When you became a father or a husband, chances are you were not given a job description—I know I wasn’t. We are typically left to flounder; doing what we think is best or imitating what we have seen in others. For many, this is not enough; they wonder exactly what fathers do for their families. Fortunately, this is a question that is answered for us. God has always had a design and purpose for fathers and has told us what we need to know in His Word. I wouldn’t say the following answers this question entirely, but lets consider four requirements we see for fathers in the Bible.
First, a father must provide physically. In 1 Timothy 5:8, we are told: “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (NKJV). Notice this verse lays the burden of providing squarely on the man’s shoulders. It talks of “his own” and “his household.” Speaking of the husband-wife relationship, the Apostle Paul says the husband ought to nourish and cherish his wife as his own body and as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:28-29). It is understandable, that a father might need help from time to time because of loss of job, sickness, or disability, but a father must do his best to provide for a family (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11). It must be noted that this is not a requirement to provide fancy homes, luxury cars, big screen televisions, or exotic vacations. Nor does it require a father to provide the latest toys, a college education, a car, or even a cellphone for his children. 1 Timothy 6:8 tells us we ought to be content with food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. If we ought to be content with this, surely that is all that is required for fathers to provide physically. It is great to be able to provide more, but not necessary.
Second, a father must provide love. Too many fathers stop at merely providing physically for their families. They don’t seem to realize that fathers sets the emotional tone for their families. An angry father makes a fearful family. The family of a neglectful or uncaring father often feels resentment. Withholding the love and attention his family craves is one way a father provokes his children to wrath (cf. Ephesians 6:4). Such love must first and foremost be shown towards his wife. Ephesians 5:25-33 commands a father to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. The love talked about here is agape love, an unconditional love. It is not a love that is based on what others have done for us or how they are treating us, it is love we decide to give no matter what. In addition, 1 Corinthians 7:3 teaches a husband owes his wife affection and must give it to her. God feels so strongly about this that a husband’s spiritual life depends on it. 1 Peter 3:7, warns husbands that to fail in honoring their wives or in living with them in an understanding way will leave their prayers null and void. As fathers, we must provide love for our families by spending time with them, listening to them, and showing them affection.
Third, a father must provide leadership. From the very beginning, God has desired men to take up the mantle of leadership within their families. All the way back in the Garden of Eden as God is telling Eve the consequences of her sin, He told her: “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). In 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul writes that “the man is the head of a woman” just as “Christ is the head of every man.” Furthermore, in Ephesians 5:23-24, wives are commanded to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. If women are instructed to submit, they must have something to submit to. They ought to be able to look to their husband for leadership. If your wife ought to be looking to you for leadership, your children ought to be as well. As fathers, we must provide leadership our families can follow, including being an example to imitate, settings goals to strive towards, and making decisions to be heeded.
Fourth, a father must provide spiritually. Ephesians 6:4 commands fathers—not mothers, not preachers, not Sunday School teachers, but fathers—to bring their children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. A husband must be willing to help his children as well as his wife answer spiritual questions (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). 1 Timothy 2:11-15 tells us that it is not permitted for a woman to teach or exercise over authority over a man. As such, the father must be the spiritual leader because noone else is permitted to fill this role. Steve Farrar, in his book Point Man, very vividly describes the importance of this role to the survival of a family by comparing the father’s role with the role of a point man leading troops. He summarizes this section by saying:
If you are a husband/father, then you are in a war. War has been declared upon the family, on your family and mine. Leading a family through the chaos of American culture is like leading a small patrol through enemy-occupied territory. And the casualties in this war are as real as the names etched on the Vietnam Memorial. (22)
As fathers we must be alert to our families’ spiritual needs and be ready to encourage, teach, guide them in God’s ways, and pray for them without ceasing.
I believe God’s ultimate purpose for us as fathers is to lead our families spiritually, but it is the other three requirements that create an atmosphere which makes this successful. Each requirement establishes the foundation for the next. Providing physically establishes a foundation that love can be built upon. Only by providing physical and emotional needs can we have a foundation for the Godly, caring leadership described in the Bible. Leadership in the mundane matters of life creates the trust to be able to lead in spiritual matters. If we truly care about the eternal destination of our families, we will create this atmosphere of trust and love from which we can lead them.
by Jeremy Sprouse
Jeremy Sprouse has been married to Erynn since 1999. They have six children. Jeremy preaches for the Patrick St. Church of Christ in Dublin, TX and is the author of To Train Up a Knight.