Someone recently pointed out to me that, in all likelihood, the first human hands to touch Jesus were those of his earthly father, Joseph. It was probably the strong, callused hands of the carpenter from Nazareth that gently caught the newborn babe and welcomed him into our world. Even before his mother held him close, Jesus felt the presence, protection and care of his earthly father. The first eyes to see and adore the Messiah belonged to Joseph.
But what other influences did Joseph have upon this most unique son who would someday enter ministry? What would be his greatest impact on this child? And what can we learn from him?
The interviews on the March/April 2000 edition of our audiocassette series, Pastor to Pastor, featured sons in ministry discuss the influence their ministry fathers had upon them. Were these sons most taken by a flawless technique they learned for constructing life-changing sermons? Were they most impressed with a strategy they inherited for developing large churches? Were they most grateful for the ministry accomplishments and public recognition of their fathers?
While each obviously appreciates the added blessing to his ministry that came from being raised in a pastor's home, what they said they were most thankful for is the example of their fathers — the passion for Christ they witnessed, the compassion for lost souls they observed. More than the tricks of the trade, they appreciated the men who were their fathers.
A father's greatest influence is not what he teaches his children. It is who he is. It is not the pride he instills through great accomplishment or recognition. It is the presence he shares, the time spent with his kids, the love for his family he models, the values and priorities by which he lives, the commitment he makes to his God.
Was Joseph's greatest accomplishment the trade he taught his son? Jesus seemed to be well-known for his fine carpentry skills. Or was Joseph's greatest contribution to mankind found in the kind of man he raised? Did he show Jesus how to love and respect others? How to treat women with dignity when others might not? How to face adversity with courage? How to read and revere the sacred Scriptures? How to pray? How to love and obey God? We will never know for sure, but I suspect that, in the culture of that day, Joseph played an even greater role than Mary did in shaping the human side of the Savior, the side we often refer to as our "example."
Can the same be said of you? Have you made the raising of your children a greater priority than the maturing of your congregation? Or will your children someday say, "I never really knew my dad"? Your real legacy will be your children. God will hold you more accountable for your family than for your church. So it's worth doing right.
Debt-free living is a nice ideal, but for most of us, it's not very attainable. The issue, then, is to make sure the debts we have are "good" debts.
There is one question that pastors do not like to talk about much. In fact, some don’t believe it is even theologically valid to ask it. Should I change careers?