Sunday, May 25, 2014
It is said, for example, that adolescent boys are engage in more delinquent behavior if there is no father figure in their lives.1
In his Father Facts, a study on the effects of absentee fathers to their children, Wade F. Horn concluded that the large body of research pertaining to fatherhood reveals that, compared to children raised in two-parent homes, children who grow up without their fathers have significantly worse outcomes, on average, on almost every measure of well being.2
Another study shows that “girls and young women who have an unstable father figure are more liable to unplanned pregnancy, low-self esteem, high school and college drop-out, poverty, divorce and sexually promiscuous behavior.”3
There are exceptions, of course. There are some children who grew up well and fine in single-parent homes or in homes where biological fathers are abusive, absentee or abdicating.
So how important are fathers in our lives? What’s the purpose of their existence in the world? These are the questions I want to address here. I will first explore the biblical responsibilities of the father in the home. Then I will touch a bit on the importance of the role the fathers play in the family and close with a personal reflection.
The Bible tells us of the three-fold duty of fathers. First, fathers are God-ordained leaders of the home. God has called fathers to be His main representative in the home. They have God-given authority to rule and manage the household in God’s stead, in God’s way, and for God’s glory. God’s purpose for the family is to glorify Him by imitating the personal relationships within the Godhead, showing to the world what it means to live harmoniously and in unity in diversity.
In these relationships within the home the father plays a crucial role in seeing to it that everyone does his part and does it willingly and joyfully. Husband-fathers are accountable to God for the well-being of the family. On this ground, order in and success of the family largely depend on the faithfulness of the father in fulfilling his task as the leader. Conversely, disorder and breakdown in the home are mostly due to the neglect or abuse of fathers as leaders.
Second, fathers are providers. Right from the very beginning, man was mandated and equipped by God to work the earth (Gen. 2:15). The entrance of sin did not change man’s task although sin made it harder for him to accomplish his mission. In working the earth man has to till and cultivate the earth in order to receive produce from it. Whatever man receives from nurturing the earth he brings it home to feed and nourish his family.
What this means for the father today is that he is responsible for financial provision of his family. He is the family’s breadwinner, ideally to free his wife up to pursue her vocation in the home as wife and mother. He works in order to meet the needs of the family.
But the father’s duty of providing is not only limited to material needs. He is also to provide spiritual direction and guidance to bring his wife and children to maturity in the faith. Fathers who spend time with his family in reading and studying the word of God and in prayer are doing great service to his family. Fathers who are spiritual leaders in the home are also great leaders in the church and the community. Their children are usually proud of them and are not ashamed to follow their footsteps.
Finally, fathers are protectors of the family. They serve as strength and fortress in the home. The father’s instinct is to secure the well-being of the members of his family by guarding them from intruders. This is part of the father’s calling when God tasked Adam to guard or keep the first garden-home in Eden (Gen. 2:15). Mothers and children feel secure when fathers are equally responsible in this area.
Fathers will especially do well in protecting their family by being willing to lay down even their own lives against any intruder for the sake of their wives and children. No doubt fathers could learn from our Lord Jesus Christ who was willing to give up even his very life to save us and protect His people from the consequence of their sin, which is eternal death. In protecting us, His people, Christ willingly became our substitute taking our place and carried our sins with Him in His vicarious atoning death so that sin and death will no longer be a lethal threat to us.
However, a wise father would also protect his children from their sin and his own sin. We fathers should not be naïve of our and our children’s propensity to sin and foolishness. Being aware of this, we must use our God-given authority and strength to correct our erring children before it’s too late. Remember the sin of Eli who did not restrain his sons from their iniquities. Let us learn then from his unwillingness to discipline his wicked children by lovingly disciplining our children and training them unto righteousness.
Likewise, fathers, protect your family, especially your children from your own sin. Learn self-discipline and self-control. Don’t deceive yourself that your sin has no consequences to your children.
So fathers, let us protect our family by running away from sin, by putting it to death, and by pursuing holiness in humble obedience to God by His Spirit. Author and blogger Tim Challies has a very helpful thought in this area. He said, “Sometimes the greatest gift you [fathers] can give your family is a silent, hidden decision to refrain from pursuing sin.”5
So how important are fathers in the lives of their children? In speaking of his fellow writer, George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis said, “An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe.”
Fathers are powerful instruments in God's hand in bringing up upright and law-abiding children. They are God-sent tools in building godly families, strong churches, and peaceful and orderly communities and nations. That’s how important fathers are in the economy of God.
As a father who knows my role and my responsibilities I am very aware of my many shortcomings. Yet I do not give up pursuing this noble calling of fatherhood. I am not discouraged by my many weaknesses in seeking to carry out these God-given responsibilities for I know that God, our heavenly Father, by His Holy Spirit equips me to persevere in keeping these duties. In spite of my many failures, I thank God for sparing me many sorrows as a father by giving me a godly wife and four wonderful and God-fearing children. It is my prayer that as our children grow I will also grow in my obedience to God’s holy calling as a father – to be a Christ-imitating leader, a faithful provider and a firm protector of my family and children.
1 Freakonomics, “How an Absent Father Affects Boys and Girls Differently,” The Freakonomics Blog, October 19, 2011, accessed May 24, 2014, http://freakonomics.com/2011/10/19/fathers-and-delinquency-in-the-american-family/.
2 Jennifer Flood Eastin, “Impact of Absent Father-Figures on Male Subjects and the Correlation to Juvenile Delinquency: Findings and Implications,” (PhD diss., University of North Texas, 2003) 4-5. Available at http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4332/m2/1/high_res_d/dissertation.pdf.
3 Lisa Mancini, “Father’s Absence and Its Effects on Daughters,” (Thesis, 2010) 3. Available at http://library.wcsu.edu/dspace/bitstream/0/527/1/Final+Thesis.pdf.
4 Tim Challies, “Leadership in the Home – A Godly Man Protects,” Informing the Reforming Blog, December 3, 2009, accessed May 24, 2014, http://www.challies.com/christian-living/leadership-in-the-home-a-godly-man-protects.
5 Tim Challies, “Leadership in the Home – A Godly Man Protects.”