbour. The order is specific, and on purpose. True biblical love is mostly replaced by mere sentimentalism when it comes to family, when people don't actually love their family, but use their family as an excuse for not loving God or their neighbour. It isn't love for family, but sentimentalism for family. The "love" for family is the enemy of actual love for family. The family rather than a means to an end, becomes the end itself. As an end, it is an idol.
Canada and western nations are gullible on the family. Sentimentalism is bred into our way of life. You can see the Norman Rockwell painting with family at the kitchen table. Stories are written and films are produced with this idyllic portrait of American life with the family at the center. You read the credo or motto, "God, Family, Country," as if it is biblical. Even though it isn't scriptural, the motto itself is sentimental. In so many cases, both family and country take the place of God. Any time family and country unseat God, they themselves will suffer.
Family counselling and and therapy abounds. We read about dysfunctional families. Now with the segregation of society into the vaxxed and unvaxxed, that division and segregation within the family unit has only magnified. People strive for that perfect family about which the Mormon denomination has thrived with its promotion of the family. Married men and women seek to be the "cute couple," which looks like a successful Christian one. Everyone gets along and plays games and spends loads of family time on trips and vacations. You've got unbelieving cute couples, professing Christian cute couples, that really do like each other. A child may come along and they've got just the perfect little family with the white picket fence and the warm fireplace and and one wonderful family photo, everyone smiling in their casual matching clothes. The adorable little one has the cute outfit with all the cute gear and latest toys that might guarantee a future. It's a dream.
How is the family an idol?
First, consider what Jesus and the Apostles said about it. In many ways, the scriptural terms have been hijacked to support what Jesus was against. Matt. 10:35 and 37 record the Lord Jesus telling the apostles what to preach as they go preach the gospel to the lost: “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. . . . He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Earlier in Matt. 8:21-22, Jesus preached the same message, “And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”
In Matt. 12:50, we read of the evidence of salvation: “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Jesus said that in relation to His mother and brethren. Later in Matt. 19:29, we read of Jesus describing the reward of true conversion: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Mark and Luke bring these same teachings.
And you can also read a few other gems, for instance one in Luke 2, when Jesus is twelve years old in the temple and his family leaves Him there in Jerusalem, where Mary and He have this exchange in vv. 48-49: “And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”With Jesus' first miracle at the wedding at Cana, you read another dialogue with his mother: “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” (Jn 2:2-3). So much could be said to unpack these, but because of volume, I'm going to let them speak for themselves. The Apostle Paul said more.
Second, here is how those passages in what Jesus said contradict the family today, making the family an idol.
1. People won’t repent and follow Christ because of family. They might see the cost to great. Being truly converted, embracing the Lord Jesus Christ and His teachings, the whole of God’s Word, might require rejecting family traditions, family members, family religion, family pleasures — but people don’t want to do that. Jesus said, these are not worthy of Him. In other words, they cannot be saved because they will not let go of idols. They will not “forsake houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for [Christ’s] name's sake,” and therefore not “receive an hundredfold,” or “inherit everlasting life.” (Matt 19:29). If you are truly born again through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ there is actually a very high probability that your family will not go with you in that. You may actually see some family relationships greatly strained or even severed. The Lord Jesus clearly stated that in the passages above (Matt 8:21-22; 10:32-39; 12:46-50; Lk 2:48-49) and others such as Lk 14:25–15:32. All that are truly saved, will put God above their family. And it will demonstrate itself in their lives.
2. People often use family as an excuse for faithlessness to God or not serving Him. This is very common and the assumption is that acceptance is mandatory. You can't say "no" to family. Family isn't often the real reason, but the family card is many times the easiest card to pull.
3. The family member that is most popular is the one who lets things go. He doesn't say anything about the disobedience of a family member. If he does, he is the worst family member. He is causing disunity in the family. He is not keeping the peace. Of course that is what they think, but the Word of God tells a different story. In this way they also protect family members from discipline. They shield their family from the convicting work of the Word of God.
4. Parents adjust their interpretation of the Bible to what their family does. This is a common basis for interpretation of scripture. There are numbers and numbers of examples of this. As children misbehave and veer away, new views of passages emerge. This is an example of the idea of wicked men twisting or wresting the scriptures to their own destruction, or privately interpreting the Scriptures, as noted in 2 Pet 3:16-17 and 1:16-21 respectively.
5. Rather than fulfilling the Great Commission, churches sentimentalize the mission of the church around family. Churches become family care centers, not kingdom or gospel or discipleship centers. Scripture is very clear that churches are not made up of families, but of individuals.
6. Marriage success leaves out the husband sanctifying the wife like Christ sanctifies the church (Eph 5; 1 Cor 14:35). That doesn't always look so cheery or so "cute." Sanctification looks messy, but the goal through the leadership of the husband is the glory of God, not being a cute couple.
7. Children are allowed to get away with sin and ungodliness, so as to keep the “peace“ in the home. Immodesty, girls dressing like boys (transgenderly), allowance for unbiblical and worldly music (including CCM), ungodly Hollywood and Disney movies tolerated, unBiblical friendships formed, perverted versions of the Bible allowed, children educated by the government in a public school, are ways that fathers cave in and capitulate to their families. They shouldn’t though. It’s wrong, it’s sinful and it’s unrighteous. You are not God. Blessings come from the Lord, not from you. All this lends itself to more sin, more leavening, more evil and ultimately destruction of the person and the family. You are also teaching a corrupted portrait of who God is and making your children two-fold children of hell.
If you are someone that idolizes your family thinking the result would be winning them to the Lord, let me tell you how backwards your way of thinking is! It’s not of God firstly, you will find zero support for it in scripture. Secondly, in the end you will still lose your family but also the blessing of the Lord.
It is a great blessing for an entire family to be saved, but each one must individually be converted and if no one else in your family is saved, you can still serve the Lord as you are set in a church, and God will give you greater families as recorded, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, (Matt 19:29).
The family is a convenient idol because of how it clothes narcissism in nobility. Man’s love for his own flesh is as old as the antiquity of the sun. Obviously, God sees through it, but many choose not to and rather celebrate it. A man's family is a reflection of himself, so the better his family looks the better he looks. Instead of him reflecting Christ, or encouraging his family to be truly born again and reflect Christ, they reflect him. He builds a city, like Cain did, and names it after his legacy, like Cain did (Gen 4:17). He seeks his kingdom with his family at his right hand. He glories through his family, even though it may be of no more enduring substance than wood, hay, or stubble. How much we make of ourselves, and how much others make of us, will not change anything concerning salvation and eternal life. Only God’s city has foundations . . . because of its Builder and Maker.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.“ (1 Jn 5:21).