Survived passing from singlehood to family life? Then you’ve likely asked what happened to the paycheck, our screen door, and my sanity. Spare time disappeared along with that shoe, and we’re already late for meeting. But this article isn’t about the shock and awe from “I dos” or “terrible twos.” It’s about the choice between family and freedom, and the goals that go hand-in-hand with it.
The Hebrew slave’s countdown ended at year seven when the law required his master to set him free. The day came when, with duffle bag in hand, he stood at an open front door. As the slave stepped across the threshold, everything changed. He was leaving the master, the obligations, and the bondage behind. He was free!
For some, however, the countdown ended very differently. The good master had given his servant a wife, and the little family had begun. A radiant smile met father’s as he glanced into the crib. Little arms clung to his legs. “Are you ready?” his wife asked. They headed to the front door. The master held the door open, and the young man stepped to the threshold; one stride from freedom.
Thoughts of everything he could do or be for himself slipped through his mind. But nothing stuck. His life was no longer about himself. It was about the people who stood inside, watching…hoping. Pivoting, the young man looked into eyes that cared, and he delivered the line he had rehearsed many times in his heart: “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free” (Ex 21:5).
The servant leaned against the doorpost. His master put the awl to his earlobe and smiled in approval as he tapped the hammer, making the hole that would indelibly mark the man—willingly committed, forever the master’s.
This is the second time we are taken to the door in Exodus. In chapter 12, it was the lamb’s blood that stained the wood, bringing salvation. Now, the servant, “presenting his body a living sacrifice,” identifies himself forever with the master’s house—it is his “reasonable service” (Rom 12:1). Interestingly, though both doors are in Exodus, neither is about exiting. Both are about willingly staying inside. The first was by faith, and the second with purpose of heart. The first was His work for me. The second is my service out of appreciation for Him.
Love for the master comes first in the servant’s confession—in order and degree. But both men knew that there was a threefold affection. Love for his wife and children were inseparably entwined in the cord of self-sacrificing commitment. It wasn’t option one, two, or three; it was all or nothing. This ear-boring ceremony was reserved for just such a family man.
We soon discover that serving the Master and family responsibilities are not mutually exclusive. My obedience to Him means fulfilling His commands as much in the home as in the hall. If I separate them, fraying the two weaker strands in my fervor for the greater strand, His Word says I have “denied the faith,” and my lopsided devotion makes me “worse than an infidel” (1Ti 5:8). True love for Him will be entwined with my love for my family. I serve Him as I serve them.
Merit the Mark
How can I put my ear to the post? With purpose of heart. Staying in instead of going out. Telling the Master, my spouse, and my children that I love them. Fulfilling His orders, and raising my family in His house. Nothing less merits the mark.
We already know His commands. Have they formed our goals?
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Is she sure that I’m hers?
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph 5:25). Have I shown my sacrificial love for her today?
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. As the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Eph 5:22, 24). Do I resist, resent, or respect his headship?
“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col 3:19). Is there something I must forgive and forget?
“Teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands…” (Tit 2:4-5). Where is my heart? Does it show in my attitude and priorities?
“One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (1Ti 3:4, 12). Do my consistent actions merit respect? Is my service balanced, inside and outside of the home?
“Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Am I proactive in their spiritual development?
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col 3:21). Do I show my care about their emotional needs?
“Let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1Co 14:35). Do I respect his role in the assembly?
“Husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1Pe 3:7). Do I treat her with the care and honor she deserves?
Have I formed my goals to lovingly fulfill His commands? Can I give up my freedom? Is the awl at my ear? It may hurt. Not everyone will understand the hole it leaves. But that’s not why we stand at the threshold. It’s because we love our Master, we love our spouses, and we love our children. Will I lean up to the post?