By Joe Chesser
A man can be a great leader and at the same time be a lousy father. A man can be an outstanding prophet, priest, or king, and still be a failure as a parent. It’s such a common problem that there are jokes floating around about preachers’ kids and elders’ kids. To me, that’s tragic. But, even more significant, God thinks it’s tragic, too.
Eli was a priest serving the Lord at Shiloh. As faithful as he was in performing his duties to God and the people, his performance as a parent was awful. It was said of his two sons that they were wicked and that “they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:12). They had the nerve to take the fat portions of the sacrifices that belonged to God and keep them for themselves. Eli didn’t stop them, even though “the sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt” (1 Sam. 2:17). Eli neglected his greatest responsibility – to correct his sons and teach them to be obedient to the Lord and to himself. Finally, the Lord sent a man of God to Eli with a prophecy of his accountability: “Why do you honor your sons more than me ... ?” (1 Sam. 2:29). Eli was faithful in performing the duties of a priest, but was unfaithful is his greatest responsibility – teaching his children to be faithful to God.
Unfortunately, Eli’s example was not unique. Samuel, the prophet who grew up under the mentorship of Eli, turned out the same way. He was personally faithful as a servant of the Lord, anointing both Saul and David as kings, but his sons were very wicked. In fact, it was because his sons were so corrupt that Israel sought to have king (1Sam. 8).
Even David, the best king Israel ever had, would not have won “Father of the Year.” In 1 Kings 1:6 it says of David regarding his rebellious son Adonijah, “His father had never interfered with him by asking ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” As a result, Adonijah set himself up as king over Israel when he thought David was too old to do anything about it.
The New Testament teaches that a part of the qualifications of a man who is to be appointed as an Elders of the church is that he must have proven that he can “manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect” (1 Tim. 3:4). In a similar way, deacons are also to be able to manage their families well (1 Tim. 3:12). It is the responsibility of fathers to teach and train their children in the ways of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
In this brief study it is clear what God views as one of the greatest responsibilities of fatherhood – to teach and train their children in the ways of God and to expect obedience and respect. Children are not obedient and respectful because they are commanded to be, but because a loving and caring father has consistently trained them in God’s ways and demonstrated that kind of life before them day after day.
What greater privilege and responsibility does a father have?
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at email@example.com