Duties of Fathers or What Fathers Owe Their Children

By Robert E. Speer

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture (training  NKJV; discipline  NASB) and admonition (instruction  NASB) of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, KJV).

Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). He did not say his house would serve the Lord if his wife and/ or children did not complain too much about it, or if the family was not too busy. Joshua spoke with the resolve needed by fathers today. He spoke as a spiritual leader of his household, ready and willing to fulfill his duty.

Solomon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). God spoke of Abraham, saying, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19). This is what is said of Abraham, but it falls under the duties of all fathers; it is a large part of what fathers owe their children.

Children do not ask to be born. When one becomes a father, one owes that child much, guiding that child in physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual development (cf. Luke 2:52). When one becomes a father one presents a child with a momentous opportunity to be lost in an eternal hell! Paul listed 21 or 22 things for which those “who refused to have God in their knowledge were worthy of death,” and the list includes being disobedient to parents” (Rom. 1:28-32). Hence, the father owes his child the example, the leadership, the training, the discipline, the instruction which will give the child a decisive opportunity to be saved in an eternal heaven!

Most parents will teach their children such fundamentals as how to dress, how to eat, how to get along with others. They will take the time to teach their children to drive a car. They will choose their secondary school districts and colleges. They may guide them toward their careers. Sadly, most will neglect the spiritual development of their children.

The Christian has no excuse for such neglect. Fathers have both Old and New Testament criterion for teaching their children the ways of the Lord. Under the Old Law parents were to teach their children and grandchildren their history with respect to God (Deut. 4:8-9). The people of God were to accept his statutes, and teach them diligently to their children (Deut. 6:6-7). Paul advised the Colossian fathers, “provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (3:21), and the Ephesians were likewise told, “provoke not your children to wrath” (6:4). On the positive side, fathers are to bring up their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Fathers owe their children this kind of training, considering them heirs together in the grace of life” (cf. I Pet. 3:7).

Further, fathers do well, by example and word, to teach their children how to be a mate, and how to choose a mate. One’s child will marry a child of God or a child of the devil (cf. Rom. 8:16; Acts 13:10). It is not enough to marry one who claims to be a member of the church”; rather, one needs to marry a true disciple of Christ. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

It takes time to be a dedicated father, one that is faithful to the Lord and to his child(ren). This task can not rightfully be abdicated nor surrendered to the mother. (The role of mothers is precious, but motherhood is a different role than fatherhood.) Consider the words of Edgar A. Guest in his “Orphans of the Living,” here quoted in part:

We think of orphans only, as little girls and lads,

Who haven’t any mothers, and who haven’t any dads.

But sometimes I look about me, and in sorrow hang my head,

As I look on something sadder than the orphans of the dead.

They’re orphans of the living, left alone to romp and play,

From their fathers and their mothers, by ambition shut away.

They have fathers who are busy, and so weighted down with cares,

That they haven’t time to listen to a little child’s affairs.

Lord, I would not grow so busy that I cannot drop my task,

And answer every question which that child of mine can ask.

Let me never serve ambition here so selfishly, I pray,

That I cannot stop to listen to things my children say.

For whatever cares beset them, let them know I’m standing by;

I don’t want to make them orphans, till the time I come to die.

Fathers, do your duty! Lead your children to heaven; you owe it to them as a God-given responsibility.

Guardian of Truth XLI: 12 p. 20-21
June 19, 1997