by Jefferson David Tant
Men have some very important roles to fulfill in family life. There are quite a few passages in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments that mention their responsibilities. This article is focused on the relationship with their children that God has given fathers.
One of the early passages on this subject deals with God choosing Abraham to be a leader, since “Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him" (Genesis 18:18-19). Obviously, God knew something about Abraham’s character and what he would do as a father.
Then we have a familiar passage in Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.”
There are passages that deal with the subject in the New Testament, as well. Ephesians 6:4 is a well-known admonition: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The phrase “bring them up” is from the Greek "ektrepho,” which is defined as “to rear up to maturity, i.e. (genitive case) to cherish or train:--bring up, nourish.”
We need to be reminded of these exhortations, as we live in a busy world today. Fathers have jobs so they can earn money to provide for the family, and there is time spent watching TV, reading newspapers and magazines, taking care of things around the house such as mowing the lawn and making repairs when needed, etc. And in their busy lives, sometimes neglect one of the most important things a father can do, which is to be the spiritual leader of his children.
This is not to negate the influence of mothers in this role, for that is also vitally important. We know that it was Timothy’s mother and grandmother that had a great influence on his life. Paul wrote about this in II Timothy 1:5 and 3:15: "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” – “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
We know that Timothy’s father was not a Christian, and obviously, his mother and grandmother fulfilled their responsibility in his spiritual education.
In today’s society, I am afraid that too many times the chief teacher of spiritual values to children is the mother, and it is commendable that mothers fulfill their role in this. But that does not excuse fathers from their God-given responsibility.
In our society today in the United States, there are more and more attacks on faith in God. By some estimates, 70% of our children lose their faith by the time they graduate from college. There are professors who have stated that their aim is to destroy the faith of their students and make them citizens of the 21st Century.
Consider the following quote:
“Children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So, we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible…than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth our or lock them in a dungeon.” (“What Shall We Tell the Children?”, Amnesty Lecture, Oxford, Feb. 21, 1997).
This is what we have to deal with in our nation in this day and time, as God and the Bible have been kicked out of our public schools.
Fathers, you have a vital role to fill with respect to your children, not only with your teaching but with your example. And that role begins when they are young. The word “childhood” in II Timothy 3:15 is from the Greek “brephos” and is defined as “an infant (properly, unborn) literally or figuratively:--babe, (young) child, infant.”
In our home when our children were growing up, the breakfast table was the place for our morning devotional before our children left to go to school. Their neighborhood friends were invited, and some did come, and in time were baptized into Christ.
Fathers, you have various roles to fill in your lives, but there is no more important role than for you to fulfill the role given to you as a father, as cited earlier in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”