What are the most important lessons or principles a father should impress upon his son? Reading the story of king David’s life in the Old Testament, I ran across his final words to his son Solomon. It’s a passage rich in wisdom for today.
Robert Greenleaf once wrote,
So many able people I have known have nullified their effectiveness by living in the past that will never return or in a visionary future that may never materialize, and the opportunity to be grasped here and now slips by them. . . . There are moments that contain eternity.
Those moments come to us fathers often if we pay attention. We must recognize them for what they are and use them to influence our children toward God, toward success, and toward a meaningful life.
David’s final charge to his son Solomon reads as follows:
My son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart; for the LORD searches every mind, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will abandon you forever. Take heed now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary; be strong, and act (1 Chronicles 28:9ñ10, NRSV).
We can learn much from these words about what fathers should teach their children by looking at the six imperative verbs in the passage: “know,” “serve,” “seek,” “be careful,” “be strong,” and “do it.”
Know the God of your father.
A father is the priest of his home. We can’t delegate this responsibility to our wives, to our church, or to our government. It starts with us not only teaching, but more importantly, demonstrating for our children the path to spiritual growth and renewal. Spiritual guidance also starts with being authentic and honest about our own spiritual mistakes and failures.
A priest does not just teach the lessons of heaven but also passes on the practical skills of life: things like auto mechanics, electricity, plumbing, building campfires, and so on. We need to focus, however, on the event itself and not just on fixing the problem at hand. Cherish those moments with you son. Allow them to become life-long and pleasant memories.
I will never forget the harrowing experience of teaching my son how to drive. I took him to an isolated country road, hoping to avoid all remnants of civilization. I had been telling him to make sure to watch for other vehicles. We came to a stop sign. He looked to the right and then hit the gas. We heard an angry horn and a swish behind us. I said, “Son, did you remember to look also to the left?
“Oh yeah” was his reply.
Boys today face many pressures to serve other masters. I would include among these: money, government, and pop culture. Teaching our children to serve God first gives them the freedom later on to oppose evil.
Why do you think the dictators of history wanted to crush the church? Because when people are loyal to God and not just to government, it is more difficult to manipulate them to your own political agenda.
Service to God leads to serving others. Pop culture tells our children, “Go out and take what you want. Promote yourself. Demand the things you deserve. A key to living life successfully, however, is to learn the art of serving others. This is true whether you work for a non-profit benevolent agency or for a for-profit company. You must serve your client or you won’t survive as a business.
The statement, “If you seek Him,” is a warning to Solomon that our natural impulse is to seek the external supports of life rather than the internal source of life. People get caught up in seeking wealth, fame, and possessions. The pursuit of these things as the goal of life leads to the corruption of the soul.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:33).
The word means, “advise yourself.” It is translated in the NLT, “Take this seriously,” and in the NET Bible, “Realize now.”
This is important because young people have not yet faced the struggles of life, so they often don’t take life seriously. It’s also important because our culture is constantly telling them they are merely products of their environment.
We need to communicate to our children that God has called each one of them for a special purpose on this planet. They don’t yet know what the purpose is, but the mere knowledge that such a purpose exists can propel them to accomplish great things.
The word David used here means to “fasten upon, to seize.” It is also often translated, “Be courageous.”
America teaches her sons to be sensitive, politically correct, and to find their “feminine side,” but we fail to teach them courage.
In an article titled, “The Feminization of the American Male,” Justin Taylor, writes:
A gradual emasculation of the American male has been under way for quite some time now, accelerated by things such as the aggressive branding of overactive boys as ‘ADHD’ and the subsequent over-drugging with Ritalin, etc., or through the way the media and culture portrays the male.
We must teach our sons to stand up to the dictates of culture, to be rebels in a true biblical sense. The Apostle Paul said it this way:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2, ESV).
Finally, we must teach our sons that words are not enough. One of the biggest flaws of my generation is we talk more than we do. I am encouraged by the Millennial generation because they seem to promise less and yet do more.
Fathers, if you lead your children faithfully, laying down your own life for their sake, they will ultimately respect you, honor you, forgive you, and follow your leadership.
New Living Translation (NTL Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Foundation, 2007.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.
Greenleaf, Robert K. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power Greatness. 25th Anniversary. Paulist Press, 2002, p. 313.
Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.