A teacher took her class of young boys and girls to the zoo where
they were seeing many animals for the first time. They came to one
large enclosed area, and the teacher pointed to the graceful
inhabitants and said, "Children, that is what your mother always calls
your father." One little guy in disbelief said, "Don't tell me that is a
louse!" Sometimes that girl that married dear old dad is not very
complimentary, and often times children can be very embarrassing in
letting this truth be known.
The fact is, fathers are a very abused and degraded class of
people. Adlai Stevenson in a speech before the National Father's Day
committee in 1961 said, "There was a time when father amounted to
something in the United States..... In recent years, however,
especially since World War II, father has come upon sorry times. He
is the but of the comic strips; he is the boob of the radio and TV
serials; and the favorite stooge of all our professional comedians. In
short, life with father seems to have degenerated into a continuous
sequence of disrespect or tolerance at best."
Obviously there are many poor specimens of fatherhood that
deserve condemnation, and even contempt, but this is true of every
class of people, including mothers. Yet few, if any, dare to express
disrespect for mothers, but there is no hesitation when it comes to
fathers. Mother has it all over dad when it comes to poetry and
praise. For example, in the hymnal we use we have several special
hymns for mothers, but for Father's Day there is only Faith Of Our
Fathers, which does not refer to our literal fathers at all, but to our
fathers in the faith. Fatherhood in hymnology is just generally
ignored, and this is true in spite of the fact that the Bible supports the
exclamation of Wordsworth who said, "Father! To God Himself we
cannot give a holier name."
Clovis Chappell, the well-known Methodist preacher and author of
dozens of books, says he searched for some Father's Day songs and
could find only two, and both of them were negative. One was
Everybody Works But Father, and the other went like this:
Dad, dad, dad, the dear old worthless geezer,
The fusses I have had with that old patience teaser!
He lacks the spirit of a mouse,
Most anyone can down him.
We let him hang around the house,
Tis cheaper than to drown him.
In many families the father is little more than a necessary nuisance
handy to have around when something has to be fixed.
Father is a fixture, much needed in the home,
Although he wears no halo above a balding dome.
As general fixer-upper he makes a handsome bluff.
There's nothing he won't tackle-if pestered long enough.
We could go on looking at the negative aspects of fatherhood, but
it will be more profitable to turn our attention to the positive
possibilities of fatherhood. The negative is real, but it is one of those
aspects of reality that ought not to be, but which will cease to be until
fatherhood is restored to a place of respect. This can only happen as
fathers learn to fulfill their duties as God intended. This is no easy
task, and greater men than any of us have failed. Men of God like Eli
the priest, who sons were blasphemers, and God had to destroy them.
David was a man after God's own heart, and he reached the peak of
success as a soldier, king, and poet, but he was a failure as a father.
In spite of these failures, however, the Bible exalts fatherhood, and
gives the father a place of respect, honor, and influence that is
unsurpassed. Edith Deen in her book Family Living In The Bible
says, "From beginning to end, the Bible depicts fathers as teachers of
their children and guardians of the family's spiritual riches." The
average modern father fails to take this responsibility in the home,
and that is why fatherhood has lost respect. The modern father feels
incapable, inferior, and inadequate for his task. The Expositor's
Bible says, a father who abdicates the throne on which God has set
him, who forgoes the honor which God has given him, or turns it into
dishonor, must one day answer for his base renunciation before the
It is important, therefore, that fathers be informed on this job
description. In the passage of the Proverbs we find the essence of the
father's duties. It is a job description for the man who would be a
successful father. Alexander Maclaren wrote, "The precepts of this
passage may be said to sum up the teachings of the whole book of
Proverbs." We can't begin to cover it thoroughly, but we want to
look briefly at the major areas in which a father is responsible to his
children. The first area of duty is that of-
I. DISCIPLINE. vv. 13-14
Someone has said that a good father who finds his son on the
wrong track will provide switching facilities. Practically everything
else in the modern home is controlled by the flick of a switch, and so
why not the children? It is a time proven method, and highly
recommended all through Proverbs. In fact, it is not only
recommended, it is demanded. Prov. 13:24 says, "He who spares the
rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him."
Prov. 22:15 says, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the
rod of discipline drives it far from him."
Dr. James Dobson in Dare To Discipline says a spanking must hurt
to do any good. A slap on the hand or a well padded bottom is not
worth avoiding, and only encourages defiance. It just does not pay to
keep rules that don't hurt when they are broken. If hitting the net in
volley ball only meant you had to pause 10 seconds before you
continue the game, do you think anyone would bother to discipline
themselves to avoid hitting it? Discipline must hurt, but not injure,
for that is abuse. Many children are hurt badly and even killed by
their parents. This has led to people being afraid of discipline.
Discipline is to benefit the child and not injure them. Discipline is to
make it clear that you love your child too much to let them behave in
a way that will make them unlikable people.
It is a father's responsibility to see that his children have the
benefit of discipline. We are deceived if we think it is a sign of love to
let our children go unpunished. This is the kind of love the sinner is
counting on for God to have. It is a weak willed love that lets man be
free without danger if he misuses his freedom. God does not have
such a love, and no responsible father will have it either. Freedom
must be guided by rules, and there must be penalties when the rules
are broken. Where anything goes, everything is soon gone.
Can you imagine a baseball game in which the batter could have as
many strikes as he wanted, and where he could take as many bases as
he pleased? Such a game would be no fun at all, and would soon die
from sheer boredom. That is the kind of game of life you train your
child for when you fail to discipline him, and instead, give him
everything he desires without restrictions, rules, guidelines, and
penalties. You take the fun and challenge out of every sport when you
eliminate the rules and penalties. You do the same thing when you
take them out of the game of life.
A sociologist recently interviewed some teenagers regarding their
impressions of their home life, and he discovered that those raised
permissively did not appreciate their experience like those who were
disciplined. One girl who lived in an apartment in a big city said the
children played in the street after supper in the summer. After a
while one would go home because he had to be in by eight. Soon a
father would whistle, and another boy would have to leave. One by
one they would respond to a call and go home. The girl said, "They
would all go. It would get dark and I would be there alone, waiting
for my father or mother to call me in. They never did."
What that girl needed was a rule to be in by eight, and a spanking
if she didn't. The father denied her that blessing, and thereby failed
as a father. It is a false love that shrinks from the red welts on the
child's skin. What father has not felt some pangs of guilt as he sees
the evidence of his anger on the body of one he loves? Nevertheless, if
it is done justly for a clear offense, and in love rather than in sheer
frustration, it is a father's duty to wield the whip. There are
exceptions, for some children never need this kind of discipline, but
the majority of children do need to experience some pain in order to
learn obedience. My wife Lavonne never needed to be spanked, and
she turned out wonderful, but that could be because she met me, and I
had enough spankings for the both of us. There is much more that
can be said on this issue, but we must close and move on with these
poetic words of wisdom to fathers.
When the board of education is applied with emphasis
To the pantied seat of learning of junior lad or miss,
You'll get results psychologists only dream of getting
With much less time expended, and the minimum of fretting.
II. ENCOURAGEMENT. vv. 15-16
Fathers can get so wrapped up in discipline and correction that
they forget their duty of encouraging their children. In these verses
the father is telling his son what makes him happy. He makes it clear
that he is delighted when his son is wise and speaks what is right.
You can beat the negative out, but you can't beat the positive in.
That only comes through encouragement. A child has a basic need to
bring joy to his parents, and it is cruel to deprive them of the
opportunity. A father owes it to his children to encourage them by
telling them what they do that pleases him. If you punish when they
displease, and do not praise when they please, you are emphasizing
the negative and ignoring the positive method of teaching and
Goethe said, "Correction does much, but encouragement does
more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower." We
are rich in potential praise, but we hoard it like misers and fail
because we do not use the resources at our fingertips. Young wrote,
"More hearts in away in secret anguish for the want of kindness from
those who should be their comforters than for any other calamity in
life." After a good tongue lashing a child needs to be reassured of
your love. Prov. 25:11 says, "As apples of gold in silver carvings is a
word spoken at the right time for it."
A little love, a little trust,
A little word can start a dream,
And life as dry as desert dust
Is fresher than a mountain stream.
Dr. Henry H. Goddard has proven the value of encouragement
scientifically by using an "ergograph." This is an instrument which
measures fatigue. When an assistant would say to a child on this
instrument, "You're doing fine, John," the boy's energy curve soared.
If fault was found, energy decreased. Children need to be criticized
when they go astray in order to discourage them and decrease their
energy in following a dangerous path, but they also need praise in that
which they do right to spur them on to greater efforts in that positive
For example, take Joe Baines a 14 year old who took delight in
kicking younger children, and spitting on them. He thought that no
one liked him, and even his mother thought he was no good. Mr.
McReady, a visiting teacher, was sharp enough to see his need. He
learned that Joe loved airplanes. One day he walked into Joe's school
room and openly asked the teacher if Joe could be excused for the
afternoon to act as a judge in a model airplane contest at the YMCA.
He said, "Joe's quite an authority on model airplanes, you know."
That genuine word of praise gave Joe a whole new outlook on life.
Other boys asked his advice about planes they were working on, and
Joe found the joys of playing a constructive role among his friends. It
is a dad's duty to see that his children are praised and given this kind
of encouragement. If you don't help your children to make you
happy, you can count on it that they will make you unhappy. Next we
III. SPIRITUAL TRAINING.
This is a big area, and it involves giving your children a wise and
biblical perspective socially, economically, educationally, and
morally. It is no wonder that it is so easy to fail as a father. You have
to know how to live wisely and godly yourself in order to be an
effective teacher and guide. You must have the answers to life's basic
questions in your own mind before you can help your children resolve
these issues. It is dads first duty to take seriously the high honor of
fatherhood, and to ask for God's help to fulfill his awesome
obligations. Great men are not always good fathers, but every good
father is a great man, and every good father is one who gives his
children a clear spiritual perspective on life.
General Douglas MacArthur said, "By profession I am a soldier
and take pride in that fact, but I am prouder, infinitely prouder, to be
a father. A soldier destroys in order to build, the father only builds,
never destroys.... It is my hope that my son when I am gone will
remember me not from the battle, but in our home repeating with
him our simple daily prayer, our Father who art in heaven." Earthly
fatherhood is only at its best when it leads to awareness and
dependence upon the fatherhood of God. This is what the father in
Proverbs is doing.
In verse 17 he urges his son not to envy sinners, but to continue in
the fear of the Lord. It is up to a father to be aware when his children
are being enticed by the world. The life of a sinner can look so
carefree and glamorous that a Christian young person begins to envy
them, and wish that they had the freedom to follow. When Socrates
was asked what was most troublesome to good men he replied, "The
prosperity of the wicked." This is a theme common in Scripture. It is
up to parents to help their children to understand that all is not gold
that glitters. They must be taught to see beyond the momentary
pleasure of sin to the final outcome of pain, bitterness, and loss of
both time and eternity.
The basic allurements of the world are still the same today.
Alcohol and sex both appeal to the desire of immediate satisfaction.
The only adequate way to fight this worldly perspective is to
counteract it with an eternal perspective. This is what this father is
doing in verse 18. Surely there is a future is what he is saying to his
son. He is teaching his boy that the hope of the believer will be
fulfilled, because when the end comes for the sinner, there is still a
future for the believer in which he will be rewarded for his loyalty to
God. As the past determines our present, so our present will
determine the future, and it is a father's duty to see that his children
grasp this truth. They must have a clear cut conviction about the
future reward of believers to be able to overcome the present
The world is always the now generation. It sells out the future for
present satisfaction. The Christian youth is one who sacrifices the
present satisfaction in sin for the eternal satisfaction of the future. A
child who does not learn to see life long range is in real trouble, and it
will be the parents failure if this is so. Youth must be warned about
associations with those who indulge in drinking. We can substitute
drugs for excessive eating of meats referred to in verse 20. The way
people get their kicks may vary, but the principle is the same. They
satisfy the lust for immediate sensual pleasures. It is of interest that
almost every religion warns its youth of the dangers of drinking. It is
a curse to happiness that is so obvious that no wise man has ever been
blind to its folly. It is the world's most productive source of crime
and poverty. A father owes it to his children to instill in them a hate
for the evil's of alcohol, and any other activity that will lead to a life
The other major moral problem that a father must warn his son
about is that of sex. In verses 27-28 the father makes it clear that an
immoral sex relationship is like getting into a deep pit or narrow well.
Once you get involved you can't get out. It is easy to fall into a deep
pit, but it is not easy at all to get out. The tragedy is that few fathers
give their sons guidance in this area of life. I remember the first time
I gave a lecture on sex to the boy scouts that met in our church. We
went from A to Z, and some of the fathers were present. Afterward
the fathers thanked me and said they just couldn't do it. One said
that he was ashamed of sex and couldn't do it. A mother called me
and could not express her appreciation enough, for they just were not
able to approach the subject.
The next time I gave the lecture about 40 scouts were brought in
from surrounding areas, and again a group of fathers were there.
During the question time one father asked me to explain social
diseases to the boys. He had been in the service and knew the
dangers, and he wanted his boy to be warned. Fathers want their
boys to know and be warned of dangers, but they want someone else
to do it. The reason is often due to their own inadequate
understanding of sex. If you think sex is dirty, or something to be
ashamed of, then you have a sub-Christian concept of sex. If a
Christian father cannot give his son the attitude that sex is beautiful
and a precious gift of God, then he had better get some books that
can do it for him. It is a crime to raise a child and not give them a
view of sex that makes it a value they treasure so they will refuse to
mar its beauty by misusing it.
There is no doubt about it that dads have many duties, and it can
be a heavy burden. The good news, however, is that God supplies the
energy and wisdom to do all that He requires of us. If you really
desire to be a good father, and you work at it, you can succeed.
Greater men than any of us have failed, but millions of average men
have succeeded, and so can you, by the grace of God. Ask Him for the
wisdom to succeed in the duties of being a dad.