John and Sue married in 1975 at the age of 25. After multiple attempts to birth a child, Sue was informed by her doctor that it was unlikely she could have a child. They redirected their efforts to adopting and in 1977 adopted one-year old Melissa. In 1979 they were blessed to adopt a new baby, who they named Jessie. But miracles happen when you least expect them, and Sue became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy John Jr.
Richard and Wendy are both on their second marriages. Each brought a child into this marriage from their previous marriages, and they had one child together. They too have three children, Shelly, Robert, and Brian being the child of both Richard and Wendy. (The above names are fictional)
Fast forward to today. Melissa, Jessie, and John Jr. are all married. Melissa and her husband have three children, John Jr. and his wife have one child, and Jessie is on his second marriage with one child from his previous marriage and one child his current wife brought into the marriage.
Shelly is not married, Robert has four children, and Brian and his wife chose to adopt rather than have their own children.
The question on the table is as old as civilization, “Is blood thicker than water?” An excellent article was written on this subject that had a clever approach to answering this question, so I am drawing from that article for this writing. [i] Mr. Magidovitch’s approach was to use Biblical stories to differentiate blood, water, and wine and how they can be applied to families, especially when a family business is involved. His explanations of these four words are:
- “Blood is associated with the physical, genetic bonds among family. This has specificity and tribalism to it.
- Water identifies those outside the family, not in the tribe. Water describes the universe of all people from among which blood lines divide us out into tribes and families.
- Wine is a physical agent that brings success, blessing, goodness. Wine is part of rituals including festive meals and weddings. Wine sipping is a physical act by which partakers show to themselves and others their acceptance of family rules and tribal norms. . .[In Marriage], persons related at the water level become blood relatives both physically and spiritually.
- Miracles as used in this essay are natural events that “take our breath away,” so to speak. They are events that cause us to step out of the box, to see new possibilities in old circumstances.[ii]
To be consistent with the two families above, I am using Blood as those in the family by birth. Water is those in the family by adoption or marriage, the latter being stepchildren. This would also include children who share the blood of one parent with siblings that have the blood of both parents. In my above scenarios, Brian is blood, and Shelly and Robert would be water. Wine refers to those individuals outside the family that are accepted into the family, eventually becoming part of the family. The in-laws fall into this category.
The reason Mr. Magidovitch drew upon Biblical literature for his article was because these three stories, which I will also use, describe situations where water was turned into wine, water became blood, and wine also became blood. In each of these situations a miracle occurred.
Water to Blood. I imagine every reader has at one time seen the movie, “The Ten Commandments.” It is the story of how God rescued the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. Moses was God’s hand-picked leader to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert where God would prepare them to enter the Promised Land he was giving them. There was just one problem, Pharoah liked having several million Jewish slaves to build his pyramids and alters to himself and he was not about to allow Moses, who interestingly was Pharoah’s adopted brother and whom Pharaoh had condemned into the wilderness, free his slaves and severely reduce his cheap workforce.
God decides Pharoah needs a little more incentive and sends ten plaques on Egypt, the last plaque achieving the desired result. Moses’ first miracle of turning his staff into a snake and back into his staff got a Oh Hum from Pharoah, so God moved to the first plaque, “The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vesselsof wood and stone.” Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.[iii]
For a moment think of Pharoah not as a greedy tyrant, but the Patriarch of a very large family and family business, a family that included blood relatives, the Egyptians, and water persons, the Jews. In this story we see two possibilities. Pharoah chose to treat the Jews as water, non-family, and abuse them. Abused, mistreated, or rejected non-blood members can choose to leave the family and encourage blood members to go with them. The family and the business begin experiencing all kinds of plagues (problems) that eventually tear it apart.
Remember I said Moses was Pharoah’s adopted brother. God had arranged for Moses, as a newborn whose life was in danger, to be placed in a basket on the Nile and found by the first Pharoah’s sister who chose to adopt him. Moses was water that became a blood member of the Pharoah family. God turned the water into blood, but what if this second Pharoah (the son of the first and brother to Moses), had taken a different course and treated the Jews with the same respect and favor the Egyptian people enjoyed, essentially turning the water (Jews) into blood (the Egyptian family). Might this story have had a different ending?
Water to Wine. “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.”[iv]
The back story here is that Jesus and his mother, Mary were attending a wedding in the town of Cana. Weddings in those days could go on for days and now the wine had run out. This was not the way a young couple wanted to start their lives together, especially with the spouses’ family members. Every anniversary celebration the conversation would turn to what a fiasco the wedding became when everyone had to leave early because the family did not have a well-planned wine allotment.
The groom’s family sees the new wife as water, as does the bride’s family regarding the groom. The question in everyone’s mind is will the water really become blood or remain water. If the objective is for this couple to have a successful marriage, the respective families need to accept the new members as blood. Likewise, each spouse needs to accept their new family as blood. Think of this wedding as a business and we see another valuable principle in having a successful business. Mary saw a problem that needed fixing and took immediate action and had faith that her son could fix the problem. Jesus, thinking of him as the CEO of this business, who has more important tasks, makes the need of his staff (the bride and groom, families of the bride and groom, and the guests) the priority and takes action. It seems the bride and groom and groom’s family, assuming they were responsible for the wedding preparations, had not done a good job of planning. Some leaders would chastise and reprimand this failure in public, creating division and resentment in the workforce. Jesus took the higher road. A leader’s responsibility is not to make him or herself look good, but to make his employees look good. This should be every family leader’s objective in their family, to help every family member, including in-laws and stepchildren; be successful at whatever is best and right for them.
Wine to Blood. “He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. . .While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”[v]
The Passover dinner is an annual tradition in Jewish society remembering the tenth plaque (the first story in this article) where the Israelites painted the doorways with lamb’s blood on the top cross beam and side posts so God would Passover their homes, protecting their children from death from the plaque. This Last Supper is the precursor to Jesus’ crucifixion. His analogy to the wine being his blood is his explanation that through his death everyone who chooses him as their Savior will become a child of God, a member of God’s family, brothers and sisters. The parallel here is that families need to celebrate their heritage, traditions, and relationships. Wine served at family gatherings becomes blood, bringing together and solidifying family bonding and relationships. The family becomes a team, committed to the team and to each other, celebrating their victories and providing love and encouragement during failures.
The Last Supper is also a good example of why we encourage families to be involved in philanthropy, especially philanthropy that involves the entire family in mission trips or, as a family, visiting orphanages, senior communities, hospitals, or building homes, churches, and schools for poor communities. For God so loved the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.[vi] God’s gift was the ultimate act of generosity that created a family of believers. Generosity enriches the family of mankind. Drill a water well in Africa and water becomes blood. Provide food, clothing, and shelter to a poor village in El Salvador and wine becomes blood.
The age-old question was, “Is blood thicker than water?” The implication being blood lines count more than individuals in a family who are not family by birth. This is the wrong question. In the three Biblical stories a miracle converted one liquid into the other, and in all three the conversion became a blessing. In families, and family businesses, the question is, will all family members be committed to producing a miracle that brings many individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and biases together to work for a common purpose and causes? Will they be blessed by diligently and joyfully converting water and wine into blood? Will they become a family of believers?
[i] The Thickness of Blood in Family Business by Jonathan Magidovitch, The Aspen Family Business Group, The Thickness of Blood in Family Business | Aspen Family Business Group
[iii] Holy Bible, Exodus 7:19-21, NIV
[iv] Holy Bible, John 2: 6-9, NIV
[v] Holy Bible, Matthew 26:18-19; 26-29, NIV
[vi] Holy Bible, John 3:16, NIV