Piety and Family

"If any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to be godly toward their own family and to repay their parents, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God" (1 Tim. 5:4).

Godliness is more than a verbal expression of faith, and more than an outward posture of religiosity; it is a life imbued with the principles that are held. Here, in the verse we have quoted, piety reaches the family level. In fact, it is there that it should first express itself, in daily dealings, in the love, understanding, generosity of those who share a common life and a common roof. However, it is easy to see that piety is lacking in the family.

Paul warns in the second Epistle to Timothy: "In the last days perilous times will come. For there will be men ... without natural affection, unforgiving ... who will have the appearance of godliness, but will deny the efficacy of it" (3:1-5). Natural affection is that which arises spontaneously among the members of a family, because of the relations of consanguinity that unite them. No parent loves his child by decree, but by an affection that arises naturally and spontaneously even before the child is born. The same happens among the other members of the family group.

However, the Word says that, in the end times, this natural affection will be lost. Evil will have grown so much, and will have taken such roots in the human heart, that even the natural will be lost, to give way to the unnatural. This is one of the signs of our times.

In such a context it becomes a moral (if not legal) imperative for Christians to fervently express this natural affection within the framework of the family. The family is what can best defend (or, at least, delay) society from moral disintegration. A man with a normal family is a man defended from debauchery. A woman with a happy family is a woman defended in her integrity. The children will be protected there in their innocence, and will advance along the paths of life, overcoming one stage at a time.

However, the normal life of a family presupposes the ability to deny oneself in favor of the other; the maturity to accept the other, to yield to the other and to care for the other when in need. Family life is not easy. In it the good as well as the worst manifestations of the human soul can be unleashed. A family without Christ at its center gives no guarantee that it can be what God designed it to be.

True piety is necessary within the family. Here, in the quotation from 1 Timothy, the apostle demands that the children (or grandchildren) take care of their widowed mother (or grandmother). That will be a demonstration of piety. This is, no doubt, only an exemplary case. There will be many other similar situations, in which it will be tested in a practical way if the faith accepted as true is capable of permeating the whole life of a family group. In each one of them, faith will take shape until it becomes life. Piety begins at home.

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