How would you describe parenting in five words or less? This was the question posed on Twitter recently (#ParentingIn5WordsOrLess)—and it’s fair to say there were a great number and variety of suggestions. Some were heart-warming, some serious, and some seriously funny. Here are a few of my favourites:

‘Is that poop or chocolate?’ ‘It’s quiet, too quiet.’ ‘Because I said so.’ ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘What’s in your mouth?’ ‘Don’t drink the bathwater.’ ‘Why is this sticky?’ ‘Where are your pants?’ ‘Go ask your mother.’ ‘What did your father say?’ ‘Long days, but short years.’ ‘Would do it all again.’

As I read (laughed) my way through these responses, and as I remembered that Father’s Day was coming up, it got me thinking about how the Bible might define fatherhood in 5 words or less.

Obviously this exercise is not exhaustive or comprehensive, but I do believe there are a few key phrases in the Bible that summarise the role and the importance of fatherhood.

In Matthew 6:9–13, when Jesus taught us to pray, he taught us to address God as: “Our Father in heaven…” (v.9). This would be my first suggestion: “Our Father in heaven”. Jesus’ words remind us of the profound truth that God is not just our Creator and our Ruler, but also our Father. Dads, think about the depth of love you have for your children. You would do anything for them, right? Amazingly, the Bible tells us our fatherly love is only a weak imitation of the love that God has for us, His children (Matt. 7:11)!

This leads to my second suggestion. In John 3:16 we read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”. The following phrase summarises the essence of fatherhood: He gave his only Son. At the heart of fatherhood (and we might add, being a husband) is sacrificial love. It is a laying aside of your own comfort and convenience in costly love for the good of your children. And of course, the costliest love of all was displayed on the cross of Christ over 2,000 years ago, when the Son, in glad and willing obedience to the Father, was crucified so that we who were enemies of God might be made children of God (Rom. 5:10; 8:14–17).

My third and final suggestion comes from the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 5:1–2 we read: “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.” The key phrase, and another good summary of fatherhood, is: “Pay attention to my wisdom”. A key role of any godly Dad is to learn, to live out, and to impart godly wisdom to their children (Deut. 6:1–25).

So, to all of our Dads: Happy Father’s Day! I hope and pray you feel loved and honoured today, and even more than that, I hope and pray you are reminded of, and strengthened for, the high calling of fatherhood to which God himself has called you.

With you on the journey,