The Need for Good Fathers

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” — Proverbs 22:15

“I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father…” — John 8:38

We do not have to go far to discover evidence of the need for good fathers. Its absence is keenly felt in every unmarried woman’s delivery, just under 41% of all births in this country.[1] Census figures reveal the array of what is termed “social” costs that accompany the lack of fathers in the home. As of 2011, 24 million children live in households without a father present.[2] Numerous studies through the years have directly correlated this lack of fatherhood to juvenile delinquency, early sexual activity, poverty, child abuse, obesity, as well as the mental, emotional and behavioral instability of children growing up in fatherless homes. What of the spiritual sum of all this? Together these are wreaking destruction on the lives of all concerned not merely due to the material costs involved but because of the spiritual and moral price children, parents, and the rest of us are paying because fathers have chosen simply to remain absent from their families.

This is not entirely without cause. It has come about in large measure from the virtual criminalization of manhood by a culture that has been feminizing everything and everyone for many years. It is no surprise to those aware of this on any level that manly attributes and chivalric codes are ridiculed instead of respected, shunned instead of sought. Gender, it is claimed, is simply a construction of that male-dominated society that ruled history for so many centuries. While history has actually been wrought by no shortage of ambitious women as well as violent men, it is the noble attributes of self-control, kindness, faithfulness, longsuffering, and other fruits of the Spirit real men possess that are the targets for extermination in our culture. The flaunting of transgender identity, whether it be in the Girl Scouts or on the cover of magazines at the grocery store, is but the latest manifestation of a Pandora’s box opened long ago with the victory of political correctness against those good qualities of genuine manliness. Making men feel ashamed to be good men was not in the interest of those who came from abusive homes nor in defense of those hurt by violent and evil people. Yet, the innocent are condemned while the guilty are praised and rewarded.

This is reminiscent of the days of Isaiah, when he diagnosed the culture of that time, as it called “evil good and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.”[3] The very bitter fruits of fatherhood’s denigration will continue to accumulate and poison the future if our persist in cutting the moorings that have anchored civilization with the blessings of good fathers. “There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness…A generation whose teeth are like swords, and whose fangs knives, To devour the poor from off the earth, And the needy from men.”[4] Our generation is not the first to disregard the authority of parents, especially that of fathers, but those reaping much of what this generation has sown will be the most vulnerable among us, those in the greatest need, spiritually above all else. There simply is no remedy that can heal, no escape from the moral insanity that society has courted without first returning to a biblical perspective on masculinity and fatherhood.

Masculinity is simply part of God’s created order just as femininity is. The emphasis on womanhood while selling short manliness is rendering a disservice to both. It weakens and demeans the nobility of humanity, auctions off the beauty of marriage for something wholly unnatural and perverse, and bequeaths to our children a legacy of suffering and maladjustment to any existence in reality. It replaces a grounded life for one that is rootless, prone to exploitation, and subject to the most basic moral confusion. Fathers complete the home with the strength and courage authentic manliness supplies. This is not the strength to inflict pain or the courage to behave recklessly; these do not make men. It is in restraint and fidelity, kindness and firmness, wisdom and diligence, perseverance and perspective that all good men are identified. These virtues are matched with a physical power endowed to apply them in protecting the home, shepherding the family, and disciplining children. Fathers are warned not to exasperate their children under a severe hand, but, in contrast, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to be taught in the healthy balance of gentle but firm instruction.[5]

In one of the Lord’s discussions with skeptics about His identity as the Son of God, He revealed a small but incidental truth about something we usually take for granted.[6] Children do what they see their fathers do. To end the cycle of anger, strife, discord and restore peace, joy, and love to families, it starts with the behavior of fathers. If you are impatient and selfish, your children will see it and fail to learn discipline and patience from you, if at all. Fathers do far more than furnish material or physical security, they furnish example. Good fathers furnish character and spiritual leadership. Your conduct as a father either places needless barriers they must overcome alone or guides them through their training into fully-grown adults. We are not doing them, ourselves, or society a favor by allowing children to raise themselves, be brought up by their peers, or with that hypersensitivity of avoiding any attempt to correct a child lest it hurt self-esteem. In fact, Scripture describes correction as the natural result of love. To withhold correction and discipline is to hate the child. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly”[7]

The meaning of the Hebrew term translated “rod” (transliterated shebet, sheh-vet) has often been a point of contention, either brandished to discredit corporal punishment or to sanction it. The Hebrews had a word for a staff, switch or stick, mak-kehl (mock-keel) found in Genesis 30:37; Exodus 12:11; Numbers 22.27; 1 Samuel 17:40; and Jeremiah 1:11, among other places.[8] The shebet indicates something broader but just as potent. Translated variously as sceptre, tribe or rod, it denotes parental authority not simply the physical object used to impress it on the child.[9] The parent surrenders this authority with every failure to correct behavior, allowing the child to assume a co-equal partnership in that authority structure. Your child is not just a buddy. Your child needs the reinforcement of good and consistently applied (this is the hard part!) standards. Giving children absolute privacy, a free rein to define their own boundaries may feel good right now but is teaching a child freedom does not require responsibility. Moreover, this is not exercising the shebet of parenting, and it risks their spiritual futures as well as your own. The Scripture says, “Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction,”[10] and again, “Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.”[11] It presents us with an interesting concept, not only will failure to correct children promptly have eternal ramifications but will be wishing those consequences on our children if we do not use the shebet, the authority to discipline.

We are experiencing the grave price exacted by absentee fathers. The family, society, the culture are all weaker for it. Until a biblical perspective, starting with each one of us, is restored in our homes, impressed upon our children, the cycle will only escalate. We do not have long to wait for the wilderness of destroyed values to engulf us, it is well underway. To resist it make take as public a commitment as Joshua’s, who declared, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”[12] It may require a quiet and prayerful plea to a child before he or she takes that irreversible step that will forever change life for them and others. Whatever the case, everyone needs the discipline and example of good, strong fathers.

” ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”[13]

We would all do well to see that peaceable fruit of righteousness return again to our families, our neighborhoods, and our land. Good fathers, fearlessly and unashamedly emulating our still greater Father, will contribute mightily to that end.

[1] “FastStats: Unmarried Childbearing,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarried-childbearing.htm.

[2] “Father Facts,” National Fatherhood Initiative, http://www.fatherhood.org/father-absence-statistics.

[3] Isaiah 5:20

[4] Proverbs 30:11-12, 14

[5] Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21

[6] John 8:38ff

[7] Proverbs 13:24

[8] George V. Wigram, The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001, pp.758-9.

[9] Wigram pp.1225-6; cf. the Greek paideuo in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Walter Bauer. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1958, pp.603-4.

[10] Proverbs 19:18

[11] Proverbs 23:13-14

[12] Joshua 24:15

[13] Hebrews 12:5-11

One thought on “The Need for Good Fathers”

  1. I remember as a child, my father and mother were not Christians, however, the one thing my father DID teach me was, Your word is your bond!! I saw him do many things with just his word and a hand shake! I did in their later years, lead them both to the Lord and lives did change! I thank God for my dad’s teaching me that a man is only as good as his word!!
    God has been good to me!! I PRAISE God Daily!!

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