This “tale of two fathers” begins with a look at Job and the characteristics he displayed as a father. The second father in this tale can be any father you know (yourself, your own father, someone else’s father, etc.) and see how they measure up to the example God gives us of in the person of Job. Job is most often studied for the way he handled trials and afflictions God allowed to be handed out via the hand of Satan (1:1-6; 2:1-6). However, in the first chapter of the book of Job, we can extrapolate a few key points that show us the kind of father he was.
In the book of Job, God gives us insight into the fact that Job was a very wealthy man. He had 11,000 heads of livestock. Job also had many servants. He had ten children. He was considered the greatest man in that region of the world at that time. Job feared God and was perfect (blameless and without blemish) in his actions toward God, which helped him eschew (shun) evil (1:1-13).
The first thing to look at is Job’s wealth and how he handled it. The Bible does not specifically say how Job came about his wealth, just that he was wealthy, and wealthy enough to own all that livestock and have servants in his house. But because Job was described as perfect and blameless, the first characteristic we can determine about Job, the father, is that he did not neglect his family in the quest for wealth. The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Job’s heart was with his children, as we’ll see in a moment.
Unfortunately, today, many fathers seek to be the supporters of their family, as they should be, but then desire to work above and beyond to buy toys (boats, status cars, expensive hobbies, etc.) to the neglect of their families. As we’ll see soon, Job kept his family, especially his children, above his financial desires because he had the proper perspective about his wealth. Job recognized that God had given him his wealth. But God allowed the devil to take away all the wealth that Job had accumulated. In Chapter One we see that all 11,000 heads of livestock, and all but four of his servants were destroyed. Job simply took it all in faith and responded, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away” (1:21).
This faith in the Lord did not allow Job to despair and work hard, to the neglect of his family, to regain his wealth. Job was willing to sacrifice if that’s what God called on him to do: “Naked came I out of my mother’s wound, and naked shall I return thither” (1:21). If he had to go without life’s luxuries, Job was all right with that. He demonstrates for us wisdom in recognizing that we have certain needs that are promised by God for those who seek him, but beyond that, the luxuries (toys, boats, cars, hobbies, etc.) are not necessities for life. Job wasn’t going to put his family at risk by purposely pursuing wealth that was not given him by the Hand of God.
How do we know this? Before Job’s children were killed (1:18-19), he displayed a great love for them that exceeded his love for his wealth. Again, God supplied Job with his wealth, but I’m sure Job had to work for it. The Bible says, “…if a man would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). So it’s a given that Job worked. So, in that light, consider this. He had to go somewhere and spend some allotted time tending to the needs of his business (we’ll call it that). But even before anything else was done by Job, with regard to his business, he got up early every morning and put his children’s spiritual needs before the Lord.
Job acted as the priest of his family and offered sacrifices to the Lord. “…and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus Job did continually” (1:5). Job put aside his business duties and financial responsibilities until he first brought the spiritual condition of his children before the Lord. Now these children were grown children living in their own houses (1:4), but Job never stopped being a father to them, regardless of the ages of his children at the time.
That demonstrates the second example Job gives us. He loved his children enough to be concerned for them all the days of their lives. His main concern was for their spiritual state. Job recognized that, like his wealth, a man’s children are also a God-given gift. Again, look at what he said after hearing about the death of his ten children: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). Fathers need to recognize the gifts of God that are in their care. That includes thanking God for them in prayer as well as praying to God for His protection over them concerning physical and spiritual calamities. We know too many examples of children going to school with clothes that are ragged, torn, or maybe even too small, and they get picked up at the end of the day by their dad who happens to be driving a beautifully adorned status car with all the external trimmings to make it attractive to others. All the while, this father’s child should be given more attention than the vehicle. If a father puts more value on his toys, can he really be counted on to raise his children up in prayer to God? Probably not.
The third characteristic Job displays is his humility. It doesn’t jump off the page, but if you read between the lines in these first five verses, you see something. Just as Job didn’t put his business and financial burdens before his family, neither did he let his ego get in the way of caring for his children as his priority. Remember, the Bible says he was the greatest man in the region. He may have been looked upon by others as having great wisdom and was possibly counted on for help in civil, financial, or business matters. He could have gotten puffed up and begun to think of himself as more highly than he should.
Fathers in positions of authority who are involved in careers that help people can begin to believe they are the only ones who can help the afflicted that come to them. A doctor can begin taking on more and more cases until he is operating by day and seeing patients at the office all afternoon and then making rounds at the hospital until 10:00 pm. This can go on Monday through Friday. This may have completely noble and altruistic motives, but it’s still wrong. Job was there for his family and didn’t stop once the children all were out on their own. Job didn’t let his greatness destroy his family.
The fourth thing Job teaches us about being a father is found in verse five, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” I believe Job was so involved in his children’s lives as they were growing up, that when they were out on their own, he knew the propensity they had in them to sin. Small children may not yet reveal their personalities and weaknesses yet, but if you pay attention to them as they grow, you’ll begin to recognize the sinful tendencies that are bound up in their hearts. That obviously requires involvement in your children’s lives on an almost daily basis. It requires that you take an interest your children.
I don’t particularly like the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, but there was a scene that I don’t think is too far off from reality. Raymond took one of the twins to the doctor because the child was sick. At the doctor’s office, Raymond is peppered with several questions that were simple and routine. Raymond didn’t know the answer to any of them. As Raymond stood there with a dumb look of bewilderment on his face, the doctor tried to reassure him by saying something to the effect of, “Don’t be ashamed. You’re answering questions like a typical father.” The scene culminated with Raymond’s brother barging into the doctor’s office with the other twin because Raymond couldn’t tell his own twins apart enough to take the correct one to the doctor. It’s a silly scenario, but if art imitates life, it’s clear that we, as fathers, don’t get involved enough in the details of our children’s lives.
And Job’s knowledge that his children have the propensity to sin is striking. If he were fathering today, would he allow TV and computers with Internet access in the bedrooms of his children where there was no monitoring of the activities and websites visited? Would he have bought his children cell phones and paid for expensive texting packages and not stay on top of how that technology was being used? Would he have let any of his children go with their friends “just out” with no specific plan, or to a party with many people at a home where parents aren’t supervising? You may say, “I trust my kids.” Job didn’t take that for granted. Job recognized the dire consequences of any sin in which his children may involve themselves.
So, the main teaching of the book of Job is about the suffering of the just. But Job is a great example of four characteristics of fatherhood.
- Job never put his wealth and all the things he could afford ahead of his family.
- Job was concerned for his children all the days of their lives, even into their adult years, lifting them up in prayer with a concern for their spiritual well being.
- Job didn’t let his greatness puff him up. He stayed humble and committed to his family.
- His commitment was seen in how he was so involved in his children’s lives to recognize the likelihood that each of his children had to commit sin against God.
Job’s humility caused him to give his wealth its proper place in his life. Putting wealth in its proper place left room for what he believed was more important, and that was his family. In so doing, Job gladly lifted his family, children included, up to the Lord in prayer. It’s through this great love he had for his children that caused him to be so involved in their lives that he knew them so intimately to know they each had a unique weakness that would leave them vulnerable to Satan’s tempting.
Now the application. Pray to God for the wisdom to know what aspects of Job’s fathering are missing in your life. Are you putting worldly desires before your family as you purposely pursue wealth so you can satisfy your carnal wants? Are you lifting your children up to the Lord in prayer daily and thanking God for the gifts that they are and asking Him to protect them? Are your career and the stature you hold in your job taking you away from your children? Is there anything keeping you from becoming more involved in the intimate details of your children’s lives?
I doubt we’ll ever display all four characteristics perfectly at any one given time. And there’s a balancing act with each. We need to work, but also need to trust God with our resources and His provisions and seek His wisdom where obtaining more wealth is concerned. We may struggle with what seems a monotonous routine of thanking God for our children daily, but we shouldn’t take them for granted, for one day, God may take one or all of them back, as He did in Job’s life. We need to seek wisdom in promotions and special assignments our bosses give us. A week in the West Coast for a corporate meeting is one thing, but the decision to accept a promotion that adds two extra hours to an already tough commute must be prayed about. Fear anything that may cause a stress fracture in what should be a solid family, and a new promotion may not always be the best thing. Lastly, we must be careful to be intimately involved in our children’s lives on the one hand, without being overly authoritarian and tyrannical in the process.
Fathering, if done right, is not easy. It’s stressful, but it’s a joyous stress (if there’s any such thing). I leave you with this one profound story by an author that remains unknown: One night a father overheard his child praying, “Dear God, make me the kind of person my daddy is.” Later that night, the father prayed, “Dear God, make me the kind of person my child wants me to be.”