What Kind of Father Do You Want to Be?
The media often portrays fathers as weak and foolish. But that's not the right standard. How can you become the father God intends you to be?
Fathers are idiots.
At least, that’s the impression you can get from mainstream media. It doesn’t matter if it’s a TV show, a movie or even a commercial for a credit card—if there’s a family involved, the common theme tends to be that the mom is holding everything together in spite of the father’s constant bumbling, self-sabotaging attempts at competency.
It’s such a prevalent depiction that TV Tropes has an entire page exploring the “Bumbling Dad” stereotype:
“Although he’s clever at times, he’s not usually allowed to be smart. He has no idea that Shortcuts Make Long Delays. He’s lazy, gluttonous and has miscellaneous other glaring vices. His children may love him, but they often don’t respect him. However, he is still a sympathetic character; the source of his charm is his complete love and loyalty to his family, even if the main way he shows it is by fixing problems he caused himself.”
Consider just a few examples: Homer Simpson (The Simpsons), Al Bundy (Married With Children), Tim Taylor (Home Improvement), Peter Griffin (Family Guy) and Hal Wilkerson (Malcolm in the Middle). This list could go on and on to include many movie characters as well!
Today's low expectations for fathers
We may live in a culture that sees fathers as little more than cannon fodder for the laugh track in sitcoms, but that’s not why God created fatherhood. It’s more than the media, though. It’s our society. I’ve heard wives and children alike talk about their husbands and fathers as if they were sitcom characters—dim-witted and blundering individuals who excel more as comic relief than as pillars of the family. It is not uncommon to hear grown men referred to as nothing more than “little boys.” That’s not just a criticism of women who may say that—because plenty of grown males act more like children!
Fathers (and men), the cards are stacked against you. Society allows for your incompetence—even expects it. If all you ever amount to is a minor annoyance in your family’s life, then congratulations! You’ve exceeded expectations.
But is that all you want to be? More importantly, is that all God wants you to be?
The biblical standard for fathers
The Creator of the universe has a bit more in mind for you. We may live in a culture that sees fathers as little more than cannon fodder for the laugh track in sitcoms, but that’s not why God created fatherhood. That’s not why He created males. That’s not why He created you.
The apostle Paul describes the standard for adult men: “Husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Timothy 3:12). Fritz Rienecker, in his Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, says that first phrase literally means “a one-woman man”—a man who, in addition to being a wedded monogamist, expresses a continual devotion to that marital relationship while being a leader in his household.
That’s a tall order, and Paul’s other writings underscore its depth, adding, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He goes on to expound on how the husband-and-wife relationship ought to mirror the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church. The father in a family is to conduct himself using Jesus Christ as a model. Numerous blog posts could be written expounding how Jesus Christ is the model for proper fatherhood (and manhood).
Fathers should be setting a right example
Fathers, the degree to which you are able to emulate Christ’s example is going to affect how easy it is for your wife and your children to have a relationship with God. You’re the metaphor. And one day, if it hasn’t happened already, your children are going to read what Paul wrote in Ephesians and either understand that Christ loves them like you love their mother, or they’re going to spend years struggling to look beyond the example you’re setting.
That’s the calling before you. Your children don’t need the bumbling, lazy father of countless TV sitcoms—they need a dad who leads his family with integrity and who loves as Christ loves. That can be a daunting responsibility, but with the help of your Creator, it’s not impossible. You’re going to make mistakes along the way—but you can become this man because God called you to become this man.
This Father’s Day, we extend our gratitude to the dads and father figures who, however imperfectly, are striving to meet the high standard God has set for them. Thank you for aspiring to be everything God called you to be.
To learn more about the kind of family God wants to see us develop, see our article “Building Strong Families.”