By Brian Mitchell
For the man with children, it does not matter what profession one may choose, there is no greater work than that which is done as a father. When it comes to the problems which ail our society a lengthy list could be produced. However, I would suggest to you that one of the greatest problems our society is facing is the absence of the godly father in the home, and I am not just talking about the homes where the father has left. A father does not have to leave the home to leave the home. Many homes have broken down merely because the fathers of our society have abdicated their roles as the leader of the family. As a tragic result, many of our children and our society are suffering as a result.
Consider the following statistics regarding children in homes where the father is absent, in spirit or in presence. Children without fathers are at an increased risk for antisocial behaviors—such as fighting, lying, cheating and criminal behavior. They are at an increased risk for depression and suicide. They are nearly twice as likely to engage in the use of tobacco products, illegal drugs and alcohol; and twice as likely to engage in pre-marital sex. Let us never underestimate the powerful influence that fathers have in the lives of their children and thus in our world as a whole. It has been said that, “Children love their mothers, but they follow their fathers.” If this is true, as father we must ask; where are we leading our children?
In Eph.6:4 the Apostle Paul examines the work of the father in both negative (what they shouldn’t do) and positive terms (what they should do). If we as fathers are going to lead our children anywhere worth going we need to understand what Paul says our work as a father is. To fathers Paul writes, “and you father, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Let us first consider the work of the father from the negative perspective. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath.” Provoke to wrath—is a term which means to make angry and when fathers provoke their children they are causing them to become discouraged, frustrated, and eventually to lose heart. Fathers can do this through unrealistic expectations, preferential treatment of siblings, the use of excessive disciple or simply neglect. Regardless of how one might cause his own children to lose heart, Paul says don’t do it. This does not mean that children will agree with every decision a father makes but it does call for careful attention to how one is dealing with his children and the affect it is having on them.
From the positive perspective Paul says that fathers are to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” “In the training” refers to a holistic child education and includes the discipline needed to carry it out. As I said, excessive discipline can provoke a child to wrath but this does not mean that loving discipline done to instruct children in righteousness is not needed. “And admonition of the Lord” refers to instruction or warning, the qualifying phrase of which is “in the Lord.” Thus, we as fathers are supposed to impart spiritual instruction to our children. While the mothers must help in all of this, the primary responsibility lay with the father.
So on this Father’s Day I encourage each of our fathers here to answer an important question; Where are You Leading Your Children?
- Brian Mitchell preaches for the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.jacksonchurchofchrist.net