I’m ready to admit what needs to be admitted by a majority of fathers out there. I’m guilty—guilty of letting the world raise my kids. I’m guilty of lazily passing the buck on discipling my two daughters while they develop worldviews from Netflix & YouTube. I’ve allowed the tablets and phones to become full-time babysitters. Hoax or not, the recent Momo Challenge embedded in YouTube videos should be enough for parents to say, “enough is enough” — especially for fathers.
I began realizing the problem several months ago. My wife and I started feeling conviction about the media that we were allowing into our home. The content, available through the video-streaming apps we subscribed to, was becoming increasingly sin-glorifying. We couldn’t trust ratings alone and had to research nearly every title before watching. Even some of the most kid-friendly TV shows exhibit an indifference towards sin. If I can get into trouble due to the sheer availability in my living room of shows that glorify immorality, how much more vulnerable are my kids within the privacy of their iPads?
In chapter 6 of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he begins by giving a direct command to children and fathers of that church. He writes: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (v. 1-3). Many Christian parents know that verse by heart; it’s cited quite often in our house. However, I believe what’s given in verses 1-3 is the fruit of the command specifically given to fathers in verse 4. Paul Continues, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Paul is telling us that the fruit of biblical instruction within the home is obedient children.
Therefore, we made the very difficult and unpopular decision, to honor the Lord through the removal of Netflix and other streaming services from our home. Suffice it to say, the decision was questioned by our kids. We could see the idol of entertainment in their eyes come crashing down. But in the end, they understood that mom and dad were simply trying to trust and obey God — which is ultimately what we want to display to our children the most.
Being passionate fans of The Office, my wife and I weren’t necessarily thrilled with giving up mind-numbing entertainment either. There were some (shallow) concerns. I really didn’t want to be that weird Christian guy at work that doesn’t watch TV or know anything about the latest shows. That’s a Christian’s main concern, right? Our flesh was desperately clinging to anything to keep us from quality time with our kids, as well as the Lord.
Fast-forward a couple of months, and I’m harvesting the fruit of our instruction. Instead of constant bickering between my kids, I’m noticing more quality time spent together playing games and really getting to know each other. I’m noticing a lot less attitude and insubordination from them (imagine that!). As a family, there is more daily engagement, more fervent prayer, more Scriptural immersion, and more love. This is such an answered prayer in my home!
Contrary to what the world tells us, there is no neutrality in our thoughts. Consider Paul’s exhortation elsewhere in Ephesians:
They [worldly gentiles] have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:19-24)
We will all renew our minds with something. The question then becomes are we renewing minds through worldly media or the Word of God? For husbands and fathers, that call to steadfastness is heavier than we often realize. Not only are we responsible for pouring into the Scriptures for the renewal of our minds, but we’re also to lead our families in the renewing of theirs. After all, there is no neutrality in our children’s minds, either. The eternal truth gained from a twenty-minute family Bible study can quickly fizzle out after a few hours of Netflix on a tablet.
When I look back at all of the hours that my kids have witnessed me aimlessly scroll through the emptiness of social media and entertainment instead of paying attention to them, I’m ashamed. If we desire our children to cherish God’s word more than the world, we must lead by example. We cannot claim the supremacy of Scripture with our mouths. while giving our eyes, ears, and essentially our hearts over to the pleasures of the world (Matthew 6:21). Fathers should be leading by sacrifice. Meaning, that instead of spending our time chasing entertainment, we should be setting the example of love by pouring into their souls with God’s Word — even after a long day.
What chance does a child, ungrounded in the promises of God, have against the schemes and lies of Momo? Before we get too bent out of shape and point the finger at YouTube, let’s be proactive in equipping our kids for their own spiritual battles. Teach them about the Spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6. Teach them that there is a very real, and a very powerful enemy who hates everything that a Christ-exalting family displays. Teach them how to guard against the fiery arrows soaring towards your family. For many, those arrows come through backlit screens.
Fathers, the dilemma we find ourselves in is whether or not we are risking family’s safety at the expense of entertainment. It’s to be expected that cutting the streaming media cord may seem foolish, legalistic, and over-the-top to some; that’s certainly understandable, as everyone has their own convictions. Yet, one thing is for sure — God takes fatherhood seriously. Therefore, a father should take his command to disciple and shepherd his family in the fear and admonition seriously as well.
This article first appeared on Patheos.com
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