Happy (upcoming) Fathers Day! Unfortunately, the world we live in has produced many biological fathers, not all of which can be considered “Fathers” in the truest sense of the word. Certainly the children, the family, suffers when there is a lack of a father figure, but (1) a biological relationship does not a father make, and (2) the father not only cheats his children when he chooses not to participate in their lives; whether he realizes it or not, he cheats himself. Men, we have a God-given opportunity to lead, teach, nurture, love, encourage, protect…a piece of ourselves. We have an opportunity to watch them grow and we’ve got a front row seat from which to influence. Jody and I were blessed to have four wonderful children, 3 sons and a daughter; all good students and athletes. I was grateful for the chance to coach the boys in wrestling, baseball, and football, and spent many weekends in gyms for volleyball tournaments and track meets in support of all four of the kids. My children always said they listened for and could hear my voice above all the others, and that gave them inspiration. Dads, we have the ear of an impressionable child. What an awesome opportunity and responsibility! They’re teachable; teach them right.
Someone once said rather profoundly, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” You can make a good “first impression”, or a bad “first impression”, but once it’s made, it’s made. There’s no rewind button. We have one childhood per child to teach them right. We have an opportunity to love them with all our ability…equally. Jesus gave us a model to follow for living life and for being a good father to our children, which after all is teaching them the best way to live life. We need to teach them to listen for the voice of instruction that comes from the Holy Spirit, to hear that voice above all the rest.
Romans 2:11 says, “For God does not show favoritism.” Neither can we, Dads. There were only two of us, my sister and I, growing up in our family. And there really was no favoritism issues. But it doesn’t require great numbers to favor one child over another. It only takes two. Favoritism breeds resentment, from which, if allowed to fester, comes contempt. A family that I knew of, also had but one son and one daughter. Both were adopted and, no doubt, were loved by their parents. However, as they grew older it became more and more evident that the father’s favorite was his son. The son was an honor student, popular in school, a good athlete…an easy target to dote over. But doting over the one became ignoring and borderline disrespect for the other. This favoritism continued into their adult lives as the daughter could seem to do nothing worthy of admiration in her father’s eyes. Resentment developed, not surprisingly, between the brother and sister, carrying into their adult lives where, even now, they have little if any relationship at all.
Sad stories at Fathers Day can be changed to glad stories if we learn from them. The Old Testament story of Jacob and his 12 sons demonstrates a thing or two about fatherhood and “what not to do”. It’s a story of how favoritism breeds resentment, contempt, and, in this case, personal guilt.
Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, had 12 sons by three different women. Jacob favored Rachel above the rest and when she bore him two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, Jacob favored Joseph above all his sons (Gen 37:3). And it was rather obvious to the brothers. The story in Genesis 37, makes evident three points of contention that takes resentment into contempt.
#1 – Joseph was his father’s eyes and ears in the field. Verse 2 tells us that Joseph was a bit of a tattle-tale. It was bad enough that he was Daddy’s favorite, but he runs back to tell Jacob everything they do.
#2 – Jacob exacerbated the situation by making Joseph a “richly ornamented robe” (v3).
#3 – Jacob’s attitude and actions made it no secret that Joseph was favored above the rest and this fueled their contempt, not for their father but for Joseph. They coveted their father’s love and affections.
Resentment had blossomed into all out contempt. Verse 4 says, “they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Being the second to the youngest, not only was Joseph the newly coronated favorite, but he had taken over the position that they had all once held. They felt ignored and rejected by their father. Contempt is to resentment what a tornado warning is to a tornado watch. With a tornado watch, conditions are right for a potential tornado to develop. A tornado warning indicates that one has been sighted, it’s just a matter of where it will touch down or if it will touch down. Resentment is living in the same town where explosives are sold. Contempt is living in a 12’x 14’ shed nearly full of explosives. It only takes a spark for disaster to strike.
Disaster came in the form of Joseph’s dreams that “he” would rise to prominence and rule over “them”. They would all bow down to him (v5-9). They hated him all the more. So, when Jacob sent Joseph on his next assignment to check up on his brothers, “they saw him coming from a distance and plotted to kill him.” (v18) But for his brother Reuben’s sudden case of conscience, they would have killed him. Instead they took his coat and threw him in a cistern until a merchant caravan came by and they sold him to them. They took his coat and covered it with goat’s blood and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild animal (v33). As far as they were concerned, Joseph was dead. No more favorite. Favoritism had completed its course. Resentment, contempt, death.
The story seemed to have ended badly, from their perspective. But God had other plans. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
God uses all situations to accomplish His purposes. So, maybe you think you dropped the ball as a father. You figure you did a poor job, didn’t teach your children the right principles, you weren’t the best example to them growing up. All is not lost. You’re still their father. They’re still your children. God is in the rehab business. He can take what you messed up and make it shiny new. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23
So, Dads, let’s make this Fathers Day a glad story. Become a Godly father. Our heavenly Father has given us such a perfect example to follow!