It is the father’s responsibility to rule his family in a loving, considerate way while maintaining the necessary firmness. He leads in sacrifice. He asks more of himself than of his family. He leads in love. He is energetic in generosity, delighted to provide those extras he knows will please his family as he is able and to the extent he can.
He also leads in sensitivity. A wife needs continuing reassurance of her husband’s love and of his appreciation of her role. Children need continuing reassurance of their parents’ love and of their own importance in the family. The father leads as a provider of the physical and emotional needs of the family but also of its spiritual needs, situating his wife and children agreeably in a church where they can spiritually grow and be blessed. Wise fathers are sensitive to these needs and endeavor to satisfy them.
In the family order described by Paul, who then serves? The children serve upwardly. They are charged with obedience to their parents. They must serve their parents if their parents are to serve them. The wife serves both upwardly and downwardly. She is charged with submission to her husband and with the care of her household. The father, the earthly head of the family, serves upwardly his divine Head and reports to Him directly. But he also serves downwardly. He serves his wife and children and the family in aggregate. He is charged with their well-being.
His obligation rests mightily on his shoulders. It includes more than his family’s subsistence. He is its giver-in-chief. To serve his family as he should he will need to join with his mate in seeking the help of the greatest Servant of all.
That great Servant put the question of service and status bluntly to His disciples, who from their behavior to one another needed to ponder it. “Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27). Jesus shamed them by washing their feet, a lowly task they would not have considered doing for one another. To resist service for the sake of status is to resist the example of God.
[Excerpt adapted from Family: The Making and Remaking of a Christian Home by Ronald Horton (Chapter 6, pp. 27–28).]