Boys today are lagging in nearly every statistical category: they’re earning fewer college degrees, they’re working fewer full-time hours, and they’re landing in special education at staggering rates. The solution in the broader culture seems to be to lower expectations for young men. Countless boys receive no training in manhood. They have no sense of who they are. Perhaps worst of all, they have no one to call them to maturity.
We have a better picture of fathers and sons in Scripture. David surely failed his sons in many ways, but he also provided them with sound guidance. At the close of his life, he called his son Solomon to him and gave a charge that crackles with electricity: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes . . . that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn” (1 Kings 2:1–3).
Manhood as defined by David relates to two key matters: courage and character. David, a warrior after God’s own heart, called his son to be “strong.” In doing so, he would reveal himself to be a man. As we read this poignant counsel, we cannot help but think of a scrawny young Israelite who marched out to battle against Goliath when no trained soldier would. David knew of what he spoke.
But strength for its own sake would not do. The manly fearlessness Solomon was to display had to be grounded in holiness. The young man was to “keep the charge” of Yahweh, a point enforced by David’s enumeration of God’s moral decrees. If there was a commandment, a rule, or a teaching of any kind that gave counsel to the godly, Solomon was to obey it. This alone would lead to prosperity of both a personal and monarchical kind.
Young men today need just such a summons. We must not assume that our sons will blindly stumble onto the path of righteousness. We cannot leave them to discover it without our aid. We must shepherd them, calling them to be men without apology or qualification.
Our training of our sons revolves around the transmission of godliness. We cannot save our children, but we can, by the grace of God, give continual effort to lovingly shape their hearts. We can raise them up in the nurture and admonition of God. We can show them that holiness, and not secular hedonism or any other worldly pursuit, is the good life.
Fathers, take responsibility for your sons and, as David did, summon them to godly manhood. As you do so, remember a Father and a Son who love one another perfectly. Recall not only a kingly commission, but the blessing of God on Christ: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Here was a young man who knew His Father’s love, who answered His Father’s call, and who fulfilled His Father’s plan through death, even death on a cross.