Op-Ed: There's a Roadmap for Dads Everywhere in the Bible
It isn’t hard to conjure up images of a dysfunctional father: failure to provide financial support, absence from the home physically and emotionally, and all forms of physical and substance abuse.
Modern media almost seems to delight in showing us fathers who don’t measure up. We are constantly bombarded by images of either macho men who chase women for conquest or hardened drunks who terrorize the women (and others) around them.
For men seeking to be good fathers, the successful formula is not merely the absence of poor or toxic behavior, but instead is the aggressive pursuit of loving your wife, sacrificing yourself for your family, being undistracted and present, and laying down your life for the gospel of Christ Jesus.
In a culture that undermines the traditional family, minimizes the role of fathers and rejects the marks of the Maker, we must celebrate the fact that dads matter to families just as much as moms matter. We must acknowledge that God designed men and women uniquely to play specific roles in the family unit. When those God-given roles are thwarted, broken or dismissed, weak families and a confused society are the results.
Father’s Day is an excellent time for us to pause and celebrate the godly men in our lives, while also making the case for biblical fatherhood. This view of fatherhood dissents radically against the moral order and depraved images we see all too often depicted in our society. This view of fatherhood rests wholly on the purview of manhood presented in God’s Word.
As my friends Rick Burgess and Andy Blanks wrote in their book “How to Be a Man,”
“Examples of what a real man is can be hard to come by. The big problem is simply that you’re starving for good examples of what a man is. Some of you don’t know exactly where to look for your model. Even the godliest guy you know isn’t a perfect example. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus makes it possible for you to have an identity that is completely found in Himself.”
As men and fathers, we are called to be leaders and particularly the leaders of our homes. God gives crucial instructions to his people in Deuteronomy 6 and specifically gives responsibility to godly men.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says, “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.”
The central, God-given role for fathers is to lead children to know and follow him.
We need fathers who take the explicit instructions of this verse seriously. We need men who love implicitly, lead and show attention to their wives and children. Wives need husbands who love and lead them tenderly and compassionately while valuing their worth and dignity.
Why? Because these men can show the gospel to the culture as they emulate the love of Christ for his church in their own families. Men pursuing these things become heroes to their children not because of personal accomplishment, but because of submission to Christ.
As a husband and a father, it is both my honor and privilege to help my wife flourish in her giftings, to lead her with integrity and honor, to love her with the love of Christ, and to partner with her in pointing our children to God’s Word and godly instruction.
There are six applications of this passage in Deuteronomy that I believe give men a great start in seeking to honor Christ in their families.
First, make uninterrupted family meals a priority. If we are to have an impact, our lives cannot revolve around activities, entertainment and sport. We must prioritize family time.
Gathering regularly for family meals takes planning and sacrifice, but it works. A huge body of research shows a direct relationship between regular family meals and children’s ability to learn and achieve in school. Researchers are only validating what the Bible already tells us; intentional family gathering is extremely important.
Second, spend uninterrupted time with each child individually. So many relational, trust and discipling opportunities are found in these special times.
Third, spend time reading to your children. This includes reading the Bible to your kids, but is not limited to it. We certainly need to read God’s Word to our children, but they also need to hear a dad read silly, pointless books that lead to a lot of belly laughter.
Fourth, pray for and with your children verbally. Our children need to know we are praying for them and trusting the Lord for them. This posture helps them to depend not solely on mom and dad, but on Christ alone.
And fifth, play with your children. Our kids need us to enter into their world, likes and interests.
Lastly, speak of Jesus to your children continually. Look at what God said in Deuteronomy. “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.”
Moses did not record that we are supposed to have special teaching times with our kids to sit down and study Scripture together (although that’s good and really important, too). He was careful to remind us that powerful teaching happens when Jesus is part of our everyday lives and conversations.
Let us be intentional in pointing our kids to Christ in the everyday moments of life. We must use every opportunity and experience to sow gospel threads in their hearts. Every sunset is an opportunity to praise the grandeur of God. Every adventure provides a great time to talk about a God who pursues us with reckless abandon. We must speak of Jesus constantly to our children.
As dads, we serve our wives wholeheartedly when we partner with them in these ways to raise our children.
As godly men, we must humbly serve and protect the weak, the vulnerable and the orphaned. We must seek integrity in every area of our lives. And we must lead our families, communities, churches and businesses with courage and conviction.
We are God’s image-bearers of justice and strength to a watching world. We are called to bring strength and stability to our families.
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