Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith,
act like men, be strong.
The above verse should be rather straightforward, and
throughout much of history it probably was. The Apostle Paul is simply
instructing men to be manly, to live up to God’s expectations, and
society’s demands upon them to be the men they were meant to be. But the
whole issue of manhood has taken it on the chin in modern American
society for the past thirty years or more. Many men are not quite sure
what it really means to be a man anymore.
What is a Real Man?
My wife gave her opinion when I told her I’d be
teaching on this subject: "a real man is a man who is not threatened by
a strong woman… who doesn’t feel the need to bend her to his will, to
make her a doormat in order to establish his own manliness."
Male and female roles have changed considerably in the
last generation in western culture. Some of it has been healthy: men are now allowed to express their emotions more freely; and
women are included in more of the decision-making in the family and work
place. This was always true in balanced relationships, by the way, but
somehow, our old culture had a tendency to license, or at least
tolerate, male abuse and domination.
Nevertheless, much of the change has been confusing
and even emasculating to the men. The male of the species, especially
the white male, is easily the most politically incorrect individual in
our society. The combined frustrations of the rest of the populace have
been laid squarely at his feet, and now he’s made to feel guilty for
having done well in school and managing to land a good job. The black
male is also confused, by the way, as clearly evidenced by all
single-mother families in the inner city. Certainly manhood is more than
impregnating a female and leaving her to fend for herself.
How are men supposed to act? Road rage? uncontrolled
outbursts of testosterone? is that manly? Being more sensitive and
secure? as in secure enough to be Mr. Mom while your wife goes out and
plays the bread-winner? The balance must be found somewhere between John
Wayne and Alan Alda.
The Christian man is perhaps even more confused than
the average guy on the street, simply because he’s trying to live up to
everybody’s misconceptions about what God has to say on the subject, as
well as the general confusion of male and female roles in society around
A little while back I read a book that really spoke to
my heart. It’s entitled, "Wild at Heart" and it’s written by John
Eldredge. Here’s a few lines from his introduction…
When all is said and done, I think most men believe
God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we’re
told, is that they don’t know how to keep their promises, be spiritual
leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But if they will
try really hard, they can reach the lofty summit of becoming… a nice
guy. That’s what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice
Now in all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you
ever dream of becoming a nice guy. Ladies, was the Prince of your dreams
dashing… or merely nice? Dedication to niceness is the reason there are
so many tired and lonely women, so many fatherless children, and so few
men around. We’ve taken away the dream’s of a man’s heart and told him
to play the man. As C. S. Lewis said, "We castrate the gelding and bid
him be fruitful."
Back to the Beginning
Being a man, and a leader and teacher of other men—and
women too—I’ve thought a lot about this over the years, and I’ve come up
with a few ideas on manhood from the pages of the Bible. Let’s go all
the way back to Genesis…
So God created man in His own image; in the image of
God He created him; male and female He created them.
And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should
be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."
Notice, first of all, that God made them male and
female: different, not the same. The concept of a "help-meet," or a
"helper comparable to him" in verse eighteen implies "corresponding," or
"complementing." Matching, but not the same. Our sexual organs are a
perfect example of this—made to be together, to complement each other,
but dissimilar, not the same.
Modern politically-correct society has determined that
manhood needs fixing up instead of complementing, that men need to
become more predictable, user-friendly, if you will. The real man, the
man of God, cannot submit to this sort of thinking. God has programmed
him with certain traits, characteristics, needs—to the point where he
cannot feel truly satisfied unless they are fulfilled in his life…
A man needs to be self-sufficient, while, generally
speaking, the woman looks to the man for support.
Self-sufficiency is the very badge of dignity and self-respect for a
man. By the definition of nature—everything that’s in the heart of a
man—as well as the Word of God, a man is someone who doesn’t need
to lean upon others. That’s the fundamental definition of
maturity, of being an adult: you take care of yourself now, no running
home to Mom & Dad!
Young couples are often tempted to borrow money, or
otherwise lean on their parents, as a sort of shortcut to getting their
needs met. They’re cheating themselves if they do. Mom and Dad had to
work for years to finally acquire the comforts you see in their home.
They started at the bottom, at the entry-level, and by faithfulness,
perseverance, and patience got to a place of greater stability and
prosperity. Young people need to learn how to manage their money,
tighten their belts when necessary, plan for the future—how to be a
Our present, modern welfare state has made a shambles
of manhood in the poorer stratum of our society. Lyndon Johnson
introduced the present measures back in the Sixties under the title of
the "Great Society." As a result, many slums were cleared up and
shanty-towns all but eliminated in most our land. But Johnson’s welfare
measures got out of hand. Today we have third-generation welfare
recipients, able-bodied men who don’t understand the basic issues of
manhood, and who feel no responsibility for caring for their families.
Instead, they’ve learned how to manipulate the system and grumble about
how everyone is against them—blaming their troubles and poverty on
racism, classism, and fat-cats who are making big money by ripping off
the little guy.
In short, men are taught to blame others
for their problems, and look to others for the way to get
out, instead of being self-sufficient. In its efforts to help people
out, the government has effectively emasculated countless millions of
men, and actually created the dysfunctional, drug-ridden society of many
of our urban areas today.
Self-sufficiency—it’s the very essence of manhood, the
badge of self-respect a man needs feel good about himself. You’ve heard
the old-timers say, "I may not be rich, but I’ve worked hard and never
had to borrow from anybody, or lean on others to get by—I got what I got
by the sweat of my own brow."
Of course, the Christian man tempers this
self-sufficiency with dependence upon God. He realizes that God is the
true head of the home, he gives thanks to God, not His own abilities, he
realizes that without Christ he can do nothing. But with Christ, with
the blessing of God, he can work and make a success out of his life,
without having to turn to parents, the government, or others to bale him
Really, think of it. A man who lives off a woman is no
man at all. Think of a pimp—is it possible to be a worse low-life? In
frustration they beat the women in their charge—because they feel
impotent, emasculated, by the fact that they live off women. It’s one
thing for a young couple to work their way through college as a team,
with the wife perhaps having a better job for a season while the husband
pursues a degree. But the man who makes a practice, a lifestyle of
living off his woman is not a balanced man, no matter how much
justification he offers. A real man is self-sufficient.
This brings us to the man being the chief bread-winner
of the family, the provider. It’s instinctive for him to provide for and
protect his woman and his children. It’s built into the male psyche, and
God built that male psyche.
Women have always worked, by the way—I’m not going
totally chauvinistic on you, advocating that women be barefoot, pregnant
and chained to the stove! In times past, the lady worked alongside of
her man, helping get the harvest in before the rains, or as part of the
family trade or business. But the man was the full-time field
laborer—working, as the Bible says, by the sweat of his brow, fighting
to grow crops out of a stubborn land. The woman helps as needed, but her
main task is nurturing the children—and believe me, she’s fully employed
in that task. My wife used to get a little perturbed at women who asked
her if she worked… "you betcha I do, it’s a full-time job taking care of
my family, and I do it right. Don’t you dare imply that I’m somehow less
of a woman, less of a person with dignity because I choose to stay home
and work—I put in more hours than you do!" More productive, too, I might
add. Certainly, raising the next generation is more important than any
factory or office job the woman might otherwise devote her life to. The
devil and frustrated feminists have sold the modern American woman a
bill of goods!
As for the well-adjusted man, working women don’t
threaten him, they confuse him. He’s supposed to be the bread-winner,
not his wife. He’s supposed to be the provider. A wife that is not
content to be his counter-part and help-meet, a suitable, comparable
match to his manhood has a tendency to mess with his inner biological
settings. He’s programmed by God and nature to be the provider—why does
she feel the need to compete with him?
Only in finding out what God meant you to be, and
following it, will you ever be happy, content, at peace with yourself.
Only if men are allowed to be men, can women know what women are
supposed to be, and can children grow up in a stable and safe
environment into the men and women that God intended them to be. It’s no
secret that more traditional, family-orientated societies are better at
rearing children, and are happier and more adjusted, in spite of
poverty, dictatorial governments, and other negative factors that may be
Man the Protector
God designed the man to be a fighter, a warrior. This
is probably the part of us that women least understand, but it’s the way
we’re programmed. Programmed to protect our women and children.
Modern science has an explanation—testosterone.
It makes men larger, helps them develop muscles more easily, and also
contributes to them losing their temper with more frequency. A routine
example of bad manners on the highway easily illustrates one of the
chief differences between men and women in this respect. The other day a
truck-driver moosed into my lane, and adding insult to injury, stuck his
arm out the window and flipped me the bird as he did so. My wife had no
problem with it—let the guy be a jerk—it’s his problem not ours, right?
But you men know better. I tried to block him, and being unable to do
that, I got angry at my impotence, and at him for picking a fight that I
couldn’t win. This was more than bad driving, it was an insult to my
manhood. Most of the men can relate.
Well, I’m sorry to announce that the ladies are
right—Jesus said so. He told men to turn the other cheek, to give
someone your coat if he takes your shirt—don’t let the ungodly lure you
to their level of existence, but transcend your fleshly impulses.
Control this dynamite known as testosterone.
Testosterone does have it’s place, however—it’s part
of the make-up God gave us, and it’s the reason the race survives.
Dreamy-eyed pacifists say we should solve our problems
diplomatically. How do you reason with a wolf or a tiger? How do you
reason with a blizzard that threatens to bury your family in an icy
grave? How do you reason with the Philistines when they raid your city,
rape your women, and steal your children?
Folks, you can’t take the warrior out of a man, or a
boy, for that matter. We have well-meaning Christian friends who feel
that violence is not a Christian value, and who forbid their son to play
with guns and other imaginary weapons. I’ll tell you right now, if you
don’t buy him a plastic gun, he’ll pick up a stick and pretend
anyway—it’s part of being a man. It’s amusing, and eye-opening, to watch
the difference in the way my sons and daughters respond to a war
movie—or the way my wife and I do, for that matter. When the rough stuff
starts, the girls cover their eyes and say, "is it over yet?" My wife is
almost physically sickened by the sound of swords clashing. The boys
lean forward and say, "Yes!" The bad guys are finally getting their due!
I like movies like "Indiana Jones" and "Braveheart"—my wife likes "Room
with a View."
To my boys, fourteen and fifteen, the most important
thing has always been "who are good guys?" A warrior doesn't simply like
to fight—his job is to protect good people from bad people.
Today, we have professional policemen and soldiers to
protect us, so men end up waving fists on the highway, picking fights in
bars, or bickering over the pre-eminence in the local church. Others
invent crises among friends and family—there’s a truth in the old saying
that so-and-so isn’t happy unless he’s fighting with someone. It’s
testosterone gone bad, out of control. It’s anything but manly, but if
you’ve been castrating the man in all the other areas of his life, it’s
one of the few outlets he has left. Because if he’s not allowed to be
the provider and protector of his family, he’s a very unhappy camper—not
a true man at all.
2003, Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder
Ministries. All rights reserved
Scripture quotations from the New King James Version, unless otherwise
Go to Part
II of this Article: Adam Means Man
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