For more than two-and-a-half years my wife and I tried to conceive. (If you’re interested in the amazing story, my wife has blogged about it here.) As soon as we found out we were pregnant my wife bought a book about what to expect during pregnancy – for me, not her! I admit – I read the book and found it helpful. As her pregnancy progressed I decided that I needed to also read about being a good father, not just a supportive husband during pregnancy. But before asking for recommendations or searching for the perfect book, I spent some time reflecting, meditating on biblical and practical principles that truly reflect the essence of biblical fatherhood.
As I spent a few evenings and late nights thinking about what I wanted for my daughter and, more importantly, what God wanted out of me, I came up with eleven principles. The list might have been longer, but just last week my daughter Addison made her grand entrance two weeks early!
Most of you are not new parents. But these principles can serve as a challenge or a reminder of what God demands of fathers.
1- I will display the love of Christ in my home in a way that draws her to Him and doesn’t portray a distorted view of God the Father. While Ephesians 5:25 is specifically related to the husband-wife relationship, the command to display Christ-like love in the home has impacts beyond this relationship. I pray that my love is an example of Christ’s love for her and her mother.
2- I will love her mother more than anyone on earth (even more than her) and devote prayer, time, and effort to this relationship, striving to ensure her mother & father are always together. I could quote statistics about the high school dropout rate or incarceration rate for single-parent children. But these statistics do nothing more than affirm God’s perfect plan as stated throughout scripture, including Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2. God created the marriage relationship for one man and one woman for life, and protecting my marriage relationship is directly in my daughter’s best interest.
3- I will place my family in the penultimate place on my list of priorities, behind only my personal relationship to Christ and above my career. As an attorney, my career can demand a lot of time and effort. While the two are not mutually exclusive, if I have to choose between being a great attorney and a great father, I’d much rather be a great father.
4- I will keep my family under the authority of a local assembly of Christian believers, aiming to expose her to the gospel and godly role models from the earliest time possible. God ordained the family, but He also ordained the church. I cannot fulfill the biblical role of a father without ensuring my family regularly attends and participates in a church that preaches and teaches the doctrine of Christ. No matter how busy life gets, church must remain a priority.
5- I will be the godly father she needs, basing my life decisions on the Word of God and her and her mother’s needs. Selfishness kills many marriages, and selfishness also impacts children. Basing decisions on God’s Word takes my desires out of the picture. And, according to I Timothy 5:8, providing for your family’s needs is extremely important. In fact, if I do not, God declares that I am worse than an infidel!
6- I will follow biblical commands when disposing of my resources, understanding that if I continue to put God first in my finances, He will ensure all her needs are met. Understanding that a new life is completely reliant on me and that my decisions will now directly impact her well-being could be overwhelming. However, because of promises like Matthew 6:33 and Philippians 4:19, I don’t have to be overwhelmed. All I have to do is make God first in my finances (which takes a great deal of faith!) and rely on Him to keep His promise.
7- I will exert maximum effort each day, at work and at home, endeavoring to bring glory to God and provide for her needs (and, Lord-willing, a few wants). Giving 100% effort in 100% of the areas of your life 100% of the time is a simply recipe for success – but it is by no means simple. My preeminent motivation is, and should be, to please God and bring glory to Him. And an important by-product will be that my family’s needs are met.
8- I will stay engaged in the political process and continue to influence my community, ensuring that she grows up in an environment that is as wholesome and safe as possible. Complaining about “just how bad things have gotten” or the direction of the country is easy, but it accomplishes nothing. On the other hand, speaking up for righteousness at every opportunity, impacting the next generation for the Lord, and voting in national, state, and local elections do make a difference. I can’t personally choose the next President or hand-pick every student that will share a class with my daughter. But there are things I can do impact my country and community, and I will do them.
9- I will care for my physical body, knowing that this is ultimately for both her and my good. Being a good steward of my body will enable me to be involved in her life for as many years as possible.
10- I will provide for her long-term needs in acknowledgment of the reality that her life will likely survive mine, investing in adequate life insurance and expressing my wishes in written, legally-binding will. I’m not an insurance broker, nor am I a financial or estate planner. But I believe each father has the responsibility to provide for his family in life and in death. And with the advent of technology, preparing a will or getting advice for life insurance has never been simpler or less expensive.
11- I will not allow her to engage in activities or relationships that are not in the best interest of her spiritual, physical, social, or emotional well-being. The epidemic of “friend parents” is disturbing, if for no other reason than the perceived need to make a child like them, often at the expense of the child’s true best interest. Understanding that my role is foremost that of taking care of my daughter’s long-term wellbeing is important to keep in mind.
I can’t say this list is absolutely exhaustive, but I believe it represents the core of what God expects in a father. Do you agree? If not, what “principles” would you add, or how would you revise those above? I welcome your comments below, or through Twitter. Follow me, then tweet with hashtag #BiblicalPrinciplesForGodlyFathers. May the Lord help me, and may the Lord help you, in being the father that He desires!