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What a Lousy Dad Still Got Right (And We Can Too!)

Photo of Daniel McCoyDaniel McCoy | Bio

Daniel McCoy

Daniel is happily married to Susanna, and they have 3 daughters and 2 sons. He has his bachelor’s in theology (Ozark Christian College), his master of arts in apologetics (Veritas International University), and his PhD in theology (North-West University, South Africa). His master’s thesis was on apologetics to atheists, and his doctoral dissertation was on apologetics to Buddhists. In 2014, he co-authored The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw with Norman Geisler. Daniel works as editorial director for the Renew Network. His passion is to help people understand that they can totally trust Jesus. He plays guitar and piano and occasionally enjoys writing songs.daniel@renew.org

Editor’s Note: Father’s Day is this Sunday, and we would like to encourage the dads that, even in the midst of our imperfections, the Bible teaches us how to grow in our intentionality. By God’s grace, we can get this crucial step right . . .

David was a good shepherd. He was a good servant to King Saul. He was a good warrior. He was a good king, for the most part.

I don’t think we can say that David was a good dad.

As a dad, David did some things right, but he did some things royally wrong. Read through 2 Samuel, and you’ll discover that he didn’t show attention to his kids when he should have. He didn’t discipline his kids when he should have. At best, he was an okay dad.

In fact, most of the dads we read about in the Bible were not good dads. Just read about Noah’s drunkenness, Isaac’s favoritism, Jacob’s deception, Samuel’s inability. On and on we could go.

So we can’t hold David up as this great dad. But we can learn from his life. Especially from something that David the dad did right. And if you get this right, your kids have a good chance of turning out right.

Here’s the decision that David got very right:

As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying . . . (I Kings 2:1).

The decision David made was to pass something precious along to his son. Before I die, says David, I’m going to make sure my kid knows what he needs to know.

It’s no different from a relay race. However you ran that lap, what matters most is this: Am I passing that baton off to my kid? Before I die, am I going to make sure my kid knows what he needs to know? And if you don’t pass that baton on, then it doesn’t matter so much how you ran the lap, how successful you were at your job, how many people liked you, or even how great of a Christian you were.

David didn’t start out being that good of a dad. But he ended well. And that’s because his last thoughts and last words weren’t about his palace or about his gold. Rather, he wanted to spend his last words investing in his kid. Before I die, I’m going to make sure my kid knows what he needs to know.

Dads, sometime in your life—hopefully sooner rather than later—are you going to make sure your kid knows what he needs to know?

So let’s get into what David says to his son Solomon:

“As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man . . . that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.’” (I Kings 2:1-2, 3b).

Sounds like some pretty good advice: Be strong and show yourself to be a man, so that you may succeed in all that you do.

Sounds like some pretty typical advice. I mean, who’s got a problem with, “Be strong, be a man, and succeed?”

As a dad, maybe you’re thinking, Yeah, I think that’s good advice. Before I die, yeah, I’m going to make sure that my kid knows what he needs to know: Be strong and succeed in everything you do.

But here’s the question for us dads: Is that advice enough? Before we die, is it enough for our kids to hear from us, “Be strong and succeed in everything you do?” Are you doing your job as a dad? Be strong and succeed. It’s what most parents want more than anything for their kids.

But no. It’s not enough. Why not? It’s not enough, because that’s what they’ve already heard. That’s the message this generation of kids has already gotten.

In today’s culture, when you tell kids, “Chase after success! Dream big dreams! Follow your heart! Make sure you get what you want out of life!” have you thought about what you’re asking for? Consider that most kids want—more than anything else—shallow pursuits such as fame, fun, riches, a life of ease, and often a whole lot of darker things. A lot of kids are already addicted to trash.

So is telling them, “Go out and get what you want! Succeed at what you want!” going to be what they need to hear?

Much better than telling them to go out and get what they want is to help them change what they want. We can help draw them to higher desires.

Let’s see what David actually said in his final words (without skipping the middle part).

“As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses’” (1 Kings 2:1-3a).

In this passage, David tells Solomon to be a man. But what does it mean to be a man? Very helpfully, David goes on to describe what it looks like to be a man:

  • Keep God’s statutes
  • Keep God’s commandments
  • Keep God’s ordinances
  • Keep God’s testimonies
  • Keep God’s laws

So what does it mean to be a man? Keep God’s commandments. Things like:

  • Don’t follow idols; honor God.
  • Don’t lie; be honest.
  • Don’t steal; work hard.
  • Don’t commit adultery; be faithful to your wife.

And then comes the rest of verse 3: “that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.”

Before you die—and hopefully much sooner—you’ve got to make sure your sons and daughters know what they need to know. And if all you tell them is to go out and get what they naturally want out of life, they will obey you. They’ll get what they want. And in the end, they will see it for what it is: trash.

With your own well-ordered values, you can point them higher. You can point them to the commandments of God. To the richness of His truth and His grace. Make sure your kid knows what he needs to know.