A father should lead his home with loving leadership. In our society, that statement is so controversial that it arouses instant hostility from many intellectuals, politicians and regular folks. As a result, many men do not know how to properly establish authority in their own household. They haven’t seen it done. They hear that it’s evil by its nature, and they’re not even sure they should do it because the society around them seethes at even the thought of it.
And that is a major reason why the society around you looks the way it does.
As a man, you need to clear your mind of society’s erroneous biases and agendas and learn to view parental authority the way the Creator of parents, children and family views it.
The Fifth Commandment says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
Modern child rearing tends to focus on establishing rapport with children, doing activities together, even building a friendship. If this is your entire approach to dealing with your children, you will have serious problems. The foundation of your relationship with your children must include establishing your authority. You must teach your children to respect your office.
This is the commandment that establishes God’s government in the home. It places parents in authority over children. Of course, though it is specifically directed at children, we parents must be the ones to train and instruct children to honor us, and to then enforce the command. The person who must make sure this commandment is in force in your family is you.
Leviticus 19:3 amplifies the commandment: “Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father ….” God commands not only honor, but also fear. This is talking about an attitude of the heart. It is a deep reverence toward us and a respect for our law. As the primary law-enforcer for the family, you must command respect. That includes a fear to fall under your judgment. In so doing you actually teach your children a vital spiritual principle: that of reverencing God the Father.
This word fear is the same word God uses in commanding us to fear Him (e.g. Deuteronomy 10:12-13; see also Luke 12:5). Your children’s interactions with you establish their future relationship with God. And that relationship begins with proper fear (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33).
This is the profound truth: We prepare our children to revere God and respect His law by teaching them to revere us and respect our law.
This is God’s law. We must not reason around it. And the only way our children will learn to obey this law is if we teach them. We must establish that reverence in our children for the office of both father and mother. We must love our children enough to enforce God’s law in their lives. It is the only way to get our families right.
Many people will wring their hands over the mention of words like authority, respect, honor, enforce, fear, reverence. They will imagine deadbeat, selfish fathers who beat their children and use their authority selfishly. But that is obviously not what God wants. He wants a strong father who leads his family by using his authority to serve them. That is what that authority is for. That is what fatherhood itself is for.
We can’t underestimate how important it is to God that we get the government right with our children. God explicitly forbids children from hitting his parents or even cursing them (Exodus 21:15, 17). Cursed in verse 17 means to bring contempt, despise, esteem lightly, or make light. We see this commandment broken everywhere in society today: children back-talking, sassing, treating parents as the butt of jokes, laughing at them, mocking their authority. (See also Deuteronomy 27:16.)
But don’t look at other families. Make this personal. Is this law being kept in your home? Imagine, in ancient Israel, how diligent parents would have been to enforce this law, knowing the consequences if they failed! It may seem cruel, but it motivated parents and children to respect government in their families. If this law were kept perfectly, the number of children who suffered this penalty would drop to zero overnight!
If you think this commandment doesn’t apply today, read where Jesus Christ backed it up in Matthew 15:4. Obviously we don’t apply the same penalty today that God commanded in Israel anciently—but spiritually, our children do come under the death penalty for this sin, and God and Christ require that they repent of it!
If you love your children, you will make sure they don’t come under that penalty! It makes the promise within the Fifth Commandment far more meaningful—that children who honor their parents will live long.
Use That Manly Voice
As the man of the house, you should be the dominant force. You should have a strong presence in your home and in the lives of your children.
Consider God’s example in ancient Israel. Before He delivered His law in the form of the Ten Commandments, God got Israel’s attention. He staged a dramatic display of thunder and lightning, accompanied by a sound like a trumpet blast—“so that all the people that was in the camp trembled”! (Exodus 19:16). He covered Mount Sinai in a fiery cloud of smoke, and caused an earthquake (verse 18). He made sure the Israelites respected His power and authority! He gave His law in a way that struck the fear of God in them! (Exodus 20:1-19).
A man should not be squeamish about striking a bit of fear into his children. There is a time for a man to get loud, to raise his voice. God gave men a deeper, more powerful voice for a reason. When the situation demands it, use it!
If a child doesn’t properly fear his father, how will he learn to fear God?
Gerald Flurry has said that his daughter told him there were times during her junior high school years when she could have made a wrong decision with her friends. She said what kept her out of trouble was that she feared her father.
Is there anything wrong with a teenager staying out of trouble because she is afraid of what her dad would do if she had to face him?
Right fear prevents us from breaking God’s law and bringing curses into our lives!
That fear needs to be in your children, and you need to establish it as early in their lives as possible. In an older child who has never had such fear, it can become nearly impossible to build.
1 Kings 1 describes King David’s son Adonijah, who rebelled against his father. Verse 6 lays the blame for Adonijah’s conduct squarely at the feet of whom? David. It says he “never restrained [his son] at any time by asking ‘What are you doing?’” (Fenton translation). David never confronted his son! And Adonijah, lacking respect for authority, drove his own life—and almost the whole kingdom—to ruin! How it would have helped that young man had David gotten in his face and put him in his place!
A godly man is “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (1 Timothy 3:4). You cannot fulfill this obligation simply by reading bedtime stories and throwing the ball around with your children. These activities are important and good, as we will discuss in later chapters. But they are not enough. And enjoying such activities is not the main thing God expects from you as a father. You must rule—and rule well.
When Jesus Christ establishes His Kingdom on Earth, “he will rule [the nations] with a rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15; also 2:27; 12:5). He will forcibly put down rebellion in order to establish peace. That “rod of iron” will be a great blessing to all people!
Make sure you know how to use a “rod of iron” in godly love with your children when required. All children have human nature. They can and will easily develop a rebellious spirit. You have to break that rebellious spirit—without breaking your child’s spirit.
Yes, you want your children to have spirit—a right spirit, a liveliness, vivaciousness and life. They should always know that they are loved. They need encouragement and positivity. Pray for God’s help in getting the balance right. Fear is only the beginning of the relationship you need. But without it, things can really go off track in your family.
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:5-7).
Notice: Paul assumes as a basic fact of family life that a father corrects, as if it would be ridiculous for him not to do so (verses 8-9). Sadly, this is not the case in many families today, and those families are the poorer for it.
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul gave his congregation some heavy correction. “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you” (verse 14).That was his duty as God’s apostle. He held a fatherly office in relation to the Church members, and warned them as his beloved sons.
Paul’s work was a family work through and through. “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (verse 15). He was the Church members’ spiritual father in this sense. He called Timothy the evangelist “my beloved son” (verse 17). He loved the members in Corinth like his own children. He also had authority from God(verse 21) that he used to build God’s Family and point them to God the Father.
It is our duty as fathers, before God, to use this office for our families’ benefit. God intends the authority to flow from Christ, through you, and down through your wife (1 Corinthians 11:3). If you don’t fulfill your office, the chain is broken. God’s ability to lead and to bless your family is severely hampered.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). Even if you live with your children, neglecting them in this regard will produce shameful results. Do not neglect them. Use your God-given family government office as a gift for them. God wants to send blessings down that chain of command to His children—blessings that He considers their right to have!
Do Your Children Give You Rest?
Proverbs 29:17 reads, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Meditate on this wonderful promise. It shows the positive fruits of the right kind of correction, and of establishing God’s law and government in the right way.
Wrong use of correction produces dread, terror, resentment or bitterness. Godly correction produces rest—comfort and quiet in the home. It produces peace within yourself and within your child. It causes you to delight in your children.
Do your children give you rest? Do they give delight to your soul? This is a good way to measure whether you are disciplining and instructing your children correctly. If you are, your children will be happy, free from the turmoil in their hearts caused by battling for supremacy in the family. They will not chafe at being governed, instructed, guided, corrected and loved. They will be at peace, content under the umbrella of protection and security provided by loving parents. This provides the environment under which they will truly enjoy, learn from and benefit from their time with you! It will give your whole family rest! Bring your children under your authority, and your home becomes peaceful—a nice place to be.
You see this same principle in Hebrews 12:5-11, which says God’s chastisement produces the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” in us. His correction improves our relationship with Him. We become “partakers of his holiness.” We become more the people we should be, and our hearts turn to our heavenly Father!
Be honest about your own children. Do they truly respect your office? Are they truly under your authority? If not, then you will constantly be battling with them, even when you are trying to love them!
If your children are wearing you out and getting on your nerves, if you find yourself always losing patience with them, if you don’t really enjoy them much of the time, if they’re not giving you rest, if they’re not a delight to you, then this is something you need to examine.
Evaluate the way your children behave toward you and other adults. They should not be smart-alecky, rude or presumptuous. They’re not to demand our attention or interrupt adult conversations. We shouldn’t allow them to make constant, whiny requests.
We should be able to say—before we get frazzled—“Children, you need to play quietly for a while,” and say it once, and have the children respect that command!
Assess the way you interact with your children. Tell your child to do something, and see if you get a “Yes sir,” followed by obedience. If you don’t, that is a good indication you are not properly using discipline and instruction. You have some work to do to fulfill God’s desire that you “rule well,” having your children “in subjection with all gravity.”
Have you inadvertently trained your children not to listen to you until the second, third, fourth or fifth time you say something? Have you trained them to seek what they want by whining, pleading or begging? Have you trained them not to obey you until you raise your voice?
When you tell your child to do something, expect obedience. If you don’t get it, make sure there is a consequence.
Again, if our children are really under our authority, they will not frazzle our nerves. They will give us rest, and be a delight.
God Himself is our supreme example of how to make this principle work in our homes. Read Psalm 103. It details all the ways that God expresses His love as a Father. He gives so much to His children. He blesses, He heals, He redeems, He crowns, He satisfies, He renews. He protects, He educates and instructs. He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, plenteous in mercy.
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him” (Psalm 103:10-11). What a wonderful Father He is—the perfect example to all fathers!
But notice to whom God has great mercy: “them that fear him.” He extends these benefits to those who are under His authority!
God does not pity the rebellious. He doesn’t extend mercy to the unrepentant. He isn’t gracious toward a “spoiled brat.” He corrects them in order to bring them to repentance so they can receive blessings.
This wonderful Father-child relationship—overflowing with blessings, mercies and affections—can only exist when a child reverences Him! The child must have a spirit of obedience, a humble and teachable attitude, an openness to instruction and correction, a fear of disobeying Him and coming under His judgment.
The same is true in your relationship with your children. The truly blessed connection we all want with our children is going to spring from teaching them to reverence us. If the reverence isn’t there, focus on establishing that—then bless your children as they show it. And give everything to the child who has that reverence!
The psalm continues: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (verse 13). Pities means to love, love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate, and have tender affection. Gesenius Lexicon defines it as “to be soft … cherishing, soothing, and in a gentle emotion of the mind … to behold with tenderest affection ….”
What a wonderful example God sets. As our children fear us, we can build and demonstrate that same love, mercy and compassion for our children. When we properly train our children to revere us, what blessings unfold!