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The Challenge of Fatherhood and Absent Fathers

Bible teaching about fatherhood and the problem of absent fathersFamilies in our society are challenged by perverted and confused concepts of the role of fatherhood, including the problems of absent and negligent fathers. This causes many troubled children and much confusion about the nature of God as our Father. Please consider the Bible teaching.

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Courageous is the name of a movie and book by Randy Alcorn about five fathers.

The sheriff challenges the men with a study: “The study shows when a father is absent, kids are five times more likely to commit suicide, ten times more likely to abuse drugs, fourteen times more likely to commit rape, and twenty times more likely to go to prison.” (page 16)

The men eventually made a pledge to become the kind of fathers that God’s word says fathers should be. The story tells the challenges and difficulties each of them faced.

The story has mild issues I do not endorse [modesty, dancing, denominational doctrines]. Nevertheless, with discernment, the movie or book will give important challenges to all of us.

Our purpose in this study is to consider important challenges facing fathers.

Modern philosophies and entertainment bombard us with perverted concepts of fathers. As a result, many men are confused about their role as a father. Worse yet, when the Bible speaks of God as our “Father,” people who had a poor relationship with their earthly father often find it difficult to relate properly to their heavenly Father.

Consider the following challenging thoughts for fathers suggested by the movie/book:

The Challenge to Maintain Close Family Ties

Consider the Problem of Absent Fathers

From National Fatherhood Initiative and Focus on the Family:

According to the US Census Bureau, 24 million children live without their biological father: that's one out of every three children. For teens aged 15-17, 54 percent of them their biological parents are no longer married or never did marry. Consider the consequences:

Poverty: The poverty rate for children with absent fathers is four times as great as children of married couples.

Unwed mothers: When fathers are absent, teenage daughters are seven times more like to become pregnant.

Drug and alcohol abuse: The National Center for Fathering says that fatherless children are 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.

Education: Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of high school.

Emotional problems, abuse, and crime: When fathers are absent, children are more likely to be abused, have behavioral problems, commit crime, and/or go to prison.

Doug Mainwaring left his wife and children to live as a gay man. Later, he returned to his family, primarily because he realized his children needed a mother and a father. He says: “To give kids two moms or two dads is to withhold … someone whom they desperately need and deserve in order to be whole and happy.”

From the book Courageous

One says, “Divorce comes with the territory now.” Another responds, “Divorce happens because you make it an option.” (page 68)

One says his parents “…were never married … my dad … Had six children from three women … I’m thirty-seven years old, and I have never met my biological father.” (pages 68,69)

One explains that men “… have been told abortion is between a woman and her doctor. Well, if I have no say over whether the child even lives, if that’s entirely the mother’s call, then why should I have anything to do with raising the child? The man is either the father of the child or he isn’t – you can’t have it both ways.” (page 69)

Another man said: “I hooked up with a cheerleader in college. She got pregnant. I told her to take care of it, but she wouldn’t do it. I got mad and left her to deal with it herself. She lives just thirty minutes away, but all these years I couldn’t bring myself to go see her.” (page 172)

This describes typical problems in our society caused by absent and negligent fathers.

The Bible Teaching

God’s plan shows children need both a father and a mother.

Proverbs 1:8 – Children should hear the instructions of their fathers and not forsake the law of their mothers. (6:20; 23:22)

Ephesians 6:2,3 – Children should honor their father and the mother

One reason God restricted the sexual union to the marriage of one man and one woman, is so children have a family with both a father and a mother to raise them.

(Genesis 1:26-28; 2:24; Luke 2:48,51; Mark 5:40; Leviticus 19:3; Proverbs 30:17; Matthew 15:4; 19:19)

God views fatherlessness as a serious problem.

Deuteronomy 10:18 – God administers justice for the fatherless and the widow...

Psalms 68:5 – A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation.

Psalms 27:10 – When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.

If God is so concerned about children without fathers, what right do we have to deliberately choose to make children fatherless by divorce, cohabitation, single-parenting, or homosexuality?

(Isaiah 1:17; 1:23; 10:2; Psalms 82:3; 10:18; 10:14; 146:9; Deuteronomy 27:19; 14:29; 16:11,14; 24:17; 26:12; 27:19; Jeremiah 7:6; Job 24:3,9; 29:12; 31:21; 5:28; 22:3; James 1:27)

God sets the example of a Father who is present with His people.

Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Hebrews 13:5 – He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Unlike many fathers, God will never leave or forsake His children. God is not an absent father!

(John 14:23; Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Joshua 1:5,9; Genesis 31:3; Isaiah 43:2)

Fathers should know their children like God seeks to know His children.

John 17:3 – And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God.

John 10:14,27 – I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

In the movie “The Sound of Music,” the father had distanced himself from his children. When he realized his mistake, he said, “I don’t know my children.” How many fathers have made a similar mistake? Do we personally know each one of our children so we love and care for them?

(Philippians 3:8,10; 1 John 5:20; Jeremiah 24:7; Daniel 11:32; Hosea 5:4; 6:6; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 8:3; John 14:23; Galatians 4:9; 1 Timothy 4:5; Titus 1:16; 2 Peter 1:2,3; 1 John 2:14; 3:1; 4:6,7,8)

Fathers should love their children like God loves His children.

1 John 4:7-10 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God made known His love by sending Jesus to die for us.

Luke 15:17-22 – When the prodigal son repented, his father received him with love, affection, and compassion.

God not only knows His children, but He loves and cares for each one. Do we as fathers love and care for each of our children?

(Psalms 103:13; John 14:21-23)

Fathers should seek a harmonious relationship with their children like God seeks fellowship, oneness, and unity with His children.

1 John 1:3 – God desires to have fellowship with His children.

John 17:21 – Jesus prayed that His followers all may be one, “as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us.”

God desires close oneness with each of His children. Do we as fathers seek to develop that relationship with our children?

(1 Corinthians 1:9; Proverbs 17:6)

Fathers should communicate with their children as God does with His children.

Genesis 3:8ff – Before man sinned, God personally walked and talked with man in the garden.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 – Today the Father communicates with us through the Scriptures.

Matthew 6:9 – We communicate to the Father in prayer (Matthew 7:8-11).

Revelation 21:3 – Someday in heaven we will again be in God’s personal presence.

When people do not study and pray, they are not communicating with their heavenly Father. They are failing to build a personal relationship. Likewise, when we do not spend time with our children to know and care for them, we are failing to build a personal relationship with them.

In Courageous one man concludes: “Any [man] can father a child, but it takes courage to be a child’s father. To be there for them.” (page 172)

Another man read the following quotation: “At the end of his life, no man says, ‘I wish I had spent less time with my children.’” (page 332)

The Challenge to Be the Family Provider and Protector

In Courageous one man was a good family man but struggled to find employment to provide for them. Being the family provider involves challenges.

The Example of God as Provider

Matthew 7:7-11 – Like an earthly father, our heavenly Father gives good gifts to his children.

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from our Father.

(Galatians 1:3-4; Matthew 6:8-13,25-34; 10:29; John 15:16; 16:23,24; 1 John 3:9,41; Ephesians 1:3; 5:20)

Earthly Fathers Likewise Should Provide for Their Families.

Luke 11:11 – If a son asks his father for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? Fathers should not give children everything they ask for. We should give what is good for them: that which contributes to their wellbeing.

1 Timothy 5:8 – If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Earthly fathers demonstrate love by providing what children need. But some fathers refuse to hold down a job. Some use the money they earn to please themselves instead of caring for the family. And some simply desert the family and leave. All such are neglecting their duty as fathers.

And many fathers think they have done their job if they provide material things, but they neglect other important needs. Meeting the needs of children includes spiritual training, guidance, and discipline. Fathers should strive to meet all their children’s needs.

(Hebrews 12:4-11; Ephesians 3:14-21; Matthew 7:11; Genesis 37)

The Challenge to Be the Spiritual Leader, Instructor, and Authority Figure

Consider the Problem of Absent or Negligent Fathers

Elizabeth Marquardt, whose parents divorced, studied the effects of divorce.*

“One of the things we discovered in our study is that young adults from divorced families were less likely to be religious when they grew up …. They were less likely to be a member of a house of worship. They were less likely to hold a leadership position there. … The image of God as a father, … who’s there for you, protecting you, supporting and providing for you, is an increasingly unfamiliar experience for a lot of young people today.”

* From “The High Cost of Fatherlessness: To Children” by Jeff Johnston

From the book/movie Courageous

One of the men says: “I read that if boys grow up with mothers who attend church and fathers who don’t, a huge percentage stop going. But when the father goes to church, even if the mother doesn’t, the great majority of boys attend church as adults.” (page 298)

One said, “You can’t fall asleep at the wheel only to wake up one day and realize that your job or your hobbies have no eternal value, but the souls of your children do.” (Page 355)

One read the following quotation from Spurgeon: “Fearless of all consequences, you must do the right … turn not your back like a coward, but play the man … Better a brief warfare and eternal rest, than false peace and everlasting torment.” (page 332)

The Bible Teaching

The father should exercise authority.

Authority is the right to make rules that others are expected to obey. Modern society rebels against every kind of authority, especially that of fathers. But Scripture teaches that fathers are the head of their family and should use their authority for the good of all. This includes instructing the children.

Matthew 6:9,10 – Our Father in heaven is the ultimate authority figure. His will should be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (7:21; 28:18)

When people think that authority is not a masculine quality or that God should be a mother, they serve a false god. One of the main reasons the Bible describes God as our Father is that God is an authority figure, and authority is primarily a masculine characteristic.

Ephesians 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Fathers should exercise authority and use it wisely for the good of their children. But they should also do so in order to demonstrate to children the true nature of God.

(Colossians 3:13-20)

The father should be a spiritual teacher.

Genesis 18:19 – Abraham commanded his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice.

Isaiah 38:19 – The father shall make known [God’s] truth to the children.

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers should bring children up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Fathers are responsible to train their children to understand God’s word. But far too often fathers fail because they are absent or negligent, or because they think this is the responsibility of the mothers. Fathers must take the lead and actively teach their children.

(1 Thessalonians 2:11; Deuteronomy 6:6-9; John 6:44,45; Matthew 6:13; 11:25-27; 16:17; 24:36; John 12:48-50; 15:15,16; Proverbs 1:8; 3:12; 4:1; 23:22)

The father must set a good example.

Learning any task is easier if we can observe others. We learn to drive a car, cook a meal, etc. by example. Children are more likely to be righteous if they can see a good example in their father.

1 Peter 1:14-17 – Be obedient children. Be holy because God is holy. God our Father sets an example of holiness that we should imitate.

1 Kings 15:3 – Abijam walked in the sins of his father. Many such statements can be found regarding kings of Israel and Judah. Children often imitate their parents’ sins.

In Courageous one man says his dad told him he better never catch him drinking. But his dad had a beer in hand at the time. The son said, “It’s kind of hard to respect a hypocrite.” (page 68)

God expects fathers to teach the truth to their children, not just by word-of-mouth, but also by proper example. What kind of example does an absent father set? Fathers must be actively involved in their children’s lives, showing them how to serve God faithfully.

The father should lead in giving punishments and rewards.

Again, many people in our society rebel against these concepts. Yet, part of the masculine role is to punish children for disobedience and reward them for obedience.

Hebrews 11:6 – Our heavenly Father rewards those who diligently seek Him.

John 15:1-6 – The Father takes away branches that bear no fruit and casts them into the fire.

Hebrews 12:7,9 – If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? Human fathers corrected us, and we paid them respect.

1 Samuel 2:25-30; 3:12-14 – Eli and his family were rejected from being priests because he failed to chastise his sons.

Earthly fathers should properly administer rewards and punishments to our children. When we do so, we help people understand the nature of God.

When police arrested two teen gang members for drug dealing, one officer asked, “Where’s your daddy?” The teen answered, “Ain’ got no daddy.”

Another teen, when asked why he got involved with the gang, answered, “I ain’t got nobody, man. I just ain’t got nobody.” (page 344)

Negligent and absent fathers leave their children vulnerable to the evils of society: gangs, drugs, sexual immorality, and false teaching in schools and in religion. Fathers are responsible to guide and protect their children by instruction and discipline.

(Proverbs 13:24; Luke 15:11ff; Matthew 18:35; 1 Peter 1:7)


In Courageous one man bought a new suit. When he put it on, he said, “I feel like a rich man.” His wife responded, “… you are a rich man. You have a strong faith, two children that love you, and a wife that adores you” (pages 184,185). No amount of money, financial investments, or long hours on the job can purchase these riches. They come only from dedication to developing good family relations and good spiritual leadership based on God’s word.

The book ends as one man challenges men to accept the responsibility of fatherhood. He says:

“You don’t have to ask who will guide my family because by God’s grace, I will. You don’t have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ because I will. Who will accept the responsibility of providing for and protecting my family? … I am their father; I will. … I want the favor of God and His blessing on my home. … fathers who fear the Lord … It’s time to rise up and answer the call that God has given to you and say, I will! I will! I will!” (page 356)

Joshua 24:15 – We must say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”


“The Father Absence Crisis in America,” National Fatherhood Initiative

(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2019;

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