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  • Writer's pictureJim Hays

Absent Dad

I hope you found a way to celebrate Mother’s Day last week amid this Covid-19 lockdown. Moms are a big deal in families. They are the engine that makes everything run smoothly. I saw a lot of great pictures on Facebook and Instagram of children and grandchildren who found a way to be with Mom and Grandma. Good for you!

What about fathers? Are they a necessity in today’s family? It seems to me that dads are often seen by our culture as secondary support to Mom or even an unnecessary component to the family unit.

When I was growing up, the popular television shows of the day depicted dads as strong, wise leaders of the household. I think of Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best), Ward Cleaver (Leave It to Beaver), and Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show).

Today, we have Homer Simpson (The Simpsons), Al Bundy (Married with Children), and Mike Baxter (Last Man Standing)—bumbling idiots all.

As we begin a new summer sermon series on the life of Joseph, we open with a close look at Jacob. His name means deceiver. No wonder God changed it. Jacob deceived his brother with a bowl of soup. He and his mom deceived his dad with sheep’s wool and a little glue.

The tables were turned when Jacob was fooled into marrying the ugly sister of the woman he loved. The deceiver became the deceived! To get what he wanted, he married the pretty sister, too. The ugly sister is super-fertile, bearing six sons and two daughters to Jacob. The pretty sister is barren until one day, by God’s grace, she’s not. She bears two sons—Joseph and Benjamin.

On the way back to Canaan, one of Jacob’s daughters is raped by a man in Shechem. Jacob hears about it and does nothing. The sons, intent on defending their sister’s honor, hatch a plan that ends up with every man in Shechem dead. Jacob hears about the massacre. In essence, his response is, “What will the neighbors think?”

Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, lusts after one of dad’s concubines and beds her down (consensual or not, the text doesn’t say). Jacob finds out about it and does nothing.

Because Joseph is the firstborn son of the wife Jacob really loved, Jacob shows him favoritism. The other brothers seethe with jealousy. As the favoritism continues, the jealousy turns to rage. Dad gives the favored son a beautiful coat. The message is clear—no hard labor for this son. He might get his coat dirty!

To top it off, Joseph starts having these vivid dreams where his whole family bows down to him. He shares those dreams and the jealous anger of the brothers turns to hatred.

The brothers peddle Joseph off to a bunch of Ishmaelite traders and fake his death by slinging goat blood on the fancy coat. Jacob concludes that his favorite son is dead.

Put all this together and it becomes clear—when they start taking nominees for Father of the Year, Jacob not in the running … not even close. He is a terrible father.

Dads make a difference. Scripture teaches it. Common sense confirms it. And the scientific method proves it. A recent study in Psychology Today proves that homes without good dads are headed for trouble. Experts call these “father-absent" homes and they are more likely to produce children who…

· have low self-esteem and feelings of abandonment.

· are less social with fewer friends.

· perform poorly in the classroom. (Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts had an absent father.)

· turn to criminal behavior. (Eighty-five percent of those in juvenile detention have an absent father.)

· turn to promiscuity leading to teen pregnancy. (Daughters in father-absent homes lose their virginity, on average, just under age 15.)

This statement from the study makes me cringe: “Girls in father-absent homes will typically manifest an object hunger for males, and in experiencing the emotional loss of their fathers egocentrically as a rejection of them, become susceptible to exploitation by adult men.”

Kids in father-absent homes have higher rates of drug abuse, alcoholism, homelessness, and abuse of every kind. Obviously, this sermon couldn’t wait to be preached on Father’s Day. This is a problem that needs to be addressed NOW.

The risk in preaching social-issues sermons is that God tends to get lost in the shuffle and the church assembly becomes a self-help seminar. May we not allow that to happen this week. Even though God is nowhere to be found in the text of Genesis 37, his presence is everywhere. He watches every move and, in fact, knows every move before it happens. And He works through it. He has a plan—a plan to get from the very good, but now fallen Creation of Genesis to the now, but not yet New Creation which reaches its ultimate fulfillment in the coming and return of Messiah Jesus. God has a plan for the redemption of the entire human race and He works through every contingency to accomplish His eternal purposes.

Jacob was an absent father, maybe not physically, but emotionally, cognitively, mentally, and maybe even spiritually. But God is NEVER an absent Father. He is always present … watching, caring, loving, and working. He works through our messiness to bring about something wonderful.

Praise be to God! The ever-present Father of heaven and earth!

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).

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