This is the fourth post in a four part series on fatherhood. If you haven’t read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of this series, I encourage you to read those before you read this post, as they will help you understand this in context.
Orientation #3: Provision
The third orientation we need to have as fathers is provision. One of the primary callings of fathers is to provide for their families, both spiritually and physically, just as God provides for us.
Abraham trusted God for the salvation of his son, Isaac, because he trusted the LORD as his provider (Genesis 22:8). When God provided a ram for offering, Abraham named that place, “The LORD will provide” (Genesis 22:14). Also, Israel had to trust God as their provider in order to obey the Sabbath requirements to cease working. Additionally, God provided food for them in the wilderness during the Exodus. Ultimately, the Father provided the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, for our eternal salvation. To imitate our Father in Heaven, we need to be providers.
I believe the following categories fall under the idea of provision:
- Providing for material needs
- Protection of the home
- Family order and peace
Providing for Material Needs
In a normal situation, a father should work to ensure that those of his household are sufficiently provided for. The father’s work should never be more important than his family, but he should devote enough time and effort towards his labors to ensure the financial security of the home. This is a high priority. Jesus assumed that Fathers would do this in Matthew 7:9-11, saying that even evil men know how to give good things to their children.
Additionally, adult children, and I believe especially men, should work to provide for their parents as they age. In reference to caring for family, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This is going to look different in every family, but we should position ourselves to be able to help when our relatives need it.
This principle of provision does not mean that a husband or father must make the most money in the home. I believe a father can adequately provide for his family even if the wife is the one who earns the majority of the money. This does not mean, however, that a husband should dump the responsibility and weight of the family’s finances on his wife. After the fall, God told the man that he would bear the weight of the curse in his labor to provide food for his family (Genesis 3:17-19). The part of the curse the woman had to bear was in the pain of childbearing (Genesis 3:16). There is no way for the husband to share in the pain of childbearing. Yet, it is possible for the man to dump the pain of the responsibility of providing on his wife. So, fathers must remain proactive in carrying this weight, when at all possible, even if they are not the primary earners. They can still lead the family in making sure the budget is set and kept, planning for the future, and managing the stress of financial matters. What is important is the attitude of heart in the father to provide for his family.
Protection of the Home
Fathers should also work to protect their families and all of those under their care. This manifests itself in several ways. First, fathers should use their strength to fend off physical threats, should those ever present themselves.
Second, fathers should protect their sons and daughters from predatory people, from bad friends, and from other influences that could lead them astray. We need to ask God for discernment and for the courage to protect our children. Proverbs warns the son to stay away from violent and greedy people (Proverbs 1:8-19), from perverted people (Proverbs 2:1-15), from immoral women (Proverbs 2:16-19, 5:1-23, 6:20-35, 7:1-27), and from generally wicked people (Proverbs 4:14-19).
Related to this, our culture has become increasingly sexualized, resulting, sadly, in the objectification of women. If you are the father of a young daughter, you need to realize that you are the main line of defense between your daughter and the unworthy men that might pursue her. In addition, the daughters of the church need to be protected by the fathers of the church. Some daughters grow up without fathers or do not have a father present. They need spiritual fathers and leaders to play this role.
Third, fathers should protect the spiritual climate of their homes and churches, not making allowances for immorality, sensuality, or any open and habitual sinful behaviors, such as gossip, slander, or disobedience. When these behaviors are tolerated, they can become a part of the culture of the family. Fathers are called to insert themselves into these situations to shape the culture of the family, protecting it from a slide into sinful patterns. Once a father is compromised, it does not take long for the family to follow.
Family Order and Peace
This point about protecting the climate of the home leads directly into my next topic of maintaining order and peace in the home. A requirement for an elder in the church is that he must manage his own household well. For a man who cannot manage his own household will certainly not be able to manage the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5). A Christian father, then, should make sure his own home is in proper order and that there is generally a peaceful environment in the home.
This means we build our homes on the rock of God’s word (Matthew 7:24-27). The father should lovingly lead his wife, laying down his life for her, and he should patiently raise his children. Additionally, the father is the head of the household. As God ultimately held Adam responsible for the sin in the garden (Genesis 3:8-19), so the husband and father is ultimately held responsible for the home. In this role, we should boldly declare, like Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Some of you men need to make this declaration today, calling your families to obedience to God’s word and making a stand against the idolatry of your fathers.
Last, the theme of inheritance runs through the Old and New Testaments. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” The inheritance in the Old Testament would have been tied to the blessing of the land of Israel, which was a reward for keeping the covenant. In other words, the inheritance was a legacy of the people of Israel. Also, God called Israel his inheritance (Isaiah 19:25, Micah 7:14).
In the New Testament, the inheritance refers primarily to the kingdom of God and the eternal life we receive in Christ Jesus. Our inheritance is Christ! And this is the greatest provision we can give to our natural and spiritual children. You may have inherited futility from your forefathers (1 Peter 1:18), but you can leave a rich spiritual inheritance to your children. Leave them with more than material goods: leave them with Christ!
If you have made it this far in this series, thank you for reading! I wanted to take just a minute to sum up the series.
As fathers, we need to aim for the target of making disciples of Jesus Christ: this is the goal for every natural and spiritual father. With discipleship as the main goal, we work to create healthy conditions for growth, surrounding our children with love, delight, kindness, and compassion. Then within the constraints of these conditions for growth, we raise our children by balancing the three orientations: instruction, imitation, and provision. When we think of hitting the target as a father, it is like an archer pulling back the bow, aiming at the target, factoring in the weather, and then measuring the strength and angle, holding the bow steady, and finally releasing, making a shot perfectly aligned to that particular target.
Just as that archer would likely be unsuccessful many times before becoming an expert, so we, too, as fathers, must constantly put these things into practice. We will miss the mark many times, but as we continue to press forward, repenting of our sin, receiving forgiveness, and then pressing on for the next shot, we will grow in godliness and in our ability to be a good father. None of us get it all right, but, by God’s grace, we can raise children to be disciples of Jesus Christ, knowing the love of the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit, just as God has made himself known to us.