Monday— Jacob (Israel): Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons… Genesis 37:3
“Here he comes, Dad’s little pet,” Rueben smirked. The ten brothers stood as a unit, hostility crackling in the air. As the eldest, Rueben had been the apple of his father’s eye. The rest of the brothers knew they too were the fulfillment of God’s promise to their grandfather, Abraham. They had purpose, position, and power. Then Joseph came along and because he was the son of Dad’s favorite wife, the other kids felt invisible. To make it worse, Dad flaunted his favoritism by giving the kid an expensive robe. The brat wore it like he was a king. The brothers gave up trying to get Dad’s attention and zeroed in on the one who’d stolen it. Hurt and resentment mushroomed into fighting and revenge, and home-sweet-home became a battlefield.
Maybe you grew up in a home like that. You know the sting of favoritism and swore you’d never do that to your kids. But now, your family accuses you of the same thing. You don’t mean to, but it’s hard to treat them all equally when some are harder to handle than others, especially if one wants you while the others want Mama. One obeys you; one defies you. Parenting more than one child can be difficult and treating them all equally is harder than it sounds. But if you’re favoring one child over the others, Jacob invites you to peek into his home. His favoritism created disaster for his favorite child and turned the others into liars, haters, and murderers at heart. Favoritism destroys a child’s self-worth and a family’s harmony. Don’t be a Jacob.
Final Thought: Are you making Jacob’s mistake? Ask God to help you parent all your children the way He parents you.
Prayer: Father, I never realized I might be showing favoritism in the way I treat my kids. I don’t mean to, but you know the ones I struggle to parent. Help me see each of them the way you do and love them like you love me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— Lot: The two angels arrived at Sodom… and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. Genesis 19:1
Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked places before Lot arrived. Yet, he moved his family there anyway and became a respected leader in the most perverted twin-cities in the region. His neighbors, co-workers, and friends were vile and twisted people, but there were exciting career opportunities and the weather was beautiful. He knew God and may have hated the sins of his chosen hometown, but he grew comfortable with it. While Lot thought he was influencing Sodom, Sodom was influencing his family. He lost his home, his possessions and his wife. His daughters ended up committing incest with their father.
Many fathers sacrifice everything in their reach for power, money, and success. They, like Lot, see an opportunity to obtain position and profits, so they brush off warnings of “What about your family?” They justify their neglect by insisting that they’re “doing this for the kids.” They throw expensive toys and permissiveness at the kids instead of giving them time, attention, and instruction. They assume the schools will educate them, the church will spiritualize them, and the mom will discipline them. Only too late do they realize that while they were conquering the world, the world was conquering their kids. Don’t be a Lot.
Final Thought: What are you doing to ensure that this world’s ungodly way of thinking does not conquer your kids?
Prayer: Father, I’ve been guilty of this. Trying to juggle work with family time, I often fail my kids. I give them stuff instead of time. I yell instead of teach. I ignore bad influences. Show me how to keep them safe from the world. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— Eli: Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD. 1 Samuel 2:12
Eli held one of the most respected positions in the Jewish community— a priest in God’s temple. It was his job to hear from the Lord and make God’s will known to the people. But he was also the father of two sons. Church kids. While Eli was busy at the temple, the boys ran wild. Eli made the mistake many parents make, especially those in ministry. He elevated church work over family responsibilities and assumed the boys would catch morality like the flu. God judged him for not restraining them.
God warned Eli years earlier that his sons were no good and he needed to do something about that. But like many fathers, Eli was passive. Discipline required energy and unpleasant confrontation, so he ignored their ungodly behaviors. We see this attitude when a thug has been arrested for assaulting someone. “He’s a good boy,” the tearful mother says. “He just got in with the wrong crowd.” That may be true. But it’s more likely that he WAS the wrong crowd. It’s difficult for us to see the people we love realistically, but God doesn’t wear rose-colored glasses when he sees our families. He expects parents to be intentional about teaching, disciplining, and restraining their children. Eli remained passive, and everyone suffered. Don’t be an Eli.
Final Thought: Are you too passive in the upbringing of your children? It’s better that you restrain them than for God to do it.
Prayer: Father, I have worn rose-colored glasses about my kids. I love them and know that you love them too. But you don’t excuse their ungodly behavior and I won’t either. Help me learn to train and restrain my kids. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— David: When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. 2 Samuel 13:1
David. Dreamy songwriter. Innocent shepherd boy. Mighty warrior. As God’s hand-picked king of Israel, David wore many hats, most of them extraordinarily well. But he failed in one of his most important roles—father. Running a kingdom isn’t for sissies: slaughtering evil villains, making wise decisions, and keeping all those wives happy. He was proactive in seeking justice for the nation, but failed tragically when he learned that his son had raped his daughter. When her brother Absalom saw his father doing nothing, he was furious and plotted to kill his rapist brother and take the kingdom from his father. David was angry about the rape but did nothing to vindicate his daughter, so she “remained desolate in her brother’s house.”
We may not have kingdoms to run, but we often fail in our own homes when we allow our kids to bully each other with little consequence. “They’re just kids. All siblings pick on each other,” say the David-like fathers. They allow abuse of all kinds to continue under their roof because it’s too much trouble to keep close tabs on what the kids are doing. “You kids get along!” David-like parents shout from the other room and pride themselves on their discipline while a lifetime of sibling-on-sibling damage is happening. David refused to deal with his dysfunctional household and lost the respect of his kids. Don’t be a David.
Final Thought: Are you paying close attention to your household? Could your child be suffering abuse right under your nose?
Prayer: Father, I have dropped the ball in a lot of areas as a parent. I get busy and distracted. I’m tired and don’t want to deal with it. But this story reminds me that abuse can go on in the best of families. Help me pay attention. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— Manasseh: He sacrificed his children in the fire…practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger. 2 Chronicles 33:6
King Manasseh would never be named Father of the Year. Not only did Manasseh sacrifice his own babies to idols, but because he was king, other dads followed his example. He led the nation of Judah into all kinds of wickedness, so God was angry with him. Manasseh had so hardened his heart against the Lord that even child sacrifice was acceptable. He assumed he had God’s favor because he was king of God’s people, so he thought he could court the favor of idols too. Can’t have too many gods, right? Wrong. So how could a father justify slaughtering his own children? For the same reasons we do.
When the Lord ceases being our only God, we are prone to all kinds of twisted thinking. Many modern fathers have done as Manasseh did and sacrificed their children upon the altars of selfishness and pride. “You’re pregnant? Here’s $500. Get rid of it.” We sacrifice them in other ways too: their values to the sports god, their self-worth to the money god, and their minds to the entertainment god. The good news is that by verse 20, Manasseh repented. He tried to reverse the damage he’d caused, but even then, his eldest son followed in his footsteps to become Judah’s next evil king. No sin is too great for God’s pardon, but often the damage is irreversible. When we repent, God forgives but doesn’t cancel the damage done. Don’t be a Manasseh.
Final Thought: If you have been a part of sacrificing your children to evil, God knows. He will forgive when you repent.
Prayer: Father, this great grief has followed me for years. You know what I’ve done and I can’t undo it. But like Manasseh, I see my sin for what it is and I fall upon your mercy. Please forgive me and cleanse this dark stain from my heart. Amen.