1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
That statement obviously is directed to the man of the family–the husband and father. It assumes, of course, that the person in question is capable of providing for his family. If he is not capable, due to some handicap or disability, that is an entirely different matter, and this verse does not condemn him. But if a person is capable of providing for his own and does not do his best to fulfill that obligation, then the Word of God strongly denounces him.
The verse we’ve read says that he has “denied the faith.” Regardless of how loudly and piously he professes to believe in God, regardless of how many church rolls he has his name on, and regardless of the number of religious activities he is involved in, by his neglect of his own family he has shown that it’s all a farce–he has denied the faith. Furthermore, this verse says that such a man is “worse than an infidel”–that is, he’s worse than the fellow who claims that God doesn’t even exist. This is a powerful verse of Scripture that none of us men dare ignore.
That verse refers to providing for our family’s material needs–and most of us try to do a decent job in that regard. But before any of us get too comfortable, let me hasten to say that the Bible also makes it clear–sometimes directly, and in other cases by implication– that a husband and father is also responsible for providing for certain non-material needs–needs that are even more important than the material ones.
So, if God rebukes us when we fail to provide for our family’s material needs, how much more strongly will he hold us accountable us if we fail to provide for our family’s non-material needs?–and it’s those that I want to focus on today. Jesus said, in Luke 12:15, that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” In Matthew 6:25 Jesus asked, “Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” He was saying that life is so much more than just taking care of material needs, as important as those are in their place.
As we think about our responsibility for providing for our family’s deeper, non-material needs, I want to challenge each father here–including myself–to face forthrightly the question, “Are you ready to die for your family?…
I. PROVIDING GODLY INFLUENCE?
Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Notice that fathers are commanded in that verse to provide two things: For one thing,
admonition–in other words, wise counsel. Proverbs 4:1 says, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.” Parents have lived longer than their children, and have been further down the road of life than their children have, and thus are in a position to know some things that their children have not yet had opportunity to learn. It’s as simple as that. It isn’t a matter of formal education, or any difference in intelligence–it’s a matter of experience. We are responsible for sharing with our children the benefit of that experience.
But that verse says that we’re to bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” That is, we’re to provide an atmosphere that backs up the counsel we have given. That means that we’re to set a right example for our children. The NIV translates the first part of Ephesians 6:4 as follows: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children….” If we don’t practice what we preach, then our children are confused and frustrated. In the story of Alice in Wonderland, one of the characters was trying in vain to explain something to Alice, and finally, in exasperation, Alice said, “I could understand it better if you’d show me!” We need to say the right things to our children–but even more important, we need to show them the right things.
If we expect them to be patient with us, then we need to be patient with them. If we expect them to respect us, then we need to treat them with respect. If we expect them to forgive us for the times we failed them, then we need to forgive them for their failures. If we expect them to speak kindly, then we need to speak to them kindly. Pity the parent whose attitude is, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say do.” Children learn by example.
If, for instance, we expect them to learn how to handle adversity, then we’ve got to show them how. David Lemmons told about a small boy who lived on a farm with his mother and daddy. After months of hard work, the father and his wife and boy were thrilled to see an unusually fine crop of grain. It appeared that this would be their best year. But just a few days before harvest was to begin, there came a terrible wind and hailstorm and the entire crop was destroyed. After the storm was over, the farmer, with his wife and son at his side, went out to the back porch to view the damage. The little boy looked out at what had been a beautiful field of wheat, now completely wiped out. Then he tearfully looked up at his dad, expecting to hear words of despair. Instead, his dad began singing softly, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hid myself in thee….” Years later, that little boy, now grown, said, “That was the greatest sermon I have ever heard.”
How well are you, as a father, doing in…
II. PROVIDING LOVE?
1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” Verse 13 says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love].”
We are to show our love to our family–and one way we show our love is by spending time with them. I read about a little boy who had surgery. His father, a busy corporation executive, took him to the hospital, waited until the surgery was over, and then stayed by his bedside the entire day. Later that evening the little boy said, “Daddy, this was one of the best days of my life.” His dad said, “Why, son, how could it be? You’ve had to be in the hospital for an operation.” The little fellow responded, “Yes, but daddy, you were with me all the time.”
Showing our love is profoundly important–but we’re also to tell our family members that we love them. New Englanders are noted for their reserve. An elderly New England couple were sitting at the breakfast table one morning when the wife began to sniffle. The husband said, “What’s the matter?” She said, “You never tell me any more that you love me.” He said, “When I married you I told you that I love you–if I ever change my mind I’ll let you know.” Well, we can do better than that. Expressing our love by both actions and words is more effective than assuming that actions alone are sufficient. To be sure, if our words aren’t backed up by actions then those words are empty and meaningless. But, assuming that our walk is correct, we also need to talk–we need to tell our family members what they mean to us. Love that is both demonstrated and verbalized is what most effectively warms hearts and strengthens relationships.
“Preacher, I think you’re making too much of the issue of talking about our love.” Well, if you think that, let me remind you that even God wants to hear us verbalize to him what’s on our hearts. Hosea 14:2 says, “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord….”
I heard a young adult say that throughout all the years he was at home, he never heard his dad say, “I love you.” What a shame–and how sad for that child.
But let me move to another issue: What kind of provider are you when it comes to…
III. PROVIDING DISCIPLINE?
If a man is to be effective in disciplining his children, he must first be sure that he is properly disciplining himself. Proverbs 25:28 says, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
B. CHILD DISCIPLINE
But having first given attention to his own personal discipline, the father must also discipline his children. He must do so lovingly, fairly, consistently, and in the right manner–but discipline them he must, if they’re to become the strong, mature persons that God created them to be and that their parents want them to be. Proverbs 3:12 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
One of the saddest stories in the Old Testament has to do with the aged priest, Eli, who was Samuel’s mentor. Apparently Eli himself lived a clean, honorable life, so far as his personal morals were concerned–but he was guilty of a grievous flaw in the sight of God. In speaking to Samuel regarding the judgment that was coming upon Eli, God said, in 1 Samuel 3:13, “For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”
How are you doing in…
IV. PROVIDING ENCOURAGEMENT?
Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”
A. WHAT THIS VERSE DOES NOT SAY
That verse doesn’t say, “Don’t ever make your children angry.” If you take a strong stand on certain important issues, they may very well get all huffy because they don’t understand the long-term ramifications. They may not realize that you’re looking after their ultimate good.
B. WHAT THIS VERSE DOES SAY
But what the verse does say is, “Don’t provoke them to anger”–meaning, don’t anger them by mistreatment, or unfairness, or inconsistency–because if that happens, they will be discouraged. And a father should be an encourager, not a discourager.
Nelson Price told about a friend of his, David Simmons, a former member of the University of Georgia football team and corner-back for the Dallas Cowboys. Nelson said that David, in his testimony, says that his father was extremely demanding and rarely said a kind word. He constantly pushed David with harsh criticism to do better. Even when he was a child, his dad set challenging goals for him, and never complemented him on his achievements. When David was a small boy he dad gave him a bicycle, unassembled, with the command to put it together. David struggled, trying to understand the complicated directions, and burst into tears. His dad said, “I knew you couldn’t do it,” and took over. When he played high school football, and then college football, it was always the same–nothing but criticism and put-downs. After college he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals football team. Joe Namath was the club’s first round pick, and David was picked in the second round. He was so excited that he called his dad to tell him. His dad said, “So, how does it feel to be second?”
What a tragic thing for a father to “put down” his children.
How are you doing, dad, in…
V. PROVIDING PROTECTION?
We are living in perilous times, and parents have a heavy responsibility for seeing that their children are as protected as possible from the wiles of the enemy. 1 Peter 5:9-10 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist steadfast in the faith….”
A. PHYSICAL PROTECTION
Although not specifically stated, “providing for his own” certainly includes providing physical protection. As God-ordained head of the home, the husband and father is responsible for seeing to the welfare of his family–and since the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, he most definitely must do everything he can to see that his family members are protected from criminals, intruders, and others who would do bodily harm.
B. SPIRITUAL AND MORAL PROTECTION
As made clear in the Scripture passages already cited, parents are responsible for the spiritual and moral upbringing of their children.
David Cawston told about a teenage girl named Misty who was working at a restaurant as a waitress. Her dad and a group of other men showed up to have a meal. They were engrossed in food and conversation while Misty went to another table some distance away to serve a man. The man, probably 15 years older than she, began flirting with Misty. She ignored his request for her phone number, but when he persisted, she motioned toward her dad and said to the flirt, “Do you see that man? That’s my dad. We have the same phone number. If you want it, get it from him.” Needless to say, the man immediately stopped his flirting.
That young lady knew, and that man sensed, that if her father were made aware of this man’s flirtatious advances, he would not have tolerated it.
How are you, as a father, doing in…
VI. PROVIDING LEADERSHIP?
Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”
A. LEADERSHIP IS THE FATHER’S ASSIGNMENT
All members of the family are of equal worth and importance, so it’s not a matter of superiority or inferiority–God has simply assigned different roles to the various members of the family, and he has assigned to the husband and father the role of leader. President Harry Truman kept a little card under the glass of his desktop that said, “The buck stops here.” It is even so with the husband and father.
B. THE MANNER OF HIS LEADERSHIP
By no means is it to be an iron-handed, dictatorial type of leadership. To the contrary, as the husband and father leads he should be considerate. He should respect and value the opinions of his wife and children, be sensitive to their feelings, and give serious consideration to their input. But when it comes down to making a final decision, the responsibility is his.
C. THE SCOPE OF HIS LEADERSHIP
Sometimes a parent says, “Well, I’m going to let my children decide for themselves whether or not they want to go to Sunday School or church.” Let me ask you a question: Do you let them decide whether or not to take a bath? Or whether or not to go to school? I expect not. Neither should we forfeit our responsibility of leadership when it comes to spiritual matters.
In Joshua 24:15 the old warrior said, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” May his tribe increase!
Some men seem to think that if they provide food, clothing, and shelter, they’ve fulfilled their end of the bargain, and that they can leave to the wife and mother the responsibility of providing spiritual leadership for the children. But any man who thinks that has swallowed the devil’s big lie, hook, line and sinker. There’s no way you can pass that responsibility off to anyone else–it’s yours, and one day when you stand before God you’ll give account as to how you handled it.
Jerry Vines tells about a little boy who came home from Sunday School and church one Sunday, but, unfortunately, his dad had stayed home to read the sports section and watch the game. The little boy was trying to get his dad’s attention, and after a while he just jumped up in his dad’s lap. His dad held him and hugged him a little bit. Then the little boy looked at his dad and said, “Dad, guess what the Sunday School teacher asked me this morning.“ The father didn’t even take his eyes off the TV screen, and carelessly asked, “What did the teacher ask this morning?” The little boy said, “The teacher asked when we died where did we want to go?” That got the dad’s attention. He looked his little boy in the face and said, “Son, what did you tell her?” The little fellow crawled up close to his dad and said, “I told my teacher that when I die I want to go where my daddy goes.” God used that conversation to bring that dad to Christ.
When your children die, where are they going? Where are you leading them? Are you providing a Godly example that is pointing them to Jesus? Fathers, be sure that you’re saved and that you’re honoring Christ in your daily life. That’s the way–the only way–to provide properly for your family.
If you’ve never repented of your sins and in faith surrendered your life to Jesus, now is the right time to do it. If you’re a believer already but have gotten off the track of God’s will, now is the time to get back in line. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”
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