What’s the purpose of family? I sometimes ask that question of the families that I work with. The answers vary but often center on ideas like love, support, care, companionship–even fun. While those answers are good, I think there are bigger ideas that we need to rediscover.
Family is a unit. Some in the past have called it an institution, an institution in the sense of school, government, a business. It has all of those functions. Family as a unit is first and foremost designed to pass on values so that children can take their place in society as contributing adults.
And the idea is that our children will have children who will undertake the same role. They will train their children in a set of values to take their place in society as contributing adults. As each successive generation accomplishes their task, we build a more beautiful world.
6 Verses on Telling the Next Generation
Unfortunately, we have loads of negative examples of generations that failed to do this. They did not pass down the stories and values that were meant to guide the next generation. For me, one of the most astounding verses in all of the Bible is Judges 2.10:
“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” – Judges 2.10
How could this happen? Why was it that one generation failed to tell the next about the God who had so spectacularly rescued their nation from Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land?
In contrast to this tragic generational disconnect, the Bible paints a clear picture of each generation of the people of God instructing the next generation about the work of God in our lives. Here are 6 verses that flesh out the theme of telling the next generation:
- Deuteronomy 32.7: Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.
- Exodus 13.14: In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you are to tell him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
- Joshua 4.21-22: And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’
- Psalm 71.18: So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
- Psalm 78.6: […] that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
- Psalm 145.4: One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
A Multi-Generational Force for Good
Family is meant to be multi-generational. To the contrary, I have yet to speak to a single family that says they set out to ruin their children. Who intends to raise derelicts or drug addicts?
One of our greatest hopes and desires is that our children will continue with the same core values that define us. That they’ll carry on with purpose and perseverance through life’s difficulties, never forgetting who they are and whose they are. (Take a practical step to discuss your family’s values by downloading my Identifying Your Family’s Values guide.)
What’s the purpose of family? To be a multi-generational force for good.
Do you agree?
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash
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Published September 25, 2020