How to change a tire. How to mow the lawn. How to grill a steak. How to treat a woman. How to shave. How to respect your elders. How to be a gentleman. These, and many other skills are often passed down from father to son. While some of these skills are cultural and some are biblical, they are commonly found in our society. But what are the priorities of biblical fatherhood? What should Christian father’s focus upon when raising their children?
Scripture is not silent on this topic. Actually, an entire book of the Bible is devoted to a father’s instruction to his son—the book of Proverbs. Often known as a book of wisdom, we cannot ignore the basic element of author and recipient. Here, the author is a father addressing his son (1:8, 10; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1, 10, 20; 5:1; 6:1, 20; 7:1). The author, Solomon, begins by highlighting the father’s primary responsibility to his child—to teach him about the Lord and the dangers of sin.
Wisdom from Without, Not From Within. From the beginning, Solomon makes the point that true wisdom is not found within one’s self, but without. He says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (v. 7a). He reminds his sons that wisdom speaks and it is their responsibility to listen (2:2), seek and search after (2:4).
The concept that wisdom is from without not from within runs against the grain of our modern society. Today, we are told to look for wisdom and truth inside of ourselves. Solomon understands that this would be a road towards destruction, “ . . . fools despise wisdom and instruction” (v. 7b). He states that those who reject wisdom from without and pursue foolishness, “run to evil and they hasten to shed blood” (v. 16). The world, through its wisdom, will reject God’s wisdom which leads to their destruction, “for the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them” (1:31–32).
This indicates the father’s responsibility to raise their children in the fear and knowledge of the Lord. This is a truth reiterated in the New Testament (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). The benefit of knowing the Lord outweighs the benefit of worldly knowledge. God’s wisdom provides discernment more valuable that silver or hidden treasure (2:4).
In today’s world, God’s wisdom is seen in leaning upon the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:30). By coming to Him we have reconciliation with the Father and access to cry out to God and plead for the wisdom from without that we all need (Jas 1:5–8). Fathers must teach their children about the person and work of Jesus Christ. They must labor to show their children that wisdom is only found in Him.
Fathers, teach your children the gospel.
The Dangers of Sin. In the same manner, a father who teaches their children the gospel will also teach them about the dangers of sin. Solomon makes this clear, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (1:10). Saying yes to the wisdom of God is a simultaneous decision to say no to the world, to say no to sin. Fathers bear the responsibility to warn their children that sin is evil, dangerous, harmful and offensive towards God. Good fathers warn, “My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, for their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood” (1:15–16).
Warning against sin is painful because at our core we are sinners. Sin feeds our desires and lusts from the moment we are conceived (Ps 51:5). We crave sin, we are children of wrath (Eph 2:1–2). The danger of sin is so serious that the Bible uses language of warfare to describe the Christian’s relationship with it (Rom 8:13; 2 Cor 10:5; Eph 6:10–17). This tension exists inside of the believer. The unbeliever loves their sin, loves their darkness (John 3:19).
This is a tall task for fathers. They are laboring to teach children who love sin the danger of sin. The source of this sin is within. It is dangerous for fathers to assume the innocence of their children, or to blame their child’s playmates for their bad behavior when the reality is that sin is residing in their child’s heart. It is thriving and occupying valuable real estate. Fathers take the responsibility to use Scripture to warn their children of the dangers of their own heart.
Fathers, warn your children about the danger of sin residing in their heart.
My Grandfathers and Fathers. While I was not raised by this man, I am the direct recipient of the labors of my father-in-law to raise my wife. I am grateful for his love and care for her. Without him, I would not have my beautiful bride!
Sadly, I never had the chance to meet my maternal grandfather. He had passed when my mother was in her teens. Still, from what I hear about him I am thankful for the life he lived and people he influenced.
My paternal grandfather was a man of strong conviction and industry. He worked hard as a farmer and also did a lot of carpentry in the Philippines. As he migrated here he still worked hard. I have memories of him building things in his garage and helping my dad remodel our kitchen. Still, those building projects or the farm are not what I remember him for, I was not around for any of that. As a child, his lasting imprint was his insistence that the entire family gather every Saturday to read, pray, sing, and study Scripture. We had family devotions with all my aunts and uncles and cousins. That was what he wanted and so that was what we did.
Did my father teach me to change a tire? Yes. Did he teach me to mow the lawn? Yes. Did he teach me a host of other culturally masculine activities? Yes. But that is not what I value most about my relationship with my father. What I value most was his commitment to take my family to church every Sunday. I value his desire to raise me and my sister in the fear and knowledge of the Lord. In no way was it done in perfection, but I am grateful that the proper efforts were there to bring me to the gospel and to warn me about the dangers of sin.
I am grateful for my father. I am also grateful for my father’s father (my grandfather!). Each one, imperfect, but both of them aiming to serve their families to the best of their abilities. I am a humble recipient of their diligent labor in life. Still, I am most grateful for how God used them to bring me to faith in Christ—a gift more precious than earthly citizenship, earthly inheritance, or worldly prestige.
Happy Father’s Day