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Letters to the Editor (Homemaking, Alcohol, Peanut Butter, Honor)

Letters to the Editor

Comments on Homemaking In the Light of Eternity

I believe any man, Christian or otherwise, who expresses an opinion on whether or not mums should stay at home with their children (rather than participate in the workforce) and you have done so by publishing the article, should:

  1. Spend several months caring for their own children full time, preferably whilst their wife is working full time.
  2. If they want their daughters to attend university, understand what they would like their daughters to achieve and why and consider the role modelling they are receiving in the family.

My children are now young adults and it saddens me that the “stay at home mum” debate continues into another generation. I have been blessed with a Christian husband who supported me in every way to pursue a wonderful career and I was a much better mum for it.

—Madeleine D, Melbourne, Australia

Tim: I understand that when I write about stay-at-home moms I am not speaking from direct experience. But that does not at all invalidate my ability to have an opinion and, even better, to attempt to bring biblical wisdom to bear. If we can only speak to situations we have experienced directly, we lose our ability to speak to much of anything. Without diminishing the importance of experience, experience is not the arbiter of truth.

Comments on The Forgotten Commandment

Tim, I am following your article series on honour of parents with great interest. It is a massive topic here in Africa and one of great tension for Christians since honour of elders is so critical to cultural expectations. There are so many ways in which cultural standards are imported into Christian living and mis-understanding this commandment is one of them.

Here, honour of parents for your entire life is obedience to parents (though the word obey is not used very often, the meaning is there)—even as an adult you are to do what your parent wants. A parent always has greater “weight” than even a spouse. Life is even more complicated by the fact that aunts and uncles and other older adults are culturally expected to be treated as other “mothers and fathers” with similar authority. Care for parents includes providing for them in whatever way they request—including for a continuance of the family name, so in our corner of Africa to “treat them with dignity” includes pressure to “bring a baby” and not delay. To delay is shameful and is dishonouring your parents, your community and your tribe.

So many more discipleship resources/booklets etc could be written and used in this area as so much syncretism has roots in superimposing cultural meaning onto this commandment. We find that this topic in discipleship is the one folk have the most “difficulty” in getting their mind around, and dealing with the conflict that emerges in their conscience is not an easy or quick process. In an honour/shame culture, the greatest sin is to dishonour/bring shame and to not honour parents as culturally expected is thus the worst “sin.”

I’m very much looking forward to your next section on culture and honour and hope that maybe this series of posts may be a useful and applicable resource not only for an American context but also for an African one.

—Sandra, Botswana

Tim: Thanks for this, Sandra. What you say is very consistent with the research I have done. Thankfully I attend a very multicultural church where perhaps ¼ or 1/3 of the members are from an African background and many more from Asian or Middle Eastern backgrounds). That has allowed me to speak to many people to at least attempt to account for other cultures.

Thank you for this wonderful treatment of this topic. As a father and a son I am convicted by this commandment quite often. I quite often have difficulty with God’s promises of blessing and curse as it relates to my response to his commands. However with this particular command I can see clearly how God works in the lives of his creation. There are so many evidences of how he faithfully keeps his covenant with man, particularly as it regards me and those close to me. Your reminder here has been very well timed in my life.

—William D, Galivants Ferry, SC

I appreciate your closing warning about not looking for the exception, in essence a desire to “under-apply” a clear, unqualified Biblical command. On the other hand, I wonder if your opening observations didn’t perhaps “over-apply” this commandment: “The commandment’s stipulations go beyond the simple relationship of children to parents and extend to all other positions of authority and submission. The right ordering of family government, church government, and civil government all depend on this commandment.”

While the New Testament addresses submission to all types of authority, I struggle to see how that application can be made from a specific instance such as this commandment. In an age when many “find” principles in the scripture to fit their own purposes, it seems that this somewhat broad application needs to be explained and supported. Perhaps you had planned to address this, but if not, I suggest covering how one can use the parent-child relationship to deduce a principle that other forms of authority “all depend” on so that we can rightly apply God’s word.

—Randall H, Ellicott City, MD

Tim: Christians have long understood that the fifth commandment looks far beyond the relationship of children to the parents. Consider, for example, Lord’s Day 39 in the Heidelberg Catechism. It asks “What does God require in the fifth commandment.” The response is as follows: “That I show all honour, love, and faithfulness to my father and mother and to all those in authority over me, submit myself with due obedience to their good instruction and discipline, and also have patience with their weaknesses and shortcomings, since it is God’s will to govern us by their hand.” Then the Westminster Larger Catechism: “Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?” “By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.”

Comments on Tim Turns 40 Today

Tim, I love getting your daily emails and I do feel like I have come to know you somewhat over the years through them. So I feel I can address you as a brother in the Lord to offer a small bit of urgently needed correction. I can find in no creed or confession or anywhere in the pages of God’s Word any justification for putting peanut butter on a hot dog. Please, turn from this abomination and come back to sound eating today.

—James P, New Holland, PA

Tim: I may have gotten more emails on this subject than anything else I’ve written before. I just ask that you don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Comments on Christians and Alcohol

Hi Tim, thanks for raising again the issue of alcohol. I greatly appreciated the balance in the article and the emphasis on not despising the other brother is a very needed challenge. My comment on this is that I don’t think it can be as simply stated that it is a Romans 14 issue entirely. It is in the sense that it is one of many things that is not clearly prohibited by Scripture and so must be decided on another basis. Perhaps it is better seen as a 1 Corinthians 6 issue where it is something that is lawful but perhaps not helpful, in which each believer is charged to use godly wisdom to determine is this is something that dominates him or not. I do not drink and will not drink. I come to this conclusion not because I believe God has forbidden it. I come to the conclusion because I have seen too many lives dominated by it and destroyed by it that I want nothing to do with it. My own son (adopted) suffers from pre-natal exposure to alcohol and his life is forever damaged by it. He is as close to an innocent victim (as is any child who suffers from FASD) and so it is hard (impossible) for me to see any positive aspect to alcohol consumption. I respect others fully who are ok with drinking (or I certainly try to and definitely should) but I wonder if some of the damage in the discussion of this among young (or old) and restless folks is a result of couching it as a weaker vs stronger brother application instead of it being one of those things each person must decide if it is helpful or not.

—Rick H, Albany, NY

I’ve always seen the key issues about alcohol in two ways:

  1. How does it affect me? As it happens, like you, I don’t much enjoy most alcohol. It’s a once in a while thing – a glass of white wine, usually. But I don’t keep bottles of it at home and I don’t drink more than one drink when I do because alcoholism runs in my family and I’m not interested in facing that temptation. Not the taste of it, but becoming tempted to use it to “hide” when I’m really unhappy or stressed by circumstances. I’m not sure that I would, to be honest, but I might, and anytime I put something ahead of the Lord, then that’s a problem. (To say the least). So there’s that. Not to mention that alcohol is a depressant and since I battle depression, I don’t need that either.
  2. What am I doing to other people? People who are already fighting that battle (certainly Christians, but anyone, really) don’t need me to flaunt my (usual) ability to control my drinking. It’s hard to drink in public — I don’t go to bars, but even in restaurants — because I don’t know who’s around me and who I’m causing to stumble, either a fellow believer (1 Corinthians 8:9) or a non-believer who is trying not to give in to their alcoholism.

Strictly speaking, this is an area I’ve always disagreed with John MacArthur on. I don’t think alcohol is wrong. But if scoring that point is more important that dealing with others in Christian humility, then the alcohol should go, just as anything that’s more important than my own or others’ good should go.

—Janet H, Eastlake, OH

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