By Christopher Simon

The Christian household

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” ~ Ephesians 5:21 NIV

The New Testament provides a number of codes or instructions for how Christian households should function. Martin Luther coined the term “Haustafeln” (literally, “house table”), a summary or table of the specific actions which each member of the household
should carry out, and he included this list in his small catechism.

Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is perhaps the most complete list of duties, spelling out the way that husbands and wives should treat each other, as well as parents and children and masters and slaves. To modern ears, much of this advice may seem not only archaic, but perhaps even immoral, given that slavery is almost universally condemned and we don’t usually expect wives to be “subject to their husbands.” But understood in their historical context, these instructions were revolutionary, telling husbands to love their wives as they do their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28), and telling masters to treat their slaves well and to stop threatening them (Ephesians 6:9).

The master-slave instructions are applicable today to the employer/employee relationship. Children are instructed to obey their parents, but parents, and particularly fathers (the traditional disciplinarians) are told to not provoke their children, and to raise them “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

A shorter summary of these household codes can be found in Colossians 3:18-4:1. Study these passages and consider honestly whether you are following these instructions.