Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Theological Matters and is used by permission.
Most humans seem to perceive fatherhood as having exhausted itself at the end of a moment of intimacy with a member of the opposite gender. The male member of the species bows out since the conception inside the woman’s womb is thought to be “part of her body” and therefore of no consequence to him. Little difference is made for the man if the conceived baby is terminated in the womb or born into a fatherless existence. In fact “sperm banks” now make even his presence in conception totally unnecessary. How different the picture of fatherhood is in the Scriptures! And this loss of the concept of fatherhood introduces pandemonium into the entire human system, including an accurate comprehension of God as Father. For purposes of this blog, the idea of fatherhood encompasses four unique perspectives. Fatherhood includes provision, protection, prudence, and the precepts of God. As anyone can see, this is a long-term assignment more challenging than climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. What do these assignments imply?
• Provision suggests a job, an income to purchase food and clothing with hopefully something small left over to buy a ticket to March Madness or to take a vacation. Medical bills, taxes, and college will require the remainder and the man will have provided. Undoubtedly, that is all a part of provision – but only a part. Provision also includes passing on to children how to subsist in a difficult and expensive world. Each child must be taught a trade or develop a talent needed by others as provision for his own life. The teen must learn to walk with God who alone can provide for him in all circumstances. And he must see all of these attitudes and actions modeled by his father.
• Protection is something about which men like to boast. That is why I keep an arsenal at home in the gun safe. No one is about to hurt my family. This I do not denigrate. The assignment from God to fathers is to protect the physical well-being of the family. But many a father lives his whole life without having to engage a physical threat to the personal lives of his family. Nevertheless, he must protect! On his knees he earnestly intercedes with God for his family. His instruction includes the ways of peace and conflict avoidance. And when peace is not possible and conflict is unavoidable, then he must teach his children how to protect themselves and how to look to God for his intervention.
Protection includes assisting vulnerable young minds in grasping the real enemies who would destroy them: sex outside of God’s boundaries, pharmacological misuse, alcohol, slavery to money, and selfishness. A predilection for entertainment and addiction to electronics must not only be met with “no” but with substitutes that provide better substance for life.
• Prudence is wisdom in all things relating to God and to life. Many attitudes are learned by children from their mothers. But wisdom or prudence is a virtue specifically delegated to fathers and grandfathers. Proverbs 1:1-7 clarifies the responsibilities of fathers. Wisdom or virtue underscores the development of justice, judgment, and equity on the part of the simple who need prudence. And if a child is wise, he will increase learning.
• Finally, the precepts of God are to be modeled and taught. The work of priest and prophet is important as would be the role of pastor in the present age, but the primary responsibility for spiritual instruction outlined in Deuteronomy 6 falls completely to fathers and grandfathers. Ostensibly, they have more time with the children. Therefore, they are assigned the task of teaching the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments. They are told how to pursue this task and the extent of the instruction to be given.
A child with a father who meets these criteria grows up with a healthy view of the fatherhood of God, and he also enjoys a relationship with his earthly father that assists him in becoming a natural leader in his world. If you have a father who leads his family in this way, you have every reason to express gratitude to God on this Father’s Day. And work to be sure your son grows up understanding the responsibilities he will have on the day he fathers a child.