Being a godly father is tough. The demands of modern life challenge the contemporary dad at every turn. Yet the ancient wisdom of Joseph, the man God called to serve as Jesus’ father on earth, offers much help for today. The following traits show a man whose life provides an example for those who seek to raise their own children to love God and live for him.
When Joseph first learned Mary was pregnant, he planned to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:19). However, an angel told him in a dream Mary would have a son, he should name him Jesus, and that he would save his people from their sins (v. 21).
What did Joseph do? He accepted this unborn child—unconditionally. He took Mary home as his wife and did not consummate their marriage until after the birth of Jesus (vv. 24-25).
When Joseph discovered their family would be pursued by the evil king Herod, “He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod” (Matthew 2:14-15). They stayed in Egypt until Herod’s death in 4 A.D. when Jesus was likely around eight years old.
After Herod’s death, he learned Archelaus was reigning in Judea and chose to live in the safer, small town of Nazareth instead (v. 22). Through these actions, it is clear Joseph’s top priority was to protect his family.
In Luke 2, we also read that Joseph obeyed the law by traveling with Mary to Bethlehem for a census. He sought the best place he could for Mary to have her baby. Though Jesus was born in a humble manger, at least they were in a safe place rather than Jesus being born on the street.
On the eighth day we are told, “When it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived” (Luke 2:21). Joseph obeyed the Law of Moses as well as the dream of the angel in having Jesus circumcised and named Jesus. Joseph was a man of godly character.
We are told very little of Joseph’s life beyond the birth of Jesus. We know Joseph and Mary had four other sons and at least two daughters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). By the time Jesus began his public ministry at around the age of 30, Joseph had most likely already died, as he was not mentioned, though Mary often was.
However, we do know Joseph was known as a carpenter who had a godly wife and raised children to love God. In addition to Jesus, his sons James and Jude were believers who wrote books of the New Testament. His wife Mary was a key leader in the early church. Joseph was also known in the synagogue of Nazareth, meaning he was involved in the spiritual life of his own community (Mark 6:3).
Perhaps the best result of Joseph’s practical provision of his family can be found in the description of Jesus as he grew: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Jesus had a stable family that offered him room to grow physically, relationally, and spiritually. Why? In part, because Joseph worked hard to provide for the practical needs of his children.
What About You?
You may not be able to give your kids the latest gadget or take them on a vacation to the Bahamas, but these are not the traits God shows are most important. God wants you, as a father, to:
- unconditionally accept and love your children
- physically protect your children
- live with godly character, and
- provide for the practical needs of your children
If you consistently love, protect, and provide for your children while living a life devoted to God, you’re in good company! Joseph committed his life to caring for Mary, Jesus, and their other children in ways that have changed history. Stay strong! God is at work in and through you to change the lives of those in your family who will make a tremendous difference in this world.