The Ship is Sinking – Should I Save My Wife or My Child

I always thought that if the ship were sinking and you can only save one person, who do you save between your wife and your child? I always said I would save my child. My justification was that my child is the future of my family. Then we had a second child and the philosophical answer got a little more complex. Imagine the philosophical struggle for families with many children. There had to be a theological or faith based answer to my dilemma. God had been opening a lot of doors and answering a lot of questions for me lately, why couldn’t He answer this one?

Discussing this with a very close Christian friend, he said that I was wrong. Wife ALWAYS before children, it’s biblical. I asked my friend where this was in the bible and he wasn’t sure of scripture and verse, but he was very confident and convicted in his answer. This led me to start praying and digging for answers. Here is what the Lord, has laid on my heart.

First, in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 it says:

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

There are over 39 verses in the bible where this command is issued in one form or another. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments God tells us the He should be OUR FIRST PRIORITY in everything. God promises us, that by making Him our first priority, He will insure us and secure us in all other areas of our lives. See Deuteronomy 7:9 for proof of this:

Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.

So by making God my first priority, He will make choosing who to save easy… “I’ll just wait and let God tell me who to save”. That is great if you are used to “hearing” instructions from God; especially during times of extreme crisis. Well, that is not how He has worked with me, and from what I understand from most of my Christian friends, that is not how He works with them. There has to be more? If God is to be my first priority, how do I know my wife should be my second priority?

Early in the bible, God goes on to say that a man should leave his parents and take a wife. In Genesis 2:24 it says:

This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

So does that make the wife the automatic or default next priority in the familial prioritization dynamic? Yes. From a biblical perspective, I believe that our “wife” is the next priority in our lives. There are several texts in the bible that point to this fact. I think that Ecclesiastes 9:9Hosea 2:19, and 1 Corinthians 7:39, all point to the fact that God wants a husband and wife to be a priority, a LIFE LONG relationship, second only to our relationship with Him. God goes through an in depth description of His expectations for us in relationship with our wives in Ephesians 5:21-33:

Spirit-Guided Relationships: Wives and Husbands

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[a] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[b] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

OK, God says that my wife should be next, but what about the children? In the bible, God has several references relating to how, where, and why our children should be placed in the familial prioritization dynamic. In the Old Testament, in the book of Proverbs, there are 18 different references to children. Almost all, are instructions for parents in the way they are to raise their children. In Proverbs 8:30-36 it says:

I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence. 31 And how happy I was with the world he created; how I rejoiced with the human family! 32 “And so, my children,[a] listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. 33 Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. 34 Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! 35 For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord36 But those who miss me injure themselves. All who hate me love death.”

Then in the New testament, in the book of Ephesians, There are 6 references to children. The first four are talking about “grown children”. How, once we are on our own, that we are to live as taught by our parents. The last two references in Ephesians 6:1-4 are instructions to both children and parents. The Word tells us:

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord,[a] 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.”[b]  Fathers,[c] 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.

I believe the first four references in Ephesians are instructions of how we are to live as the “Next Generation” of children of Christ. Then, all the references from Proverbs and the last two references in chapter 6 of Ephesians, are instructions for how we as children of Christ, should treat our parents, and how we as parents, should raise our children. Instructions of how we should raise the “Next Generation” of Christians. If we at one point, and our children today, are the “Next Generation”; and the bible tells us that our wives should be our top relationship priority after our relationship with Christ, who are we to question that?

Asking my friend “where in the bible does it say my wife is my first priority”, was really not a fair question. There is no one verse that says “when the ship is sinking and you have to choose between your wife and your child of who to save, save your wife”.

Learning, studying, listening, and understanding what God wants and expects of us, or “trusting God’s Will” is a never ending process. Getting into God’s Word and trusting Him and His answers will always trump the philosophical approach. The trick is staying connected to Christ in all areas of our life. If we do this and stay connected to Christ, we don’t have to worry. He is the answer.

Today, whether the popular answer or not, I will save my wife when the ship is sinking.

My justification, God is the ultimate Truth.

3 thoughts on “The Ship is Sinking – Should I Save My Wife or My Child

  1. OK, I am “the wife” to this amazing man! I love and respect him with all my heart! I am so proud of what he is doing with this blog and I know he is reaching so many people. But, I must respectfully disagree with today’s post. I don’t feel that any of his biblical references answer the question: “Who should I save first?” I am always open to new ways of thinking, but I just can’t see it here. Any insight supporting either side, would be appreciated. Please don’t take this as one of us must “win.” We love to banter over these types of discussions and never look at it as a “win-lose” situation. God bless you all!

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  2. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) Here is what I think based upon 46 years of marriage, three grown children, and six grandchildren. We would gladly give our lives for our children and grandchildren. I hope our children and grandchildren would think the same. So I would save my youngest granddaughter letting her know we (her entire family) did this because we love her and want her to love her future family in the same way.

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