What Is God’s Design for the Household?


Here’s a question for you: Is the household designed by God, or is it changeable, adaptable, and adjustable according to cultural context and individual preference? How that question is answered has always been a major concern of Scripture. We are currently studying it in Adult Sunday School (9:30 a.m.).

Immediately after calling Abram and promising to bless him and the nations through him (Genesis 12), Abram flees to Egypt because of a famine. In the Bible, Egypt is a kind of “anti-promised land.” It often represents temptation, oppression, and even death. So when you go to Egypt, why are you going? Are your priorities straight?

Abram enters Egypt a married man, full of fear for his life and safety. He assesses rightly (“You’re a beautiful woman, Sarai, and they will want you for themselves”) but interprets faithlessly (“They will kill me if they know you are my wife”). So he tells her, “Say you’re my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” Rather than trusting God with his life, Abram puts his wife in between himself and Pharaoh as a faithless act of self-protection. He’s not yet learned God’s design of husband and wife.

The result? He gets rich! He’s “treated well for her sake.” He profits off of his wife and saves his own skin. But he has reversed the order of God’s design. Rather than “I die for her,” it’s “she dies for me.” But Abram is in covenant with God who has promised to bless him and make him a blessing through his offspring. How will that happen if Sarai is taken from him?

The world lives without regard for God’s design of husband and wife. And like Abram, we Christians often simply go along, fearing the world’s judgment, allured by the world’s promises, and believing there is no alternative. We attempt to redefine the family. We cohabitate rather than make binding vows. We view relationships as means toward self-fulfillment rather than as opportunities for self-sacrifice.

But God is clearly sovereign over the entire affair (12:17). He afflicts Pharaoh, rescues Sarai, and restores her to Abram. God is faithful even when Abram is not.

Jesus never seeks to protect his own skin by putting his bride between himself and danger. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy” (Ephesians 5:25-26). He is faithful, always protecting and persevering. His love never fails. 

How does “Egypt” (the world with its lies and allurements) tempt you to reinterpret God’s design for the family? How do your fears tempt you to take relational matters into your own hands rather than entrust yourself to God? Do you see your family as a means to your own ends or as a context to trust God and love sacrificially? If you are unmarried, are you tempted to live with someone apart from the covenant of marriage? If you are married, are you putting your spouse in danger for your own benefit? How has the world’s view of the household distorted our understanding of “husband and wife,” and thus tempted us to unfaithfulness?

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