In light of it being father’s day, I have decided to talk about fathers. At first I almost passed on the topic mainly because I had a limited view of my audience. My initial thoughts were how most of the congregation here and many of the people I personally know that listen abroad tend to be a bit older than the audience I had in mind.
Then I snapped out of it, realizing that not only are there some right here in our midst that are young and soon to be parents, but there are likewise others who are listening or will listen later that may benefit.
The biblical topic of family relations is not very popular even in many churches. Men have for many decades found it easier to abdicate their role and let the wife rule the home, and that has even found its way into the church.
The local Presbyterian Church down the street from where I live was the church my mother went to often prior to her passing. She would occasionally tell me stories of their church struggles to find men to lead certain things, and how often the women assumed the roles of leadership in ministry.
I would ask her why they would do that, and why the oversight of the church would allow it. Her answer was, because the men either do not come or will not lead. My response to her was always – “well then maybe that is a sign from God that the ministry needs to fold.”
I would always try to explain to her further, saying after all, if God has a biblically laid out structure for how His church is to be run, and if that structure is not able to be fulfilled, then isn’t that a sign that maybe that particular local ministry is not being supported any longer by God, and the members should seek to align themselves with another local body where the Lord is still working?
Of course such a thought would fall on deaf ears, and things would proceed, business as usual without a concern for the right way to do things. People today are more prone to do things their way regardless of if there is a right way, so why should the modern church with its individualistic mentality seek to adhere to God’s guidelines? The world and the church are a messed up place as we see both being radically influenced by a major push for egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism in general is an issue that plagues the human mind. It attempts to teach that each person, in any and all stations in life, should be treated as total equals in all circumstances. It ignores the differences between people and seeks to level the playing field, making everyone basically the same when it comes to qualifications and social status.
On a surface level understanding of this intent, we may find good practices, for when it comes to places and positions in life, it is not a bad idea to give everyone at least the opportunity to seek to acquire the same positions, but in reality, to ignore fundamental differences in ability is just silly.
Not everyone is made or equipped to be the same, not do they all function well in the same positions. We are equipped to work with other, and combined, our strengths and weaknesses benefit the whole. That is plainly laid out in a biblical understanding of the importance of corporate togetherness, and we find it detailed nicely in 1 Cor. 12.
After laying out how ever the smaller weaker pieces are to be honored, Paul ends this section by saying in 12:26:
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)
This oneness of the body can easily be carried over into the marital relationship. Yahweh did not call two equal people to come together and become one, he brought together two equally important people with equally important roles, though different roles from one another.
When it comes to men and women, in many ways they have the ability to do a lot of the same things, but they are not simply to act like two individuals doing the same thing. They are equipped different and together they work in unity. Men and women are different – and they are made that way in order that they will come together and make a better unit. However, this unit will only truly succeed when each individual truly understands that they are to perform different roles in reaching the same goal together.
Think about a nut and bolt – both get used to perform the same end goal – but both are performing entirely different functions to reach that goal. A nut is not equal to a bolt, nor the other way around, but together they form the tight fit necessary for the task. Like a nut and bolt, a husband and wife cannot enjoy doing the same thing together unless they enjoy doing completely different things….together.
A father must therefore embrace the reality that God has appointed us to different roles, and he must seek to perform his particular role in the relationship. Egalitarianism cries foul when you try to say men and women are created to fill different roles from each other. Douglas Wilson comments on this saying:
Egalitarianism wants to say, when confronted with something that Scripture says a father should take responsibility for, that the arrangement is “not fair.” Why shouldn’t the mother be the bread-winner? Why shouldn’t the man be the one to submit to his spouse? Of course, in one sense, it is not fair. But it is good.
As Christians, we believe Yahweh created all things, and he created them down to the smallest particle of existence. And within that existence he has ordered creation, and equipped his creation with different abilities and tasks. Men do not carry things because they have broad shoulders; they have broad shoulders because God created them to carry things.
Fatherhood has a point – it was made and created for a task, and failure to assume and perform that task leads to confusion and chaos in the relationship. Motherhood likewise has a purpose, and if both positions fulfill their individual, different purposes, the end unified goal of both should be more easily performed. If they assume wrong roles, or either one refuses the duties of their role, then the union falls apart, which is evident today for sure in the number of failed marriages we see even among professing Christians.
If at this point, you are thinking to yourself that I am obviously promoting a role of wives being barefoot and pregnant at home, then it just shows how far the egalitarianism dogma has permeated and become entrenched in your mind. So hopefully you can erase this and get past that stereotype this morning.
So then, what makes a father? A boy is born and grows into a man – but that does not make him a father. He gets married, now he is a husband, but that does not make him a father. Today is not husband’s day, it is father’s day. It is the day established for children to honor their father and the role he plays in their life. So a father is someone with children under their care.
So then, you have children under your care, now what? Do we just wing it or are we told somewhere what to do and how to do it? Well of course, as Christians, we believe we have a life-manual, and we talk about it often, even if we do not read it often. Does it give instructions on being a father? For those who read it, the answer is an affirmative one.
I would like to briefly examine a few basic biblical foundations for fathers:
1) The Bible is sufficient to supply you with all of the information needed to raise your children.
In other words, in order to be a biblically faithful father, we can find all we need to know right in the Holy Scriptures themselves. The Bible gives us instructions and applications for most all areas of life, and childrearing is included.
Deut. 6:4-7 tells us early on what Yahweh had instructed of his people:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 ESV)
The children were to be taught all of the ways and commandments of Yahweh. This was a fundamental task and one to be done with a multi-generational view in mind. Faithfulness to Yahweh was to be taught and passed down through the family as part of daily life. It was not a task bestowed upon a Sunday School teacher, or pastor, or other religious leader, it was done by the father.
Later we are told of Christ’s greatest commandment, which is a summary of the law and the prophets, and that likewise is to be a topic of conversation between you and your children. You are to teach the biblical precepts to your children. Part of your duty is the spiritual nurture of his family.
As an instruction in childrearing, Eph. 6:4 tells us what else fathers should do
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)
So while fathers are spiritually leading their family, they must also beware not to provoke their children to anger, but on the contrary should bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And where does that instruction come from? The Word of God.
So the Scripture is sufficient, and the Scripture tells us to use it to do so. We study the Word in order to learn about God, it is where we go to properly form our thoughts about God and his ways, and it is likewise where we are to turn to in order to know what and how to teach our children.
After all, if we find the Scriptures sufficient to equip us, then without question it is sufficient to teach our children, and it is also likewise sufficient to equip us as to how we are to go about equipping our children. A verse most everyone will quickly recognize is that of 2 Tim. 3:16-17:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
Now, while this is not directed at parents, it is applicable to the topic of teaching others. Unless you can honestly say that children do not need teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness in order to be a complete child of God, then this verse is applicable.
Yes, this verse is more directly applicable to a minister being scripturally equipped to deal with situations arising under his leadership, those minsters would undoubtedly run into situations that may indeed include childrearing issues amongst the people, and thus shows us the Scriptures are good for instructing in that area too.
So, the Word of God is sufficient for this area of instruction. But of course it is not sufficient on the shelf, so it must be read, studied and applied. And one thing to be warned against is the idea that we need Christianity and……..something else.
In other words, it does not require Christianity and…psychology. Christianity and….counseling techniques. Christianity and….the latest technique from so and so author that is the current best seller.
For instance, you can grab an exhaustive concordance and go through it all you want, but you will not find one biblical teaching on the topic of “time outs” anywhere. There is no such scriptural teaching on that topic, as it is a modern fad that has swept through parenting circles based on psychological and counseling techniques.
Christian parents hear of it, and they say let’s give it a try, and even though they believe the Scripture holds answers to life’s questions – on this topic they choose to look into a different direction. A good rule of thumb – the Scripture is sufficient – so if you find an applicable biblical precept or principal in Scripture, it is acceptable to use it. If you find no such precept anywhere in Scripture, it ought not to be relied upon or tried.
Now, point two of these foundational principles is:
2) Godly, strict childrearing is not a substitute for regeneration.
Regeneration is an act of God whereby the Holy Spirit changes the nature of sinful people. And you can discipline your child thoroughly, and they can be the best-behaved child you know, and yet not be regenerated.
Many people confuse being well-behaved for being regenerate, but not only are not all well-behaved people regenerate, but not all regenerate people are always well-behaved.
The goal is regeneration. And it is this same principle of having regeneration as the goal that became one of the prime reasons my wife and I chose to homeschool our children. Many people today homeschool and do so for many reasons. Many will tell you it is in order to give their children a better education. Our goal has always been to give our children a more biblical education, but to do that with the end goal being to teach them the ways of Christ in hopes of leading to their regeneration.
Remember, your children did not learn how to sin from you, nor from their friend down the street, they are sinners by nature. As we all clearly understand, Paul teaches us in Rom: 5:12:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12 ESV)
Many issues can arise for Christian parents who live in a Christian ghetto – a Christian ghetto being the sub-culture, an evangelical ghetto where all of their friends are Christian, all of their activities are Christian based, they listen to only Christian music, no one around them ever curses, and everything is clean and nice.
Someone in this type of surrounding has a nice clean little baby, and everything is fine – until the child gets to a certain age. Then all of a sudden all kinds of horrendous things begin happening and the parents are shocked and become confused and horrified. They begin wondering what they have done wrong and begin thinking they are failures. In actuality this is just a sign that they, like you, are born in Adam.
As Paul discusses in Eph. 2:3, mankind are by nature referred to as “children of wrath.” Children are in Adam like us and are therefore a child of wrath, and the only thing to correct that is regeneration.
The false teaching and confusion today come with assuming cuteness means goodness. It is a very easy mistake to make. We assume because babies are so cute and they have all of this parental affection, that they are therefore clean and innocent. That is not the case.
The only thing a child lacks, in regards to their sin, is a required intelligence and motor skills. Once they acquire the intelligence and motor skills, they begin noticeably sinning – that is their nature.
Almost any kind of baby is cute. Baby tigers are so cute, but by nature they are man eating animals. As they grow and mature, their nature will take over and it will come out – and likewise with children. The humanistic lie that is being propagated, is that childhood is an age of innocence and purity – but that is absolutely a false premise.
The false dichotomy in many people’s minds is to compare a childlike innocence to an adult’s sin and evil. That is not the biblical comparison at all. The biblical contrast is between immature evil and mature evil. That is what we are dealing with when it comes to children.
That means that the goal of every Christian parent – the goal of all of the prayers and discipline – is the regeneration and salvation of your child – and not the good manners of your child. While having them be well behaved and having them mind you when you instruct them is all very good, it is not the end goal, it is simply the intermediate step.
Sadly, that has become the focus and goal of way too many parents, and it leads to all kinds of unbiblical means in seeking to accomplish that goal. Well behaved kids are great, but that is the first step and you are not to settle in there, nor are you to seek to get there by unbiblical methods. The topic of godly child-discipline is a whole other topic we cannot delve into this morning.
Now, our third foundational point is:
3) Men are the head of the wife and household
We find this laid out in a few places. Eph. 5:23 and 25 tell us
For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:23, 25 ESV)
So, the husband is the head of the wife. The husband is to love the wife as Christ loves the church. Paul tells us in Corinthians a similar statement of the roles:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV)
Nineteenth century Presbyterian pastor B.M. Palmer states it like this:
Under every government, the sovereignty must rest in some recognized head; there must be a last tribunal, beyond which no appeal can lie. In the supreme sense, this belongs to God alone; but in the Family, which is constituted under His providence, the dread prerogative of representing His power attaches to the husband and the father. He is delegated as the head of the domestic state, and his authority binds the house together. (B.M. Palmer, The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects)
Husbands, you are the head of your wife, and she bears children to you. And as her head, you are likewise the head of the whole household. Now, this may sound like a man’s dream, and many abuses occur with the wrong thought pattern here, turning this positional idea into a mockery because of that abuse.
Two things all you husbands need to remember on this point. First, headship of the husband over the wife and the home in general means one key thing that men must grasp. Everything that goes on in the home is the husband’s responsibility. Everything…. without exception.
If it happened in your house, to your wife, your children, or their sin, their attitudes, their responses, everything – it is the father’s responsibility. This is true in marriage and childrearing.
Now, do not misunderstand me, yes, anything that goes on in the entire house is the husband responsibility, but this is not saying it is all the husband’s fault. So if you, the father, go to work, and while you are gone your wife gets into sin all by herself, and she stays in sin for hours until you come home. Whose fault is it? It is her fault. But who is responsible for it? It is the husband’s.
As the husband, your job is to willingly and lovingly embrace the responsibility as being part of your marriage vows. It is something you vowed before God to do, and you must lovingly take that responsibility and deal with it. And that goes for everything in your household, wife and children included.
In doing this, you are a picture of Christ and the church. What did Christ do? He assumed responsibility for things that weren’t his fault. After all, he could have said in the garden of Gethsemane – “Father, it’s not my fault!” But he did not, instead he assumed responsibility for our sins.
We do not accomplish the taking of sins on like Christ did, but we are a picture of that reality. Sadly, many men today have abdicated the role of home leadership, and instead feel their job ends after working all day and bringing home a paycheck, then they come home, eat and watch TV.
Instead, you job does not end there, for you are to assume the role of leader for the household. The security of your children is your responsibility. Whether they are properly disciplined or not is your responsibility. Whether they are well-loved and well-taught is your responsibility.
If you assume that proper role as home leader, then you would never have an excuse to fall into the typical trap of seeing your wife in an adversarial way. You’ll never start spouting accusations like “why haven’t you done this or that” – “you’ve been with the kids all day, why haven’t you done something about this or that problem?”
You assume full responsibility. So if your wife is exasperated by something, you do not blame her for not being able to solve it. Or you don’t react angrily wondering why she brings it to you since you weren’t involved and don’t want to be bothered with it. You assume full responsibility, it is your role as head of household.
Second key thing to remember, which should temper your view of male headship, is that headship does not involve self-serving, tyrannical, selfishness and getting your own way. Biblical headship involves servant hood authority.
Christ was the Lord of the Apostles, and yet he washed their feet. He had absolute authority over them, but had a servant’s heart towards them. This is what authority mean. More on this aspect in a minute. Now let us move into our forth foundational point:
4) Your children are designed to want to get away from you at a certain point
Let’s look at Eph 5:31, where Paul is quoting from Genesis:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31 ESV)
Now note, men are to leave their father and mother. God has designed your children to at a certain age to not only WANT to get away from you, but it is their duty to do so. If your children are not desirous to leave, if your sons are not wanting to leave and establish their own family, or your daughters not willing to leave and establish a new prime allegiance to another man, then you have done something wrong. It is a designed feature that your kids are going to be independent someday.
Your goal is to prepare them for that time of independence by properly raising them in discipline. Now as mentioned, discipline is a whole other topic in and of itself and is not what we’re dealing with today, but I do want to make a couple passing general comments on the topic.
When your children are grown, let’s say your son is 18 and leaving home to go in the military. He is out and about, out from under your oversight and care, and on his own. The question becomes, has he been properly prepared to be able to properly function on his own?
When he is out on his own, if self-control, godly standards and a new nature are not well entrenched in him, he is going to get into some trouble, and this happens way too often even in church-raised kids. Kids leave and go through crazy rebellious times.
By the time he is 18 and independent, it should mean that for a couple years prior to that he was already acting in a quasi-independent manner, though under your oversight. Unfortunately, discipline practices are often practiced backwards in many families.
In an overview, when our children are between 1 and 5 years old, they should live in a totalitarian police state at home. Their lives should be regulated to the minutest degree. Basically everything is decided for them. This is the time when the parents should be on top of everything. This is the most exhausting time for parenting, but it is laying the foundation that will lead to easier times to come.
Some parents are domineering all the way through and that is not proper, and is usually done for a totally different reason. But instead of being strictest for the first five years, the opposite is done. Normally what happens is during these early years, parents see their children as young and cute, and their sin likewise as little and cute, so it is often just excused, glossed over, or even laughed about.
When children first start manifesting their sinful natures, it is causing less damage, tends to be cute and funny, and parents wink at it and excuse it away by saying things like it is the “terrible twos.” They see it as a phase and seek to wait it out. That is an ungodly thing to do.
What happens is they wait it out – they don’t discipline, they don’t discipline, they don’t discipline, and the child gets bigger and bigger and excuses are made more and more, and you now have an older, undisciplined child. Next thing you know they are big enough to get into serious trouble.
They go out and cause damage in town, they go out and get pregnant or they get someone pregnant, or they get into drugs. Then the parents response is, “oh no, we need to slam down some discipline on them.” So they start clamping down, doing anything and everything in the name of discipline, much of which tend to be unbiblical methods, and they are doing this on a previously undisciplined teenager and of course this just provokes anger and rebellion.
The terrible teen year most say. But do they have to be so terrible? What should have been taking place is the opposite. Clamp down with strict discipline during the early years. Training them early on to control themselves, and then as they are getting older, you should be gradually lightening up on the discipline so that by the time they reach their teen years they are pretty much able to live independent and free of most heavy handed rules.
By this time they are more disciplined, more self-controlled, and more responsible and mature - enough so that they can then live in a quasi-independent state.
Then, when they are ready to leave at 18 or so, they have already been living somewhat independent and are better conditioned to be enter a life where they are further independent, and this will lead to them being less likely to run right into rebellious trouble when leaving home.
In order to get on the right track for this, there is one thing any new parent needs to realize. Discipline is very time consuming, especially during the early years. They are much more energetic and need much more oversight, and it wears parents down quickly.
Many parents start off strong but get worn out and begin letting things pass. The goal should be to stick with it strong during those early years, so that in later years you end up with much less trouble. You are working towards a goal of a more peaceful home life and a more responsible child in their teen years, so it is a goal worth setting and sticking to during those early years. To not do so provides a slightly easier time in the earlier years, followed by a much harder time in most all of the years from teenage life on.
Note what is said in Eph. 5:25 & 6:4:
Husbands, love your wives… Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 5:25 & 6:4 ESV)
Men, you are told to love your wife and bring up your children and both of these are active verbs. They are not things that will happen if you come home and laying around watching TV. They both require you to do something – to take action. Leadership in the home involved initiative.
Christian husbands are a picture of Christ’s love to the church. Regardless of how a husband acts, his action says something loud and clear. They portray how the husband feels Christ is towards the church, whatever this ends up looking like in action. The husband is either speaking a truth, or he is speaking a lie, but regardless, his actions are speaking – they are not silent.
If as a husband you fail to show initiative in loving your wife or in bringing up your children and helping your wife to do that, then you are lying about Christ to everyone who sees your family. You’re lying about Christ to your wife, your lying about Christ to your children, and to all of those around you.
You are proclaiming that Christ neglects his church and is a slug on the sofa in the same way I am a slug on the sofa. You are saying Christ cares about as much about the purity of his people as I do about the purity of my family. Those are all the statements you are making, whether you intend to or not.
Sadly, it also reflects how you portray the heavenly Father. We speak and teach our children about our heavenly Father and how he loves his children, and as an earthly Father we speak loudly about how we feel the heavenly Father is too. This can have horrible repercussions if we’re not careful.
Similar to what we just said about how we represent Christ, Douglas Wilson sees as also applying how we represent our heavenly Father:
Fathers are speaking about God the Father constantly. They do not have the option of shutting up. What they are saying may be true or false, but they are not in a position where they can refuse to say anything. A father who sits and stares, a father who is down at the office all the time, a father who deserts the family, a father who just donated sperm at the sperm bank – all of them are speaking. (Douglas Wilson, Father Hunger, 53)
Of course, he doesn’t just stop with detailing these fatherly traits, he continues on to state:
A father who teaches his son to swing a bat, a father who listens to his daughter explain why Peter Rabbit shouldn’t have disobeyed, a father who kisses their mom on the lips, a father who reads for hours to the family in the evening – all of them are speaking too. (Douglas Wilson, Father Hunger, 53)
Then, as adults, it becomes easy to think of the heavenly father in terms we can grasp, and usually end up with comparison to our earthly father’s traits. Thomas Smail puts it like this:
Unless the whole image of fatherhood is corrected or even redeemed, we shall almost inevitably project onto God the father we have loved or missed, have desired or resented, so that our adult spiritual life will be secretly controlled by our reactions to our early family life. (Thomas Smail, The Forgotten Father, 56)
While a godly parental example can do much to lead children to faith in the heavenly Father, abuse of the position has been one of the reasons many an atheist claim as leading to their atheistic beliefs. I quote once more from Douglas Wilson, same section as his previous thoughts.
This is why fathers need to learn how to be strict in the same way that God the Father is strict, and to be merciful in the same way that He is merciful. If we are strict only, we crush the spirit of our children, or we provoke rebellion. If we are merciful only, we create a culture of entitlement and self-indulgence in the home. And in the worst possible combination, if we are strict where God is merciful, and merciful where God is strict, then we are busy supplying the strip clubs of the future with all of their pole dancers and customers. (Douglas Wilson, Father Hunger, 54)
All of this leads to saying that part of taking an initiative with your kids is seeking to spend time with them. If you come home for a busy day at work, and your goal is to just relax and read the paper or watch the news or whatever, and you have little ones interrupting you, seeking attention – give it to them. Better yet, take the initiative, seek them out to spend time with them. They are not a bother, and should never been seen as such, but in fact, if they are seeking attention you are to give it to them.
One of the key things that I made myself do over the year was just this. Whenever I was on my computer doing work, which I was most likely always doing, I made sure that I was never too busy to stop and focus on the children when needed. There were plenty of times where I was working and getting into a zone, and in comes one of the children wanting something.
My first instinct was of course to quickly appease them, and quickly brush them off – but I always tried to stop and remind myself to not do that. I would always remember to stop what I was doing, turn and focus attention to the child at hand. Whether it was just for a hug, or some other inquisitive time, it is important that the children know we are never too busy for them when they need us, and that they can always have quick access to us without feeling like they are a bother.
Sure, sometimes they may want to pull me away and go somewhere, and that was not always possible, but simply turning from my work and focusing on the children for a time was something I tried to keep a priority over the years. It is way too easy for men to think their work is most important, and they ignore the family due to it – that should be avoided as much as possible.
Back in my earliest days of childrearing, we sat under a pastor who had a heart for this topic. He preached long multiple series of sermons on many aspects of familial relations, and I learned a wealth of information on raising children. I wish I can say I succeeded at all of the goals I had set for myself back then, as well as wishing I had consistently applied the learning I had acquired, but I do feel I was much better equipped from the time we were under that teaching. Seeking biblical Christian council from leaders who have a successful track record in this area is very beneficial for new parents.
Understanding the differences between what kinds of attentions boys need versus what girls need was an eye opening education I was glad to have learned. These are not things new parents know necessarily from just life, and the knowledge has been valuable in my approach to each.
Moving on, let’s look briefly at 1 Peter 3 where he is addressing both husbands and wives. He starts in verse one of the chapter telling wives to be subject to their husbands, even if that husband is not obeying the word. Then down in verse seven he tells the husband:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 ESV)
The Bible refers to the wife as the weaker vessel. Typically in life, men tend to be more competitive, and in being so, they exploit weakness. On the football field, if there is a weak player identified on the opposing team, guess where a lot of the plays are going to be directed? Men tend to be geared in a way that they tend to live life in a more competitive manner. This however, must not be the case in marriage.
Since you have become one flesh, your wife’s weakness is your weakness. It is not something to gloat or take pride in. You must take the initiative and provide strength in any such area of weakness – both physical and spiritual. God has put you together to form a tight fitting team, and you support each other to be one unified unit. Competitiveness in a marriage is destructive – humility is not.
In the latter section of Mark 9, we have the story of where Christ asked the disciples what they had been discussing amongst themselves, and they wouldn’t answer him – and why was that? We are told:
But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:34 ESV)
To me, it shows the true humanity of them to hear that the disciples argued over who is greatest among them – it is all part of that competitive nature I guess.
Okay, now this is not a trick question since we’ve already covered it today, but who does the Bible teach us is to be the greatest in the home? The husband, right? As we have seen, according to the Word of God, the husband is the declared head of the home, but again that is not to be viewed as a tyrannical position as the world tends to caricature it into.
And he (Yeshua) sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35 ESV)
Yes, the husband is first in the home, so he should likewise take on the role of a servant. As mentioned, Christ was the ultimate authority over his Apostles, but he was a servant too. Fathers must likewise become servants to their families. Yes, the parents are the authority… yes fathers are the authority… but that office of authority properly and biblically reveals itself in a father’s attitude of servant hood to the home. I quote B.M. Palmer again, who states:
Here is at once the limitation and the grant of his power. The one is folded within the other. If he stands for God in the absoluteness of his rule, then must he take the justice, the tenderness and forbearance of the Divine Lawgiver as the tests of his own fidelity. He who rules for God in this primary commonwealth, must himself learn the law of love as the undertone of his own authority. (B.M. Palmer, The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects)
A father is to be a leader, and what is one of the primary traits we often hear about what makes a good leader? A good leader is said to be one that leads by example. A leader is not one that says “Go!” but is one that says “Come, follow me.” Fathers are likewise to be a leader who leads, not one who simply commands or directs.
In the family though, unlike what we typically think of when we think of leaders and follower though, we should look away from having a thinking pattern that sees things as a chain of command, and look instead to things as a chain of submission. If you want to be first, in a godly way, you should be servant to all. When a newborn infant enters you hone, they have one idea in their head – they are the center of all things. And for the first few months at least that impressions is enforced as everyone responds to their every beaconing call.
The parents are still the head of the home, but at the same time they are the servants. That is the way it ought to be. Authority functioning in a godly way, is an authority true and real, but only when it is operating as an authority of servant hood. That is a godly authority.
If you love your wife as Christ loved the church, she is going to respect you greatly. If you pour yourself out and serve your children in a godly biblical way, they will respect you properly. Now, serving you children and wife does not mean giving them all they want. Serving your wife and children means you are there making decisions not as an individual, but as a representative of a unit.
All decisions should be made with the overall desire of goodness for the whole unit. Decisions and discipline are not to be done for the sole benefit of yourself. Think about the decisions you make, especially when it comes to your children – whose benefit influences your decisions?
When you are reading or doing some other task, and the kids are getting loud or getting out of line, do you discipline them because they have frustrated you and you want peace and quiet? That is not disciplining from a servants heart.
Servant hood authority seeks the betterment of others – you do what you do for their sake, not your own. Disciplining for peace and quiet is simply looking out for number one.
This doesn’t mean you don’t discipline in these instances. It doesn’t mean you don’t work on instructing in control in these instances. It doesn’t mean not setting limits for those in the household. It means that if you attempt to exercise authority in the home as a sort of biblically backed-up way of getting your own way, then it won’t take long for both your wife and kids to see right through that.
On the other hand, if it is evident that you are giving yourself to them, and that the authority you wield and decisions you make is to benefit them and not just done so for your own self-interest, they will be far more disposed to listen to what you have to say, and will respect you naturally without it having to be demanded.
Point of fact. Bringing up godly children requires lots and lots of tough work. Maintaining a health, loving marriage is tough work. Maintaining a peaceful and godly home is tough work. Practicing servant hood authority and giving of yourself in order to do so consistently is really tough work. If you are man enough to do it, and you seek earnestly and with all humility to follow the pattern laid out by Yahweh for your position in life, His blessings will be upon you through the journey.
Happy Father’s day to those men who strive to do so.