Father’s Duty to the Family
We begin with a definition of terms. Duty refers to an obligation, something that not only ought to be done, but is not optional. It is something bound upon a person. A family in this discussion is one that includes the basic unit of father, mother, child or children. Families may be different from this with extended families, one-parent families, and various arrangements that are morally acceptable. Some families are without a father or mother due to death or divorce. Some families do not include children. Arrangements of kin in the same house are also prominent. Many of us have known two aunts living together, a father and daughter at the same house, etc. We always speak of moral associations.
Even with a father there may be exceptional families because the father is ill, or unable to discharge his duties for other reasons. But we generally consider the father as the man of the house, with the role of husband and parent of the children. Other members of the family may well share his work in some respects, but there are certain responsibilities that are his that cannot be shifted to someone else. This is that upon which we shall focus our attention.
Responsibility to God
The father must accept his personal duty to God (Romans 14:12: Ecclesiastes 12:13). This will determine his duties to others and how he is to meet other obligations. He cannot fulfill his duty if he leaves God out because God is the originator and designer of the home, having brought it into existence with purpose.
Duty to God means he has a duty to family because God requires that of him. It seems that many do not understand they have a duty to family at all. Many families have no father figure for the children. Either through abandonment, neglect, abuse, failure to support, or just shirking of duty, many fathers have been sorely lacking. First Timothy 5:8, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
God’s Word teaches the father has a duty, what that duty is, and how serious a matter it is. The Bible is the best handbook on fatherhood that has been written.
Responsibility Begins Early
A man’s responsibility to his family begins before he even has a family. How we need to teach our young men this vital truth. He is to keep himself morally pure, develop his character, learn to work, and to never be abusive toward members of his family whether they are younger, older, or whatever the relationship. He must not abuse his body with drugs lest the consequences be a detriment to his yet unborn children. He needs to learn what true love is. In other words, he must learn what his duties are before he undertakes the discharge of them.
He does this best when he makes himself a man of faith, integrity, conviction, and honor rather than simply seeking wealth, power, fame, and pleasure. Being a father is not a boy’s job. It takes a real man. Too many males in our land are not real men when it comes to facing responsibilities.
Duty Assumed With Marriage
The family originally consists of two people. He is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). This is God’s order, so we ought not complain against it. Being the head means he must develop and demonstrate love, sacrifice, loyalty, and faithfulness. It is impossible to discharge his duty to his family if he is unfaithful to his wife. He cannot and will not be a good father if the vows of marriage are violated.
His role is that of leadership which demands acceptance of responsibility. In other words, “the buck stops here” with him. This is not a matter of superiority or inferiority. A John Deere tractor does one work and a Timex watch does another. These items serve different roles. So it is with husband and wife. Every efficient unit must have a leader and the wisdom of God is that the husband is the leader. We are sorry this does not satisfy the God-hating feminist movement in our twisted society. Much of the world rejects this order, but it is still right because it pleases God, and it pleases those who love God. And please take a candid look at what the displacement of roles has done to our children and society generally! What sane person can defend it?
First Timothy 5:8 has already been quoted. The provision the father is to provide includes food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and protection. He must see that the home gives every occupant security, that the home is a haven and a harbor of refuge. He does this by hard work. Circumstances such as illness, losses, emergencies, etc. may require assistance at times, possibly on a permanent basis. But these are exceptions. The greatest provision a father can give his children is their mother’s time. Mothers ought be quick to give that time.
The father has the prime duty to provide spiritual training (Ephesians 4:6: Proverbs 22:6). Possibly in this realm is most of the dereliction of duty seen among fathers. But fathers are to provide guidance, instruction, advice, counsel, discipline, an example in habits, speech, industry, self-control, attitudes, treatment of others in and out of the family. He is to exercise authority, set priorities, determine values, rules, and standards by which the family is to be regulated. The wife and children are necessarily involved, but he is the one God expects to see that the right things are provided.
This does not mean he can rule as a tyrant. He must not have the “I-am-the-boss” attitude. He is no dictator. He encourages input from the family, is unselfish, sacrificial, behaves with consideration and cooperation with the others. He must be both tender and firm, kind but determined, considerate and strong. He is the captain of the ship and God looks to him for the welfare of the family. Every member of the family ought to help him in every way to fulfill his God-given assignment. They must avoid mutiny and usurpation of authority. They are to lovingly give obedience, respect, and cooperation.
Consequences of Failure
The study of Eli, Samuel, Lot, and David in connection with Absalom are graphic demonstrations of fathers who did not assume and discharge the proper role toward their children. The pain, grief, sorrow, and even death that these families suffered can be traced directly to parental failure to serve as proper fathers.
Let it be said of us as was said of Abraham, Genesis 18:19, “For 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.”
Let us now discover some practical matters that define the duty of fathers physically and spiritually. How long has it been since:
(1) You led the family in prayer, even giving thanks to God at mealtime?
(2) When did you last pray for each member of the family, and that you might fulfill your duty to them?
(3) When did you last study your Bible, told your children some Bible story, provided them with evidence of God, His character, both His goodness and severity?
(4) Have you given up your “free time” for them lately? Great opportunities arise to guide while walking, swinging, playing in the sand box or playground, or taking special interest in activities special to them.
(5) How long since you took the entire family on some outing like a picnic, games, building memories, creating a sense of belonging and emotional security? Such outings need not be expensive nor elaborate, but should always be pleasant to recall and discuss.
(6) Do you show concern for their education, books, teachers, grades, and what is being implanted in their minds by others?
(7) Compliments support achievement, build genuine self-esteem and self-respect. Do you help build ambition and show their efforts are appreciated?
(8) Have you recently shown appreciation by word, gift, reward, or treat?
(9) Do you teach respect for parents by showing respect for your parents? They will learn to honor father and mother by what they see.
(10) Do you ask for their input into decisions that affect the family, such as vacations, recreations, purchases, schedules, even their rooms? Yes, it may test your metal at times, but it pays dividends in the long run.
(11) Does your family attend worship together, and all the services?
(12) When did you say “no” to them because it was for their welfare? Some activities, clothes, appearances. recreations, movies, programs, associations are not best for them. It is your job to discern.
(13) Have you tried using the world events to show the difference between right and wrong, showing the sinfulness of abortion, but respect for life? Do they know the rules on sexual purity, respect for property, the dignity of work, the demand for justice, concern for the needy, and the seriousness of morality generally?
(14) When you make decisions, do you try to explain your decisions and actions to them, being considerate of their feelings? Let them know you have the duty to be in charge, but they need to know how and why you have decided as you have. This is great teaching. Our young must make decisions, and make them for themselves. But it is the parent’s duty to give them the basis on which to make decisions. Do you provide that?
(15) How long has it been since you gave them assurance of your love, protection, and confidence, both by word and deed?
(16) Have you taught them how to select friends, to treat others, to set values and priorities? Do your older children receive instruction on how to select a mate?
(17) You should show concern for school lessons. But what of Bible lessons and church related activities?
(18) Are you concerned about what they are doing, their interests, where they are going, what they like and dislike, what they read, see, watch, with whom they associate?
(19) How long has it been since your children saw you take special interest in the place where you live, and your attentiveness to home duties such as the yard, car, windows, dishes, even vacuum cleaners?
(20) Do you show courtesy to your wife, their mother? Let them know you love their mother. This is one of the greatest gifts a father can give his children.
(21) Do you exercise proper discipline when called for? Or is this left to someone else?
(22) Have you considered their future, in education, vocation, profession, and faith?
(23) Do you make special effort to teach them respect for the church? We live in a day of “church bashing.” Shall your children be taught otherwise?
(24) Most important of all, are you teaching them respect for all things pertaining to the authority of God, including His reality, their accountability to Him, and the blessing of fellowship with Him?
More Could Be Said
We could possibly ask more such questions, but we are persuaded, “It takes a heap o’ living to make a home,” as stated by Edgar A. Guest. It surely takes a heap of work and prayer to be the right kind of father.
You cannot lead where you will not go. You cannot teach what you do not know. You, father, are the leader and teacher. Your goal is to do all you can so that every member of your family, without the loss of one, will reach heaven. Help them to serve God and man, and keep the torch of truth burning brightly after your time has ended. The next generation needs children such as your family can produce. In time, you will reap as you have sown. There will be good fruits when you have done your job. You can say, “My cup runneth over.”
It is like this: the husband is the master of the house under Christ, the one who manages, oversees, has that special relationship that calls for meeting special obligations. He is the father, founder, producer, the one in charge, with responsibility as the nourisher, upholder, and protector of his family. His first need in doing this is to be a faithful Christian himself.
1. To Whom is the Father primarily responsible?
2. When should a young man begin to prepare himself to discharge his duty to his family?
3. What is the man’s role in marriage?
4. What are some of his responsibilities to the family?
5. Discuss the practical applications suggested in doing his duty.
6. What reward is mentioned for doing his duty?