Fathers Teach Marriage… for Better or Worse

Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, Sheridan House Family Ministries

“Why are we washing dishes again Dad?” my young son asked me. “We always wash, Dad. Should Mom be doing this?” It was a natural question coming from a child who believed we had gone past our responsibility of service. Why are we still serving? He stopped just short of saying, “Shouldn’t Mom be doing this?”

A child growing up in our culture today has no way of knowing what the marriage relationship is all about.  We have come to believe that marriage is something you “get.” You get another salary, another person to do the chores and you get sex. After being barraged by countless hours of pathetic marriage relationships on television, how can a child possibly know how to do marriage? More significantly, how is a little boy supposed to be able to know how to properly love a wife? As one child said, “When I get married, I’m going to be the boss.”

Fathers and marriage

One of the training responsibilities of a father is to teach marriage. Actually, every dad does teach about marriage… for better or worse. It would not be too dramatic to say that children desperately need to grow up in a home observing Dad function in a marriage as a servant-leader. A child is supposed to be able to watch Dad and learn from observing two decades of Dad’s marriage.


Job description

The Originator of marriage has actually given us job descriptions for the role of the husband. One of the most profound assignments is found in Ephesians 5:25 where the job assignment of the husband can be stated in one word: sacrifice. Not just minimal sacrifice but total and complete sacrifice of self as compared to the sacrifice Christ himself made on the cross. Husbands are told to love their wives as much as Christ loved us and sacrificed everything for us.

He sacrificed His position as King of the universe when He came down from His thrown in heaven to walk on His creation. Add sacrifice the fact that he wasn’t received well. Worst of all He took our place on the cross and gave Himself up for His bride. This passage explains that being a husband is more than a leadership role, it’s a sacrificial leadership assignment.


Role model

Today’s child desperately needs to see this in his or her home. Dad can’t battle for his rights as leader. He needs to lead and put his personal rights aside. As decisions are made for the family, children need to see their mom lifted up and served. It can’t be a matter of Dad saying, “I’m finished with my responsibilities. I’m going fishing.” Instead he must say, “I’m finished now how can I help you?”

The call for the husband is to choose to put himself aside. The things he wants to purchase for himself,father the softball leagues he feels entitled to join, or the number of games he needs to watch, need to come second to, “what can I do for you today?”

Sacrificing for others is not something taught in our society. The child that grows up in a home able to watch Dad both lead and sacrifice himself in that leadership role is a child that will grow up knowing two things. He will have observed the plan given by the Creator of marriage. He will have also seen a living picture of the love of God through His great sacrifice for us.


God’s design

A child that can watch marriage done by God’s design will have the tools to choose to be successful at his or her own marriage. Dad is not the king, he is the sacrificial-leader…  just like Christ. Even after the Creator of feet washed the feet of the Disciples he said, I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you…” (John 13:15). How can children do anything if they haven’t seen the example?


Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts. For more articles by Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-bob-barnes-and-torrey-roberts/

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