His story is told in 1 Samuel 1—4. He is also mentioned in 1 Kings 2:26, 27.
Did not excel in both ministry and family
1 Sam 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord 13 or for their duties as priests.
Eli may have been an excellent priest, but he was a poor parent. His sons brought him grief and ruin. It is important for those in ministry to not forget that managing the household is equally important in God’s sight.
The Bible says that those who hold leadership positions in church should be those who could manage their families well.
1 Tim 3:12A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well.
The reason why managing the household is so important to ministry is that a person will be distracted with his church ministry if his household is not managed well.
Prov 29:17Discipline your children, and they will give you happiness and peace of mind.
The reverse is also true. Don’t discipline your children well as they will be an endless source of suffering and anxiety.
It will also bring reproach to his character as a servant of God if he fails to manage his household well. That was the case of Eli.
1 Sam 2:23 Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from the people about the wicked things you are doing.
Prov 29:15 To discipline and reprimand a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child.
Can you say that you are managing your household as well as you are managing your ministry? What are the areas in your household that needs improvement? Ask the Lord to help you with that.
Failed to discipline his sons or correct them when they sinned
Eli lacked two important qualities needed for effective parental discipline: firm resolve and corrective action. Eli warned his children but took no disciplinary actions when the children did not heed his warning. Children need to learn that their parents’ words and actions go together.
The Bible warns us that we will spoil our children if we withhold discipline.
Prov 19:18 Discipline your children while there is hope. If you don’t, you will ruin their lives.
When we discipline our children, it does not mean that we do not love them. In fact the reverse is true. If we love them, we must discipline them.
Prov 13:24 If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them.
Discipline and instruction go hand in hand. We convey the message to our children that they have done something wrong and we tell them what is the right thing they should do. Parents will not be able to do that unless they walk close to God themselves.
Eph 6:4 And now a word to you fathers. Don’t make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord.
Have you failed to discipline your children? It is not too late. Ask God to show you how and to bring up your children in the ways of the Lord.
Saw the Ark of the Covenant as a relic to be cherished rather than as a symbol of God’s presence with Israel
1 Sam 4:17 “Israel has been defeated,” the messenger replied. “Thousands of Israelite troops are dead on the battlefield. Your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were killed, too. And the Ark of God has been captured.” 18 When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and very fat. He had led Israel for forty years.
Eli was more concerned with the symbols of his religion than with the God they represented. For him, the Ark of the Covenant had become a relic to be protected rather than a reminder of the Protector.
We too are sometimes guilty of this. We go to a church building to pray thinking that our prayers will be answered more effectively there. We wear a cross on our necks thinking that it is something special that will protect us from evil.
We need to learn that such objects are merely symbols. We should not allow them to distract us from our God. We should not place special powers on them.