When You Love Your Children Better Than Your Wife

A husband and wife are one flesh, not two. There is nothing that should come between them, including their children. When a parent places the children in the center of home life, the family is out of order.

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Biff’s fame is well-known. More than one wife has angrily said, “I wish my husband were like him.” Biff is a fantastic dad. When it comes to parenting he never leaves a rock unturned.

He is aggressive, thoughtful, diligent, proactive, kind, and gracious. He teaches, leads, plans, and executes. If “Parenting Quarterly” knew about Biff, most assuredly he’d be on the cover.

When he sins against his children, he repents. When they go somewhere they never leave his sight. He is regularly searching the Internet for the next best book. He talks to other dads to find out what they are doing and if there is something to be gleaned, he gleans it and methodically implements the new teaching.

He has a reputation for parenting excellence. The real truth is that no one other than his wife Mable knows the whole deal about Biff. Yes, he is all the things that I have described, but only to his kids.

When it comes to being a husband, he is not as thoughtful, diligent, proactive, kind, or gracious. He is one way to his children and another way to his wife. This is a clear tip-off to hidden idolatry. Whenever a person’s attitude, words, and behaviors are as antithetical as Biff’s, there is something amiss in the heart.

  • It’s like the man who excels at work but is a beast in the home.
  • It’s like the wife who acts one way at church, but another when she is away from church friends.
  • It’s like the kid who has one life with his schoolmates, but another personality around his parents.
  • It’s like the husband who can blather on about Fantasy Football, but won’t talk to his wife.

Whenever there is inconsistency in how a person relates to people, you will find sin lurking somewhere in the heart and life. There is no biblical justification for “selective niceness” without authentic, genuine repentance. To be nice in one venue and not in another context reveals hypocrisy.

There is something wrong when this is happening with anyone, male or female. The best thing for such a person is exposure, whether he humbly reveals his heart or someone confronts him.

The consequences of this kind of parenting can be devastating to children. Kids have “internal baloney detectors”–they know when their parents are full of baloney. Though they may not be able to articulate what they are observing in the home while they are young, they will react to it one way or the other when they are older.

Hypocritical parenting is one of the more common reasons teens rebel. Whenever a parent sins–like hypocrisy, there will be future fallout, and that result is nearly always among those who are the closest to the hypocrisy.

When a person like Biff sins the way I have described here, the repercussions will impact his wife and his children the most. Sometimes I think it is better to reject Christ as a parent than to profess Christianity, while living a life that does not emulate it.

Though James was not talking to parents when he wrote about a higher standard for leaders, a parent can make an application from what he said. Parenting is a “leadership-modeling-teaching position” in the home. Note how James framed it:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. – James 3:1

God has a high view and greater strictness on teachers because teachers have a fantastic responsibility in how they share His Word. To model and teach it well leads to freedom. To model and teach it poorly leads to bondage.

As for Biff, there are at least six possible reasons that come to mind for why he teaches his children hypocritically. Though all of these things may not be what’s going on in his heart, it would not be unusual to find most of them active in a person like Biff.

Motives

His motives are impure. He is not thinking so much about parenting for the glory of God as he is thinking about making his children turn out right. This is a subtle temptation for me too.

Whenever I am kinder to my children than to my wife, then I immediately know that my motives are impure. If they were pure, I would be consistent with my niceness.

Kindness does not discriminate–unless our motives are wrong. The only reason a person will not be kind is that he chooses not to be. If he determines whom he will be sympathetic to, he is not motivated by God, but by evil motives.

It’s like the employee who is nice to his employer, but is mean to his wife. The reason he is nice to his employer is because his motives are impure–he does not want to lose his job.

If his motive was to glorify God, then he would be nice at work and at home. It wouldn’t be about money, but about God’s glory. If Biff’s motives were pure, he would be kind to everyone in his home.

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Pragmatism

Biff has a goal in mind, and that purpose is what drives his parenting methodology. Pragmatism is another way of saying, “All that matters are the results.” Pragmatic parenting is results-driven: the end justifies the means.

It really does not matter how you get there as long as you get there. From Biff’s perspective, being unkind to his wife will have no impact on the results he is shooting for regarding his kids.

He’s after high grades for his children, not a well-nourished and well-cherished wife. He wants to make sure his kids don’t smoke weed, not whether he is a discouragement to his wife. Biff is a pragmatist.

Self-sufficiency

One of the more prominent culprits in Biff’s worship structure is his propensity toward self-reliance. He gets a kick out of doing it himself. He does this because he can. The idea of trusting God does not resonate the way it should with him.

Even if it did, he would not know how to trust God in his parenting. He has fully bought into our culture’s high self-esteem model. Biff’s esteem of himself and his abilities are off the chart. This issue is one of the reasons he’s so unkind to his wife: he is superior, at least in his mind.

Rather than learning how to glorify God in his marriage, his wife becomes one of the many means he uses to accomplish his goals. The self-reliant man will use any factors he deems an option to achieve his predetermined objectives.

For Biff, the goal is clear–he wants impressive kids who become great adults. His wife is just one of the many means he relies on to expedite the goals he has mapped out for his children.

Fear

The sin that is under the sin of self-reliance is fear. What I mean is that whenever there is one sin, you will always another under that one. The sin of self-sufficiency has a sin under it that fuels it. That sin is fear.

Biff operates from a heart of fear. He is afraid his children will not turn out right. Maybe he had a bad experience as a child and did not want his kids to have his former life (Ephesians 4:22).

Maybe he has seen a lot of poor parenting models and the fruit of those inadequate models, and he does not want that to happen to his children. I don’t know what all the issues are, but whatever they are, fear is operating underneath the surface.

Most parents parent with a degree of fear working in their hearts. They are aware of the temptations in the culture. They know that it does not take much for their kids to fall. Rather than running to God first, the parent is tempted to “over-parent their children” because they are afraid.

Reputation

It would not surprise me at all to find out that a lot of what is motivating Biff is his craving for reputation. More than likely he looks down on people (self-righteousness), at least some people and is driven not to be like them.

He loves to be perceived a certain way. To have smart, well-trained, excellent children may not be so much about the children as it is about how he wants people to think about him.

This would be another reason he would get angry at his wife. She could very well interfere with his plans for the children, thus hindering them from being all he wants them to be. When this happens, she feels his scorn.

The “sin of reputation” is a temptation for me. My children are a reflection of me. Whenever they do something dumb, I have to guard my heart against the trap of craving reputation.

It should never matter what others think about me because it is never about me. It is always about God at all times. When my children mess up, my default reaction should be how to lead them to Christ rather than thinking about damage control regarding my reputation.

Unbelief

Ultimately Biff is an “unbelieving believer” (Mark 9:24). Yes, he is a Christian, but he is unwilling to trust God regarding how he thinks about and applies his parenting philosophy.

I mentioned the sin that is underneath the sin. I said that fear is the sin under the sin of self-reliance. If you begin to “unpack worry,” you will find another sin that is under it, which is the sin of unbelief. This is the last sin, the one that is under them all.

Unbelief is the sin that Adam committed. All sin comes out of a heart of unbelief. Whenever we choose to do it our way, as Biff is exemplifying, we are essentially saying, “I don’t believe God’s way is the best. I am choosing my way over His way.” This is unbelief.

Biff has a parenting model that he is implementing. He also has several things going wrong in his heart. He is making real choices everyday regarding his parenting. The issue that drives them all is his “functional atheism,” or the unbelieving believer.

He is a believer, but he is not acting like one. He probably does not know it, or he at least is not aware of the more in-depth hideousness of his sin choices. He is so focused on what he can see–the kid’s behaviors–that he has never taken time to assess his heart fully.

Community Parenting

Biff needs to come to a place in his thinking where he can fully trust God and all the means of grace that God provides for parents like him. A “means of grace” is another way of saying an instrument of favor that God offers His children to accomplish His purposes in their lives.

God has given us much unmerited favor to accomplish His will in our lives, marriages, families, and our local churches.

  • Biff has a wife, who could be an incredible means of grace to him.
  • Biff has a local church that is there to serve him.
  • Biff should have friends whom he is pursuing to help him to see what he does not understand.

Parenting takes a community and when the community is fully engaged, the parenting goes much better. Today, it seems that people do most parenting through a “catch-as-catch-can” model. The last verse in the book of Judges sadly sums it up for us:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21:25

The best thing that could happen for Biff is for someone to love him enough to walk him through what he is doing. He needs a sober self-assessment. I realize there is a significant risk in the kind of love that I’m talking about, but sometimes the risk is a better option to take than the inevitable fallout that will come if no one tries to talk to him today.

Call to Action

  1. If the Spirit of God has convicted you about anything here, my appeal to you is to find help. That is the best thing you can do for the Lord, your family, and your church.
  2. If your spouse is sinning this way, I appeal to you to read the linked article, “How To Help a Person Get Right With God” and implement that teaching immediately.
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