Many years ago, there was a blues song called Motherless Children. But there is cause to wonder, if a similar song were written today, if it might not be called Fatherless Children.
First, there is the growing trend among successful (as the world counts success) women in their late 30’s and early 40’s to raise children without fathers. Then there are those who are fathers only biologically, refusing to take responsibility for their sinful lifestyles. And there are the great number of children deprived of fathers by divorce.
However, the most disturbing trend of all is the one which has fathers taking a hands off approach to their children. These fathers live in the home, but they refuse to connect with their children. Some have an old, macho children are women’s work mentality, but many others are just disconnected from their families. It may be their jobs, their hobbies or their friends, but they allow something to keep them from interacting with their families. The fact that this trend also impacts so many kids in the Lord’s church makes it important for us to discuss.
The disconnected father is not the model found in scripture. In fact, the bulk of instruction given on raising children is given to fathers. There is the responsibility of husbands and fathers to provide for their families (1 Tim. 5:8), but there is so much more, and frankly, too many men think their responsibilities toward their children end with earning a paycheck.
God urges fathers concerning their children, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). It is easily recognized that mothers generally spend far more time with their children than do fathers, but that does not diminish the role God designed for men. God expects the father to be active in the spiritual nourishing of his children. How can we so easily see that neglecting the physical needs of children is condemned, yet we think somehow we can be right in the eyes of God while not providing for them spiritually?
How do fathers connect with their children? Time. There is no replacement for spending time with children, if we expect to have any influence in their lives. And while we might be expected to focus on the spiritual, we also recognize the importance of connecting on a social level, and that can be time spent at children’s ball games or music recitals, or it could be time spent with a child on Dad’s favorite hobby or the child’s favorite hobby. The point is, make sure your children know you are interested in their lives.
What happens to the children of disconnected fathers? First, when they reach their teen years, when children need more freedom and tend to push things, they are angered by fathers who now seek to set rules, to enact punishment for rule-breaking or to interact in their lives. They don’t understand why this man who has never been involved on a hands on basis in their lives, should now be the one to whom they answer as they approach adulthood. God said, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger (Eph. 6:4), and Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart (Col. 3:21). isn’t this exactly what we do when we live disconnected from our children, only to try and step in when we think they need correction?
Another difficult problem for these children is in developing a faith in God which is theirs. They are not interested in the faith which has given them such a father, so they reject it. Unfortunately, if Dad’s view of the instruction of the Lord is again, one of provider (I took them to church every Sunday!), they may reject the salvation of God based on Dad’s poor representation of it. Psalm 127:3 says, Behold, children are a gift of the Lord. What a dreadful position to be in on the day of judgment if God has to point to children who have rejected Him and ask us, What did you do with My gift?
It is far better that we should be the kind of fathers who are connected with our children, and who live our spirituality before them and teach them of God’s way. That is what Moses instructed for the fathers of his day (see Deut. 6:4-9; Ex. 12:21-28). God never intended for us to live disconnected from our children, because He has entrusted us with their souls.