Fatherhood is about parenting.
- Parenting is about developing people into maturity.
- Fatherhood is a specialized role held by men for developing people into maturity.
- To value fatherhood is to value other people’s growth and development.
God Relates to us through Fatherhood
The entire way that God has related to humanity in Scripture has been mediated by fatherhood.
The Bible record documents God’s relationship with humanity in terms of “three great plans” or, as some Bible scholars would say, “dispensations” (29). [Jim Eichenberger. Training For Bible Service: A Basic Overview for Every Christian. Standard Publishing: Colorado Springs, 2011.]
“A dispensation is a plan or way by which God dispenses, or gives out His revelation, His blessing and His punishment” (29). [Jim Eichenberger. Training For Bible Service: A Basic Overview for Every Christian. Standard Publishing: Colorado Springs, 2011.]
- Led by Abraham Isaac and Jacob.
- Related to God through alters and sacrifices.
Jewish (or Mosaic) Dispensation
- Led my Moses.
- The children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob grew and were organized into a large family and then a nation.
- They related to God with laws that Moses received from God and shared with the people.
The Christian (or Church) dispensation.
- Led by Jesus.
- Jesus makes it possible for us to become one of the children of Abraham and benefit from the blessings of his family.
- Galatians 3:7 (ESV)
Fathers Are a Pathway to Blessing
The blessings God has given you are mediated by your relationship to a human father.(Galatians 3:9 (ESV)).
- Abraham is your father.
- The church becomes family to you (Mark 10:29–30 (ESV); 1 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV))
Human beings are different from other mammals in that when we are young, we are incredibly dependent on our parents.
The offspring of other mammals achieve a large degree of independence in a relatively short period of time, some within a matter of minutes.
For human beings, it takes years.
The reality is that up until your early twenties, your brain is still developing.
God designed things so that you would receive vital nutrients—emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual—from your biological parents.
Why Fathers Receive Such Disproportional Attention
Throughout Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, we see fathers as markers of the direction of the community.
- Psalm 78:2–3 (ESV)
- Psalm 44:1 (ESV)
The emphasis on fathers in no way disregards the influence of mothers or women in general as leaders and agents of transformation.
There are times when the Scripture is very explicit about a mother’s influence.
- The most instances are of the relationship between mothering and God’s plan for redemption: the Messiah would come through the seed of a woman.
- The book of Proverbs places the instruction of the mother right along side the instruction of the father (Proverbs 1:8-9; Proverbs 31:1 (ESV))
- The first commandment with promise is an admonition to honor both parents [Ephesians 6:1–2 (ESV)]
Scripture has high regard for the influence of mothers. What it also communicates is that the influence of fathers is such that the status of fatherhood can be shorthand for the status of the entire community.
- Exodus 20:5–6 (ESV)
- Malachi 4:5–6 (ESV)
- Romans 5:19–21 (ESV)
- When men pivot, they can be a bless to the same degree they cursed.
The Blessing of Honoring Fathers
Ephesians 6:1–3 (ESV)
- To honor parents is to acknowledge that you have an origin.
- To honor parents is to acknowledge that there is no self-made person.
- To honor parents is to acknowledge your dependence on God
- To honor parents is to acknowledge your dependence on other people for your flourishing.
Honoring parents is not just about honoring your individual parents, but also the institution of parenting itself.
Seeing the accountability between you and your parents is to see the accountability between you and your children. (Genesis 2:24 (ESV))
You have a responsibility to parent.
Parents are essential workers.
Most of us like the blessings of other people’s maturity, but not the sacrifice involved in helping them mature.
If you want to be great, be a parent.
- Matthew 20:25–28 (ESV)
- Proverbs 24:10-12 (ESV)
- Proverbs 127: 3-5 (ESV)
© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2022