Your household is a place your children should feel special. It is their home and no one else’s. You are their father, and no one else’s.
They have a special claim on your time and resources.
You have a hierarchy of obligation to follow. The wise man knows how to navigate it.
Your children are more important than the kids across the street.
The welfare of your family is more important than the welfare of the family down the street.
You show hospitality. You give freely. You help others. But if you rob time and resources from your children to do these things, they will resent you for it.
If your home is full of friends and strangers 5 nights a week, then you are at the homeless shelter the other 2 nights, you may have a sterling reputation for service and hospitality…but you will lose your children. Your household is their home and they have the first claim on your time and resources.
If some random guy on the street asks you for your kidney, you have zero obligation to give it to him.
If something threatens the safety of your family, you have zero obligation to be nice.
If I see my wife being assaulted, and I do nothing out of some twisted principle of “loving my enemy,” I have become a cowardly Pharisee. I am not really loving my enemy in that situation. I am hating my wife.
You have a bigger obligation to those directly under you, to the people that God gave you, than to anyone else. Yes, you should love your neighbor. Yes, you should provide a good example of service for your children to emulate.
But never neglect service at home for service abroad. Do not set out to conquer the world and leave a sink full of dishes. You must bring your children along with you.
This is related to Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s concept of distributed localism. I am a communist with my family, a socialist with my church and neighbors, a Democrat with my city, a Republican with my state, and a libertarian with my country.
A mayor should not concern himself with the perspectives of the whole state. The homeowner’s association of one neighborhood shouldn’t be complaining about how tall the fences are in another neighborhood.
There are hierarchies of obligation and we should not attempt to invert them. Doing so creates perverse incentives. Our modern culture has a tendency to flatten everything and remove all context, so everyone is simply a carbon lifeform in the great machine.
But that’s not how the world works. In one sense, every life is equal and has value. However, depending on the person and situation, some lives are more equal than others.
And to a father, his children’s lives are more equal than the life of the President of the United States.
One pastor tells the story of a father talking with another man in the father’s living room. His son, about five years old, came in and asked for something, interrupting the conversation.
After a little while longer, the son came in again to show his father something.
After a third interruption, the man, a little frustrated, said “Can you do you something about these interruptions?”
The father said, “No. He’s more important than you.”
Every child needs a place where they are the most important thing in the world. Give it to them.