Let me address the daughters-in-law for a moment. Young ladies, your husband chose you before God and witnesses and declared that he would cling to you as the only woman in his life. Your mother-in-law is not your enemy. She is not to be treated as the “other woman” competing for your husband’s love and affection.
So what is the right way for any in-law to act, whether a parent or a child? The same way a healthy family related by blood acts. There must be no secondary treatment for anyone who becomes a part of the family through marriage. All the patience, privilege, and kindness afforded to blood relatives must be freely showered upon those who join the family through marriage. That means, older women, sow into your daughter-in-law the same love you have sown into your children. And young women, when your mother-inlaw does this, learn from her how to walk as a strong woman of God. Then will the truth of Titus 2:3–5 come into effect and positively affect both you and her: “Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”
Fathers, too, must learn how to embrace new additions to the family, and this may be particularly hard for them when it comes to their sons-in-law. A father is naturally protective of his daughter and may find it difficult to accept that another man will take his place as his daughter’s protector and provider. He is always looking out for his “little girl” and casts a wary eye on any young man vying for her hand. The following story may seem familiar to you:
A nice Christian girl brought home her fiancé to meet her parents. After dinner, the father invited the young man to join him on the front porch for iced tea. “So what are your plans for my daughter?” he asked the young man.
“I am a Bible scholar,” he replied.
“Admirable, but how will you provide a nice home for my daughter?” the father
“I will study,” the young man responded, “and God will provide.”
“How will you buy my daughter a beautiful engagement ring, one that she deserves?”
the father persisted.
“I will concentrate on my studies, and God will provide for us,” the young man
Still not satisfied, the father asked, “What about children? How will you support
“Don’t worry, sir. God will provide,” the young man insisted once more.
The father asked several more questions, and each time the young man answered the
same: “God will provide.”
Going back into the house, the man was met by his wife, who asked, “How did it
go?” to which the man answered, “The boy has no job and no plans, but the weird thing
is, he thinks I’m God.”
Yes, fathers will do what they must to protect their daughters and help their sons, but
Scripture lends better insight into the parent-child relationship and its relevance to our
topic. Ephesians 6:1–4 says:
“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Verse 1 is obviously a reference to children in the home. The covenant of marriage creates a new home with a new head, so the married couple is not expected to obey their parents as when they were children living at home. However, they are to honor them, and this command spans the realm of childhood and beyond. Interestingly, the word honor in verse 2, which is a quotation of the fifth commandment, literally means “to promote richness.” So, adult children, promote richness with your parents and in-laws, for this is right before God.
Verse 4 addresses the responsibility of the father in his relationship with his children, both those at home and those who have married and left home. Fathers are clearly instructed not to provoke their children to anger. In the Greek, the word translated “provoke” is parogizo, which means “to anger alongside”; the root word implies “by your proximity.” In other words, men, your presence is not meant to create strife and anger in the home of the new family. Your son-in-law is not a “meathead,” and your daughter-inlaw
is no “bimbo.” As this text reveals, fathers share the same responsibility as do mothers in accepting their children’s spouses and treating them the same as their children by birth.
Fathers, model for your children and their spouses what is right in the Lord. Your example is key to pulling out the best that may lie dormant in that new member of your family. Pay special attention to this final important truth: No one ever becomes all they can be by only hearing all they are not.
Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.