Summary: Why do we scold fathers on Father’s Day, when it is often that their children simply miss hearing their counsel. The sons of Josiah ignored their grounding in God’s word and the support of the Temple and misunderstood the value of hard work.
The difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is that we honor our mothers but we scold our fathers. We talk of saintly moms, who wore their fingers to the bone to cook and clean and sow for us. We honor them for their industry, their mother wit, and their prayer life. And that is as it should be.
But then we come to Father’s Day and we scold. We urge our fathers to get a job, stay at home, support the church, and stand up like men ought to. We needle our fathers with the notion that men have a problem. We preach at them that they ought to advance higher, do more for their children, and watch fewer sports on TV. We scold. Small wonder some men dread Father’s Day! Listen, sons and daughters, you can keep the ties and socks if scolding is all you are going to do!
Because the problem may not be in fathers and their messages. The problem may be in the receivers of the messages. The problem may be in sons and daughters who have heard what they wanted to hear and have seen what they wanted to see. The issue is not always in what our fathers taught us; the issue is in the way we absorb it. We distort their messages. Do you remember, on the old TV show, how Cliff Huxtable would try to get something across to his kids? But in the end they always heard what they wanted to hear and saw what they wanted to see. Cliff’s greatest fear was that when he said, “Get out of here and get a job”, they just wouldn’t get it? That one of them would take a year to find herself, on his credit card? That another would sign up for graduate school and come home every time the refrigerator was full of goodies? They missed the point. Dad spoke; but they missed the point.
The issue is not necessarily in what fathers tell their children. The issue is what we children hear.
I know of one very accomplished father. He really had had a superstar career. This man had been compelled to go to work at the tender age of nine, but even though you would not think it possible, he showed tremendous promise at that age. He even got involved in an ambitious project, over the objections of many of the people around him. He was truly a productive youngster.
In the middle of that big project, something happened to this young man, and he really got sold out for God. I guess you could say he had a conversion experience. He became so sold out for God that he got everybody around that he possibly could and pushed them to re-examine their relationship to God. He pressed God’s agenda hard. The fellow wasn’t a preacher, but he surely did preach to a lot of people, and got many of them to turn their lives around.
Why, this man got so involved, so sold out for God, that he went all around his town and then out to neighboring towns, to lead campaigns against immorality. He lived in a time when this was needed. A time in which children were not cared for, and died at random. A time in which women ran into prostitution, and their johns ran to them just as fast. A time in which it seemed as though everything vile and negative was taking over. But this person, for quite a few years, worked tirelessly to persuade others that what they were doing was not God’s way. He was absolutely sold out for God.
Why, at one point he even went to another country to preach and teach and persuade. Again, I say, this man was not a preacher or a foreign missionary, but he surely did act like one. And people really respected him. He had a great following and a wonderful reputation.
But you know how the Bible says that a prophet is not without honor except in his own country? A man may be a hero to others, but may not be held in high regard at all by his own family. Sometimes they are too involved to see the full story. Sometimes they are so close that they see the flaws that others don’t see. And sometimes they see all the externals, but they really don’t understand their father’s heart. They see all that he does, but they don’t understand why he does it. Sometimes children hear, but they don’t hear; they see, but they don’t see. Sometimes we just miss the point.
And so, when this particular father’s life ended, brutally and unexpectedly, just before the age of forty, his two sons tried to imitate some of the things their father had done; but they distorted them. They didn’t get it. They messed up. They missed the point. In fact, his sons were disasters. Total and terrible disasters. They had heard their father’s message, but they missed the point of what their father’s life had been about.