By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
There is so much I do not know. Every time I open God’s Word I am humbled by the vast amount of information in a single book. I will spend my lifetime searching its depths, only to realize I have just skimmed the surface.
Most recently I have been studying more on getting my home in order. (With a son heading off to college I am spending more time investing in the lives of my children.) One of the things that continues to stand out to me as I study God’s Word is the continual admonition for fathers to teach children God’s commands. Our primary job is to teach the next generation a fidelity and love for Almighty God. We are to mentor and shape their hearts in such a fashion that they will be able to withstand all the attacks of Satan. We see this played out all throughout Biblical history and the consequences of generations who failed to do so. God’s Word is abundantly clear that this is the most important job a father will do for his children.
Yet, the reality is we aren’t. I say that with respect, love, and kindness in my heart—but the overwhelming evidence is we are producing worldly children who will one day either leave the church or try to change it into something more entertaining. English Anglican cleric George Whitefield, in his sermon, “The Great Duty of Family Religion,” wrote: “[E]very governor of a family ought to look upon himself as obliged to act in three capacities as a prophet, to instruct; as a priest, to pray for and with; as a king, to govern, direct, and provide for them.”
We have become providers and protectors at the expense of being prophets and kings. Yes, we are able to put a roof over their head and we are able to feed them. But we are not making true disciples for Christ who go on to produce more fruit for Him. Sure, some of them may get wet in the baptistery—but they are not putting on the new man (Colossians 3:8) and becoming fruit bearers for Him. They are worldly and church is just one more “to do” item on their very busy schedules.
[Insert here many men arguing against me that it is our JOB to provide for our families, using 1 Timothy 5:8 as their justification—which is actually talking about providing for widowed parents. I recognize it is our duty to provide for our families, but if that comes at the expense of their eternal souls then what good did those provisions really do?]
So, this is the point at which I look you in the eyes and tell you I don’t know everything. I don’t know how a man is to make a living and have the time (and energy) to fulfill God’s commands regarding his children. Our culture has deemed that it is normal, acceptable, and expected that a man should spend from about 7:00am – 4:00pm involved in a career that has nothing to do with the souls of his children. How do you nourish a marriage and train up your children when you only see them 2-3 hours per day? There is much I don’t’ know—but I do know what we’ve been doing is not working. That fact is crystal clear. (And sadly, not many men seem eager to change this cultural norm.)
Training up children is hard work. In fact, I would argue it is the toughest job out there. And as a result, it is often one that is neglected, overlooked, forgotten, or delegated to someone else.
We read articles or blogs on Proverbs 22:6, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Ephesians 6:4 that twist the text in such a way as to relinquish responsibility for training up children. Instead, we expect Bible class teachers and youth ministers to perform this crucial role. We are comforted by sermons that allow us to continue putting in the hours at work without any guilt or any admonition to change. Even homeschool dads pass it off to their wives, expecting them to handle the role that God has given to fathers.
The bottom line is the Bible repeatedly instructs fathers to teach their children God’s commands and to instill a love and fidelity to Him. If something is interfering with that—even a career—we need to have the internal strength to consider what is truly important. We need to remember what has eternal consequences. We need to be talking as a church family about how we can fulfill this crucial role. Some will read this as an article “bashing” fathers. What it really is is a plea for fathers to reevaluate—to step up and fulfill the role God has entrusted us with.
How can you work 40-50 hours per week and still instruct your children properly? As I said to begin with—there is so much I don’t know. But I do know this: In the coming weeks, I will watch my Facebook feed light up with fathers who have time to follow their favorite college football team or play fantasy football. There will be millions tuned into the World Series. There will be millions invested into the stock market. There will be hours spent on social media. And there will be thousands of our own young people who leave home who are not thirsting for righteousness or possessing a deep love for God.
Providers and protectors? Absolutely. Prophets and priests? Not so much.
The 4 Jobs of Fathers (and the 2 that Get Forgotten)
By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.