If a parent’s primary task is to mirror God to his children, what kind of Parent is God? What responsibilities does He have as our Father?


God promises these three things to His children in scripture:


1)      His Presence (ex. Hebrews 13:5)

2)      A Commitment to our Spiritual Growth (ex. Romans 8:28-29)

3)      Physical Provision (ex. Matthew 7:33)


His Presence

When God is our Father, we know that no matter what we face, we are never alone. We are His highest priority. He is always available to listen; He is never too busy to spend time with us.


The final words of Jesus’ great commission (Matthew 28) were, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Psalms 139:7 rhetorically asks, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” Psalms 23:4 states, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”


A parent can give his children every external thing world in the world, but without his presence, it is a meaningless substitute for what they need the most. This is why, when we get distracted by lesser things in life, God reminds us that His presence is the most valuable thing we will ever have. This is why Hebrews 13:5 exhorts us to be “…content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”


A Commitment to our Spiritual Growth

Perhaps God’s commitment to our spiritual growth could be broken down like this:


1)      Modeling – Being a living illustration of righteous character and actions

2)      Teaching – Explaining what is being modeled and why it is important

3)      Training – Helping to practice what is modeled through encouragement and feedback

4)      Discipline – Providing negative consequences for intentionally rebelling against what is modeled and taught


God is not a hypocritical parent. He never asks His children to do something that He Himself is not doing. Nor does He expect us to live beyond our ability. Instead, He offers Himself as an example and then patiently teaches and trains us to imitate Him. He does this through His Word, by His Holy Spirit, and by His anointing on other people.


Acts 1:1 says that Jesus would always “do and teach”. First He showed His disciples what righteousness looked like. Then He explained it to them and trained them to imitate Him. We see this throughout the gospels. Everything Jesus did, He then commanded the disciples to do. This is why He could say to them before He departed (John 20:21), “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”


As parents, we have no spiritual or moral authority to teach our children things we aren’t doing ourselves. Nor do we have authority to discipline them for the same negative things we are doing. This does not mean we have to live out our words perfectly. But it does mean we need to at least be sincerely pursuing righteousness in those areas. It also means being appropriately honest with them about our faults and struggles, which is to model humility. It means apologizing and owning it when we fall short.


The Bible says repeatedly, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” There is a sense in which it is right for us to fear God’s authority over us. He holds our entire world in the palm of His hand. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. The boundaries He gives us are not arbitrary, even if we do not understand them or agree with them. Therefore, He is willing to provide negative consequences, sometimes severe ones, to teach us that sin is serious and dangerous.


Good, loving parents do likewise. How will children learn to fear and respect God’s authority if they do not feel any fear of us when they are caught intentionally disobeying? They need to know that, because we love them so much, we are willing to make it painful for them to choose rebellion. One pastor who lived next to a busy intersection said this: If my children’s love for me does not keep them out of the street, then their fear of me will!


However, we must be careful. Sometimes we can punish our children simply because they are making our life more difficult and we have the power to make it stop. We punish them for our sake, not theirs. This is a distortion of God’s nature. God only disciplines us for our own sake (Hebrews 12:10); it is never repayment for causing Him embarrassment, irritation, or pain.


Physical Provision

God promises in Matthew 7:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [food and clothing] will be added to you.” Humanists like to ask, “Would you steal bread to feed your starving family?” to prove that morality is relative. However, this scenario of either having to sin or starve doesn’t really exist in God’s economy.  Whenever believers genuinely seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness in their lives, He always provides for their physical needs.


It is right and good for parents to want to give their children the very best – the best food, the best clothes, the best education, the best opportunities. God is the same way. God fully intends to give His children the very best of every created thing to enjoy beyond limit or measure. He is excited to do this and we have all of eternity to enjoy these things. Sometimes He gives us tastes of these things in this life as well.


However, God’s primary objective for His children in this age is character formation. Wealth – the power to have the things we want when we want them – is one of the primary idols that destroy Christians’ faith (1 Timothy 6:10) and renders their lives unfruitful (Matthew 13:22). Wealth without character is a curse. Likewise, when human parents give their children whatever they want whenever they want it, it plunges them into ruin. However, parents who prioritize character formation withhold some good things so their children learn that true contentment is not based on possessions, but on relationships and righteous maturity.


Children of God

Here is a brief tangent worth mentioning: The aforementioned promises from scripture (Presence, Commitment to our Spiritual Growth, and Physical Provision) do not apply to all people. In today’s growing New Age / Universalist approach to spirituality, even supposed Christian leaders frequently use language to the effect that every human being is a child of God. While I agree that every person is loved by God and called to become a child of God, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:14, “many are called but few are chosen”.


Scripture is clear that becoming a child of God means being spiritually reborn (ex. John 1:12-13). This act is also repeatedly referred to as adoption (ex. Romans 8:15), which means the default standing of an unbeliever is a spiritual orphan. Therefore, telling an unbeliever he is a child of God is borderline malevolent. It may very well strengthen his false sense of security about not needing to be saved and having nothing to fear after he dies.



Did you know Jesus was a father? So was the apostle Paul. If you question this, you won’t for long. In the next chapter, we’ll learn about the highest calling human beings are created to fulfill.