In the Bible, when you think of King David, you usually think of him as a great leader, poet, and warrior. You usually don't think of him as a great parent. That's because, from everything we know of him, he wasn't.

David was, by all accounts, an absentee dad. Between being on the run from Saul, waging wars, and ruling the nation of Israel he wasn't there much for his family.

You could say that some of that was forced on David due to forces that were beyond his control (i.e. Saul trying to kill him out of political jealousy). Or that he had a demanding job. No doubt both of these things are true.

2 Samuel 13-18 recounts the height of dysfunction in David's family. One of David's sons forces himself on his half-sister. When David finds out he does nothing about it. Later, one of David's other sons, Absolam, kills his brother and begins a plot to overthrow David. This results in a civil war that takes many years and many lives.

You're family might be pretty messed up, but it's probably not THAT messed up.

No parent wants to be a bad parent. We all want to love and be loved by our kids, to have a great relationship with them, and to be a force for good in their lives. Somewhere along the way David traded his relationship with his family for power, position, and pleasure. And it cost him that, and much more.

In spite of David's shortcomings there are two important realities about parenting that his life can teach us. They're found in 1 Kings 1:1-6:

King David grew old. The years had caught up with him. Even though they piled blankets on him, he couldn’t keep warm. So his servants said to him, “We’re going to get a young virgin for our master the king to be at his side and look after him; she’ll get in bed with you and arouse our master the king.” So they searched the country of Israel for the most ravishing girl they could find; they found Abishag the Shunammite and brought her to the king. The girl was stunningly beautiful; she stayed at his side and looked after the king, but the king did not have sex with her. At this time Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, puffed himself up saying, “I’m the next king!” He made quite a splash, with chariots and riders and fifty men to run ahead of him. His father had spoiled him rotten as a child, never once reprimanding him. Besides that, he was very good-looking and the next in line after Absalom. - 1 Kings 1:1-6 (Msg)

1. Neglecting your family will lead to being neglected by your family

In the first three verses of 1 Kings 1 we see David at the end of his life. He's an old man on his death bed. His servants realize that he needs someone to take care of him during his final days, but no from his family is around. In verse four we read that some of his palace workers hired a woman named Abishag for the job; "She stayed at his side and looked after the king."

David's family is no where to be found as he nears the end of his life. We're not entirely sure why, but we can infer from Scripture that many of them probably had a strained relationship with him. Years of neglect had caught up with David and now he found himself abandoned by the very family he had ignored.

We can't make our family second place to everything else in our life and expect them to make us a priority when we're in need. It just doesn't work like that. We can't hope for them to be there for us if we've never been there for them.

If we want to have a good relationship with our kids then we've got to make them a priority. This may mean saying no to extra responsibilities at work or a hobby that you enjoy for a season. Making these kinds of decisions isn't easy, but you and you're family will be grateful you made the trade-off.

2. Giving your children everything they want won't lead to anything you want

In verses five and six we read, "At this time Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, puffed himself up saying, 'I’m the next king!' He made quite a splash, with chariots and riders and fifty men to run ahead of him. His father had spoiled him rotten as a child, never once reprimanding him. Besides that, he was very good-looking and the next in line after Absalom."

I've seen a lot of dad's over the years try to make up for their lack of attention by purchasing gifts for their kids. They think that buying their kids enough stuff will make up for the time they missed. This may work for a while, but kids can see through that. Before long they'll see the presents as your attempt to buy them off.

No amount of presents can make up for a parent's lack of presence in their child's life. Trying to will only build resentment and entitlement in your child's life, two things no parent wants for their child.

What our kids need from us is to be present with them, not simply to buy them presents. They need us to spend time with them and to guide them in how they should live. Sometimes that means saying no to the things they want so they can experience the things they need. It's not always easy, but the alternative will be much harder to deal with over the long-haul.

Going Forward

Sometimes, we think that the people whose lives are written about in the Bible were all saints. What we quickly discover, as we dive into the narrative of their lives, is that this was not always the case. David was a great king, warrior, and poet. But he was not a great husband or dad. At the end of his life I'm sure this is something he regretted.

You may feel like you're not doing a great job as a parent, either. You're not alone. There's not a parent alive who hasn't messed up. The good news is there's still time to turn things around.

You may not have been there for your family like you should have been, but you can start being there for them today.

You may have spoiled your kids, but you can start saying no to more things for your kids and yes to more time with them today.

It's not too late to be the kind of parent you always hoped you would be.

Question: How are you spending time with your kids to build-up your relationship with them? What are you doing to teach them how to be content with what they have? You can leave a comment in the section below.

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Jeff writes content that will help you have less stress and more success in your life. You can read more from him at JeffMcClung.com

Published by Jeff McClung