The decline of male leadership in the home is disastrous. Some homes are absent a father because of divorce or death. Some children have never had a father at home and some have never known their father. Some homes have the physical presence of a father but he is emotionally distant and disengaged or does not have his family’s respect.
The father occupies a critical role in the family. God has placed him as the head of the family (Ephesians 5:22-6:2). The home needs the presence, leadership, and influence of a father who reflects the holiness of the heavenly father. Without this leadership, the mother must perform her role and strive to fill a second role that she is not equipped to occupy. Men need to rise up to the challenge of being the husband and father in the image of God.
My dad died when I was a five years old. My mom never remarried and I only had sisters. I had to learn fatherhood by observing godly men and my heavenly Father. I have not only raised my four children but have provided a home to some other children at times of need. I am not a perfect father and have made many mistakes but the principles below reflect the wisdom of Bible teaching, experience, and observation of good examples.
A husband and father should have a compelling vision of what he wants the family to look like now and in the future. That vision should be formed with a desire to have a family that embraces holiness, righteousness, and dedication to God. This sets the moral compass and will be a guiding principle through tough times and difficult decisions. In addition, one should have a vision of the relationship he wants to have with his wife and children. He should know the place he wants his family to have within the community and the reputation that everyone will strive to uphold. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). The compelling vision is the core of the other principles.
A husband and father occupies a position of leadership. The first great decision is to wisely choose a spouse who will recognize and respect your God-given role. This does not mean that she does not voice her opinions, even strongly. When we look at marital submission in the Bible, the comparison is to the Father and Christ. Christ did not resent His submission to the Father and the Father did not disrespect the Son’s role. A wise husband recognizes her strength, character, wisdom, and concern for the family A good wife will strive to help him to be the best leader he can be and if he is wise he will heed her counsel. After all, if she was smart enough to marry him, shouldn’t he listen to her wisdom on other matters?
The husband is not to rule as a tyrant. He is not to drive his family like a cowboy driving cattle. Such a man only receives compliance from fear and resentment from those he oppresses. He is to lead them, guided by the compelling vision, towards a satisfying life on earth and the eternal joy of heaven. The husband should reflect the glory of the heavenly Father so that his wife and children will respect him and follow him joyfully.
Care and Protection
As a leader, the husband will prioritize the needs of his family. His wife must know that she and the children are physically safe. She expects that she and her children will be protected and not abused. She also trusts that he will provide clean and safe housing, food, and medical care. They may not live in luxury but these needs will be met.
She also must know that he will provide for her and the children financially. She expects that he will not be lazy and will not let pride prevent him from taking any honorable work that can provide for the needs of the family. She also needs to trust that he will not waste the family income on foolish things and will seek her counsel on financial decisions. The Bible teaches that one who does not take care of his own has “denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” 1 Timothy 5:8.
The wife also must know that her husband will take care of her and the children emotionally. She has a right to expect that her husband will not verbally abuse her or the children, will be positively engaged with them (not emotionally distant), and speaks with words of grace for their edification, even during times of disagreement and discipline. The husband is entrusted with the most special gift: the heart of his wife. He should keep her secrets with the most sacred trust. He should never ridicule her in private or in front of family and friends. Likewise, he should speak to his children in constructive ways, not wear them down with sarcasm, insults, and derision or embarrass them in front of his friends or their peers.
Ultimately, the husband must have the sacrificial love Jesus had for the church. In 1 John 3:16-18, John described the love for brethren as sacrificial even to the point of giving ones life to save a brother. Although it is unlikely that one would actually have to die for a fellow Christian, one might be called to give him food or clothing. If one sees a brother or sister without adequate clothing or food and closes their heart to them and does not provide for their needs “how does the love of God abide within?” A person who would be selfish with food and clothing would not give his life to save others. It is unlikely that a husband would have to die for his wife; however, if he has an open heart to much smaller needs she can trust that if the highest price had to be paid he would willingly give himself to save her. A wife would not feel that a selfish husband would give his life to save hers.
A sacrificial life is at the heart of being an effective leader in the home. When teaching lessons on money I urge a three-fold principle: Use some, give some, and save/invest some. The wise husband and father will use this principle with his time:
- Use Time: He will spend the necessary time at work to provide for the family. He will also use a reasonable amount of time for his own recreation and enjoyment as this renews his spirit and allows him to enjoy life. He will use his time to take care of the physical needs of the home and his possessions as well.
- Give Time: He will give of his time to the service of God both by attending worship and working outside of the assemblies to honor God with his life. This should be listed first and could be listed under “use time”. This is ultimately the best and most important use of time. He will also give his time to serve his fellow man and community. His world should be better because of his presence. Don’t let your family be an excuse not to serve: serve with them. My wife and I have taken the kids to visit older brethren (the kids bring more joy than we do). My wife has taught the kids how to prepare the Lord’s Supper. As a family we have often cleaned the church building and participated in work days.
- Invest Time: He should also invest time in his relationships. There will be many things that he does not want to do but is important to the family. It is critical to realize that we should give what others consider valuable. I might buy a present for my child and think that I have done something good when they would rather not have the present but want time with me. I remember the story told of two diaries. The father’s diary read “It was a wasted day. It rained in the morning and we didn’t catch any fish…didn’t even get a bite.” The son’s diary read “It was the best day ever!! I went fishing with my dad!” Invest your time with your wife and children giving them what they consider valuable even if you can’t see why they consider it to be something important (hint-ask them what they want).
I posted Philippians 2:3-5 on my mirror:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… (ESV)
This verse is my daily reminder that in all my relationships, especially my family, that I need to have the mind of Christ and be concerned about what is important to others. I should not act out of conceit or selfishness but be concerned about the best interests of my wife and children.
The husband and father should nurture his family. This is tied to the compelling vision as he provides the guidance to make the vision a reality. Family vacations, rituals, and inside jokes/stories allow the father to provide experiences and memories for his wife and children. He is commanded to nourish his wife (Ephesians 5:29) and nurture his children (Ephesians 6:4). Nurturing his children includes teaching them God’s word and making sure they understand His will. It also includes proper discipline. Discipline is necessary to bring the wayward child back to the positive compelling vision by correcting misbehavior.
Proper discipline has several elements:
- Description of the Transgression: A child should be told why they are being punished: the specific behavior that is unacceptable. Never punish because “you are a bad kid” or because you are tired or grumpy.
- Pain/discomfort: The discipline must not be pleasant. The punishment should not be administered in anger and never abusive or excessive. Whether an inflicted sting or denial, the punishment must be unpleasant. If there is no penalty that the child wants to avoid, it cannot be rightly called punishment.
- Guilt/sorrow: It is short-sighted and unfair to deny a child guilt. The child needs to feel remorse for his transgression and spend time sorrowful for their actions and the negative effect of their behavior on others. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 describes the effect of godly sorrow on adults and it will produce the same fruit in children.
- Repentance/apology: The child must be remorseful for their transgression, apologize for their behavior, and promise to behave differently. If you punish a child but they never repent or offer an apology you have not reached their heart.
- Forgiveness: The parent should be generous in offering forgiveness to the child who has repented of their disobedience and apologized for the wrong. Do not offer conditional forgiveness. Do not tell the child you forgive them but keep bringing up what they have done. Teach them God’s forgiveness by your forgiveness.
- Reaffirm Love: Finally, you should reaffirm your love for them and that you hold no grudge against them. Give them hugs and kind words.
Ultimately, the father should disciple his children. You are training them to be servants of God. Your discipline is not to enforce a set of compliant behaviors but to develop a heart that desires to serve God. The father should disciple his children by actively teaching them God’s word, disciplining them to teach them a right way to live, and living a sincere godly life in their presence. Kids can see a hypocrite easily so if your love and service to God is not genuine, repent and be what you should be so they will see Christ living in you.
Ultimately, this plan requires self-management. You have to manage your desires, passions, time, money, emotions, and behavior in order to be a godly example as you lead your family to fulfill the positive compelling vision of a family that serves God diligently and loves one another. There are books on time and money management. THE book, God’s word, can teach you how to manage your time, money, and self to His glory and to the benefit of your family. Pray for your efforts to be a godly man, husband, father, and servant in the kingdom of God. Pray for forgiveness when you fail and determine to strive harder to succeed. May God bless you in this most important and much needed role.
Presented to the Florida College Sowers Club – February 2014
An inspiring and motivating sermon on being a man of God was presented by Jeff May in his 2012 meeting at the Gardendale Church of Christ. It is available here and I highly recommend it.