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Modeling Integrity

The writer of Proverbs observes that a righteous man walks in integrity, and that his children follow after him and are blessed (Proverbs 20:7 ESV, NLT). This observation calls fathers to a profound form of teaching. It isn’t the kind of teaching that you find in a classroom where an instructor drones on and on with facts to be committed to rote. It isn’t the kind of teaching that uses chalk boards, or white boards, or overhead projectors. There isn’t a textbook, or an essay assignment, but there is a test. And the test is more a measure of the teacher than it is the student. The truth of this proverb informs us that the instructor transfers not only knowledge to the student by his example, but also wisdom. He doesn’t do this by discrete, singular examples, but by a lifelong string of inter-related examples. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 commands us to teach the facts of God to our children, but Proverbs 20:7 reveals that when a father lives out those facts, the children follow in his footsteps. Both are required for a proper education, but it is the real-time and real-life modeling provided by the teacher that makes the facts alive and meaningful. When that father’s children are blessed, it is an evidence that he has taught well, and has received good marks on his test.

But in order to achieve this fully, according to the proverb, the father must be a righteous man. This means that he must be a just man, or a man whose ways line up with godly principles. You will know that he is righteous because he will walk in integrity. This means that his manner of repeated and daily life will be marked by a consistent and undivided completeness between his heart, his mind, and his actions. His heart and his mind will be integrated with the heart and mind of God. His behaviors, in turn, will necessarily be integrated with his heart and mind. The more truly righteous the man is, the more his behaviors will reflect godliness. His children will see that reflection, and will imitate it. This will predispose them to an integrity in which their hearts, minds, and behaviors will be interwoven with the heart and mind of God. This integration will bless them, the father, and the community.

While our mothers are often the first to teach us about the law of God, it is our fathers who model that law for us as they live it out in their appointed role as family leaders. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but provoke them to godliness and blessings by integrating yourself with your spiritual father.

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