Co-Authored by Evan Lenow and Waylan Owens
Hunter Mahan and Prince William. Not two names you would put together naturally. But the two have caused a stir in the name of fatherhood by their respective decisions that place family ahead of their other responsibilities.
We applaud the commitment to family exhibited by Mahan and the prince, and we think it will be helpful to look a little more closely at what the two men did and what all this means.
First, Prince William announced that he was taking two weeks of paternity leave, an option provided in Britain by the government that comes with a $210 per week stipend. We doubt William was after the money, so it is obvious that he wanted to be with his wife and child.
Then, Hunter Mahan learned that his wife was about to give birth to their new daughter, Zoe, and went to her side. That is not so unusual, except that Mahan was firmly in the lead, halfway to a $1,000,000 payday in the RBC Canadian Open golf tournament. “Would you give up $1,000,000 to see your baby born?” has been the question of the day for sportscasters and news anchors alike.
A poll by NJ.com asked the question, “Do you applaud Hunter Mahan for leaving golf tournament for baby’s birth?” At the time of this writing, an astounding 92% had responded yes.
So how do we view all of this as Christians? Is it “great news” of a world returning to its moral, family underpinnings? Or is there something more to these stories?
The first observation we can make is that both men seem to have embraced the idea of fatherhood fully. In a day where more than 40% of all children in the United States are born out-of-wedlock, most of whom do not have fathers in their lives, we can rejoice that Prince William and Mahan have accepted their responsibilities as husbands and fathers for rearing their children in the context of marriage.
Scripture is replete with references to a father instructing his children. Six of the first seven chapters of Proverbs begin with Solomon telling his son to listen to his words (Prov 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 5:1; 7:1). He then proceeds to give specific instructions to his son about pursuing wisdom and avoiding folly. The contrast between these two paths is then highlighted in 10:1 where Solomon says, “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.”
While simply being present at the birth of a child does not insure that one will instruct his child faithfully to pursue wisdom, it does offer an initial indication that a father is taking an interest in the development of his child at the earliest stages.
Family Over Profession
Our second observation is that they appear to have placed family over professional success. While William’s actions do not bring any detriment to his future as king of England, Mahan certainly suffered the loss of potential earnings and ranking in his career.
Many men find their identity primarily in what they do. When asked to describe ourselves, many of us start with our profession and may even include some of our accomplishments. However, the role of husband and father is even more important than a career. For Mahan specifically, he sacrificed the advancement of his career to care for his family.
In Psalm 128, the blessings of the Lord are defined in terms of family. The psalmist writes, “How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. … Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord” (Ps 128:1, 3–4).
A third observation must be made. While a prince took a brief maternity leave, he did not leave his wealth and luxury behind. We have a King who did. Jesus left it all behind in Heaven to live with us, not for a few weeks, but unto his own death. He did not turn away from his family. Rather he died for his family. And even now, he is working to prepare a place to “receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also,” for all eternity. (John 14:1-3)
Two unusual allies, a prince and a golfer, have turned the world’s focus toward a man’s responsibility to support his family by his presence and engagement without suggesting that a man should shirk his obligation to support his family by his hard work and ingenuity. We join in calling all fathers to note and to honor their examples. And we call all people to note that Jesus beat them to it, that he is with his children always, that he works on his family’s behalf, and that soon his children will be with him forever.
This post also published on Theological Matters.