You’ve heard it said, “Do what I say and not what I do.” Maybe you heard your mother or father say that to you, and now you find yourself saying that as a parent. Or maybe, as you observe your children, you see them say and do the very things you say and do. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.
So, which is it? Follow my words or follow my actions? The answer is, both.
As fathers, we have the privilege and responsibility of training our children through both what we say and what we do. Thankfully, God has given us a vision to help strive toward that goal.
A Vision to Pursue
As a father, it’s helpful for me to keep in mind the vision that God has given me for my children. The goal—his goal—is not athletic prowess, academic wonders, successful entrepreneurship, or even seeing my children become well-adjusted and engaging adults. All of these things are good and worthy pursuits, but none is the ultimate vision God has for our children.
In Deuteronomy 6, God calls Moses and his people to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” He then says, “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
A Vision to Promote
If the ultimate goal is loving God above all else and following him each day, our greatest job as fathers is to teach our kids how to love God and how to follow him daily. It’s not do as I say or do as I do, it’s actually both. We want to teach them the things of God, helping to cultivate in them a love and affection for God and his word and show them how to follow after him.
In order to do this, we need to start with our own hearts. We can’t give away what we don’t possess, nor can we model what we aren’t already practicing.
A Vision to Practice
If our goal is to teach our kids God’s Word and to live a life worthy of imitation, we need to consider how we cultivate our own affections for God and his Word. Many times, I find myself thinking and feeling that I can’t teach my kids if I’m not an “expert” on the subject matter. If you resonate with that, particularly when it comes to spiritual practices, allow me to offer three suggestions to begin, or continue, living out God’s vision for all of us.
- Open God’s Word: If you don’t know God’s Word, there’s no other place to start than by opening his Word. Make it your goal to spend 10-15 minutes reading from God’s Word each day. The more you build this practice in, the more the Bible will get into your heart and transform you, allowing you to then teach your children.
- Memorize God’s Word: David says in Psalm 119:11 “I’ve treasured your word in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” As we hide God’s Word in our heart, we are in a position to remember it and rehearse it regularly. Start with a verse or two and build from there.
- Invite other men to journey with you: Developing habits and routines is easier when you have accountability and encouragement. Find a like-minded friend to grow alongside and encourage.
A Vision to Present
We’re not striving to be perfect fathers, but to point our children to our perfect heavenly father. The goal is falling more in love with Jesus and helping our kids do the same. As you strive and struggle to know God and walk with him, allow your kids to see the daily strivings and the daily growth. Model a life that is set on knowing God and walking with him.
While we don’t want to simply tell our kids to do what we say nor do we hope they’ll just pick up godly habits they see in us, we can all strive to grow as godly fathers. As we do and our lives are transformed, may we continue becoming fathers who might turn and tell our kids the words of 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”
Let’s teach our kids to do what we say and do what we do as we seek to live out the vision that God has for each of us and for our children.