Eli, Samuel, David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. While I don’t want this article to turn Father’s Day into a downer, I do want all fathers to think carefully about these righteous men and their wicked, sinful children. Though Eli was a good man, his sons showed complete disdain for the tabernacle sacrifices and even committed immoral acts with some of the women at the tabernacle. Samuel was one of God’s finest, yet his sons took bribes and perverted justice. Among the sins committed by the sons of David, the man after God’s heart, were incestuous rape, murder, and rebellion. Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah probably brought great joy to David at their births, but in the end they caused him great pain. Jehoshaphat and Josiah were both righteous kings who were followed by wicked sons. Faithful Hezekiah was succeeded by his son Manasseh, the most wicked king in Judah’s history (2 Kings 24:3-4). No, I don’t want to make today a gloomy one, but I want all fathers to take away three things from this article.
Your number one priority when it comes to your children must be the “training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Every father wants to have beautiful girls and handsome boys (and is confident they are); he wants them to do well academically and perhaps artistically and athletically; he wants them to grow up, marry, and give him grandchildren. While there is nothing wrong in any of these aims, if they are the sum total of our aims we have set our goals way too low. Our children will one day stand before God to be judged for the deeds done in the body (2 Cor. 5:10) and helping them be prepared for that is far more important than how they score on the ACT, play on the athletic field, or perform in the concert hall. How said it will be if your children accomplish great things, yet lose their souls (Matt. 16:26).
Be aware of the dangers your children face and don’t assume your faith will become their faith. Those six men I listed at the beginning of the article were all men of great faith, but faith and righteous behavior are not genetic traits like skin color, height, intelligence, etc. that are simply passed from one generation to another without conscious effort (cf. Ezekiel 18). Failure is not inevitable, for you can succeed and through instruction in the word of God pass along your faith (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 1:5), but it won’t happen if you are not sober, watchful, and deliberate (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Are you doing the kind of teaching it takes to instill faith? Is your example such that it won’t undermine your teaching efforts? How much attention are you paying to the people with whom they associate? Are you taking steps to encourage the kind of associations that can have a positive impact on your children? Do you know what kind of music they listen to and what they watch? I could list more questions, but my point is to raise awareness of the dangers all children face, including the children of the righteous. Do not for a moment think success is beyond your grasp, but know that it won’t happen by accident.
Take responsibility for the rearing of your children. The Bible classes offered by the church, along with the counsel, encouragement, and assistance of your fellow-saints can be tremendous assets to you and your wife in the training of your children. Then there is your extended family which can be a tremendous blessing to you. However, it still comes down to this: “And you, fathers…bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Churches and villages do not bear the ultimate responsibility for raising children—fathers do! Others may play a part, but you must accept responsibility for the lead role if you wish to avoid being like David as he cried in 2 Sam. 18:33, “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” Instead of this heart-break, let us work so that we may say with the apostle, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson, Inc.