Fourth, a father TEACHES.
But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:16–17, NLT)
God doesn’t tell them what they can’t do; He tells them what they can do. He instructs his children by establishing boundaries. He says, “You can go anywhere you want within these boundaries. Inside these boundaries, you are safe within my protection. But if you go outside these boundaries, you will be outside of my protection, and the consequences will be fatal.” He doesn’t just reprimand them when they are wrong, but he teaches them what it is right.
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (Proverbs 22:6, NLT)
Fathers, teach your children to live within the boundaries. Don’t just discipline them when they go outside the boundaries; teach them how to have a joyful and prosperous life within the boundaries.
Imagine you’re in a huge field surrounded by a tall privacy fence with man-eating bears and wolves walking the outside perimeter of the fence. Some fathers don’t give their children any instruction whatsoever and before long, curiosity takes over, and the children want to see what’s on the other side of the fence. So they climb the fence, wander away, and get eaten alive.
Other fathers just point to the fence and say, “Don’t go there,” and then walk away. But soon the children become bored playing inside the fence and they want to climb the fence to see what else there is to do out there. They don’t wander away because they’re rebellious, but because you didn’t pay them any attention.
But the loving father doesn’t just point to the fence and say “don’t go there.” He demonstrates from his own life and the lives of others what happens when you climb the fence. The loving father doesn’t just leave his children alone to play in the field either. He gives them balls and teaches them all kinds of games. He builds them play equipment and teaches them how to use it safely. He digs a ditch, fills it with water, and teaches his kids how to swim.
Instruction isn’t just about what can happen if you go outside the boundary. Instruction is how to live a joyful and prosperous life inside the boundary.