by Steven Chan
As the world celebrates Father’s Day, it may be good for us to reflect on what the Bible teaches about the role, responsibility of fathers and the respect to be accorded to them. There are two main passages that we shall look at.
In Eph 6:1-4, the apostle Paul wrote:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
In Heb 12:5-11, the Bible says:-
“And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 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? 10 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. 11 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.
1. Fathers are entrusted by God to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord
- Children are to be brought up; not simply left on their own to grow up;
- Bringing up children implies focused effort and attention by the father;
- Children are to be brought up not in accordance with the way and philosophy of the world, but in the “training and instruction of the Lord”
- This implies that fathers themselves need to know the instruction of the Lord
- It requires fathers to use the instructions of the Lord to guide their children as they grow up so that they may be able to make right choices in their lives
2. Fathers need to chasten or discipline their children as they bring them up in the instruction of the Lord
- Fathers who fail to discipline their children effectively make their children as if they are without fathers, i.e. de facto illegitimate children. God deals with us “as sons” and so He corrects us.
- Fathers who correct their children do so according to what seemed best for the good of the children; acts of discipline are not to be used as outlets of frustration of the father
- Correction of children are not joyful at the time when imposed but painful; there is no such thing as a painless correction – although this does not mean that the rod has to be used every time
- Correction is for the purpose of training the children to produce the fruit of righteousness, i.e. so that they children will know how to live right
- When fathers correct their children, they need to remember that we all have our heavenly Father who also corrects or discipline us in love for our good; we need to appreciate the manner in which in our heavenly Father corrects us whenever we seek to discipline our own children.
3. Fathers ought not to provoke or exasperate their children to such an extent that they become filled with anger.
- Fathers need to realize that there is a risk or possibility (especially if they do not bear that in mind) that they may be guilty of provoking their children into anger or wrath
- This does not mean that we should not correct our children for fear of them becoming angry – recall that Cain was angry because God rejected his sacrifice but accepted his brother, Abel’s sacrifice; yet God tried to reason with Cain and warned him of the danger of letting his anger overwhelm and control him and his action to such an extent that he will sin (Gen 4:1-8)
- But it does mean that fathers should be careful not to be the one who provoke or cause our children to grow up as “angry children” because of our unreasonableness, lack of sensitivity for the feelings of our children or failure to communicate properly with them so that they understand the reason for which they are being corrected. As God Himself said in Isa 1:18-20:
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
4. Children are to “obey their parents” (and that includes both father and mother).
- Why should they obey? Because that is right – meaning that it is the right way to live, and the right thing to do – in God’s sight.
5. Children are to “honor their father and mother”.
- Why? Because that’s God’s commandment
- There’s also the promise that if we honor our parents, we will be blessed such that all will be well with us, and also we may live long on the earth.
- Honor means more than just paying lip service. According to 1 Tim 5:4, children and grandchildren need to “learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God”. It includes contributing to their financial support (Matt 15:1-6; I Tim 5:8)
6. Children are not to despise the correction by fathers, nor to become discouraged when being corrected by fathers. We need to understand that the reason why our fathers correct us is because we are their children or “sons” and “daughters” – they are responsible to bring us up in God’s instructions and for our good. They are doing what seemed best so that we may be trained to walk in the way of righteousness.
6. Children are to endure chastening or correction by our fathers. In other words, we need to bear with the discipline as it will afterwards yield its fruit of righteousness after we have been trained by it. We all understand that it is no fun when we are undergoing training but once we have been trained, we will be better prepared for life. We need to know that “life is hard and tough” and the training we received when we are young will stand us in good stead when the “hard and tough” times come. It is sad and tragic to read about young adults being unable to cope with their lives and some even resorting to ending their own lives, because they had not been trained to face life with all its challenges, with God as their helper (Heb 13:5-6)
So, as the world celebrates “father’s day”, let us remember what our Lord teaches about our role and responsibility as fathers, and also the respect due to our fathers. May fathers do a better job of bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of our Lord.