If a survey were conducted of 100 men about what their definition of being a man was, we would probably see almost 100 different answers. Some might bring up images of John Wayne and the macho cowboy. Others might bring up a softer, gentler image of the humble preacher while others might have a picture of a hipster at Starbucks. Without first establishing a set standard for manhood and manliness, the possibilities of what a person envisions a man to be are endless.
As Christian men, we have a guide for manliness in the Word of God. The real first step to manliness is realizing that having the guide doesn’t mean that we can live up to it in our own strength. It takes the grace, peace, and mercy of God for us to be able to even lift a finger in His service.
The world, however, will often try to tell us what its definition of manliness is. Products and clothing lines to tell us what to wear. Actors and sports figures tell us how to look. All constantly trying to turn our desires away from God and towards whatever it is they are offering.
The federal government is even spending money to try and change (again) the definition of manliness. Under the guise of trying to figure out a way to reduce the number of sexual assaults in young black males, the federal government is employing what it calls Manhood 2.0. Two paragraphs of this study, which have already cost the taxpayer almost a million dollars, stood out to me as identifying what they are really trying to accomplish. The first paragraph:
Gender transformative programming’ involves identifying and challenging rigid masculinity norms about what it means to be a man, identifying examples of policing gender and sexuality (through media messages), and envisioning different ways of expressing one’s masculinity (that does not involve physical strength, use of violence, sexual conquest).
Under normal circumstances this might not raise any red flags, until you reread the line about “examples of policing gender and sexuality.” Combine this statement with the second paragraph, and it immediately evokes thoughts of the federal government trying to influence young black men into embracing homosexuality.
We add to this gender transformative programming discussions of healthy sexuality, comprehensive sexual health education including educating young men about female-controlled contraception and how they can be a supportive partner in pregnancy prevention, and sexual violence prevention (discussions of the harmful influences of porn, sexual consent, bystander behaviors).
Now I’m not arguing with the statement that pornography is a harmful influence, but reading the rest of that paragraph, the phrase “gender transformative programming” sticks out like a sore thumb. Our government typically does not use the language that is listed above unless it is talking about homosexuality, the emasculation of young men, and abortion – which all are not in the Biblical definition of manhood.
A man named Brian Lombardi wrote an article in The New York Times he calls “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man.” Here are a couple of his ways:
12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.
13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.
17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?
18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.
25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.
26. The modern man cries. He cries often.
I happen to agree with none of these statements, but if you have a melon baller, that’s between you and the melon.
What I’m not seeing is any reference whatsoever to the biblical model of manhood. There is not one Bible book, chapter, verse, or reference to be found. This is the problem in the world today, summarized in six words of a sentence fragment: Too Much Me, Not Enough Him.
So what is a biblical man? We could look at the lives of several men in the Bible, men like Joshua and David, or we could look at the ultimate example of Christ Himself. I think a great definition of a biblical man is found in Ezekiel 18:5-9:
If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God
Let’s take a closer look.
If he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel – A biblical man will not go to the places where idols are worshiped. Now granted, we may not have many idol temples anymore, but a real man knows where he should and shouldn’t go, and what activities he should and shouldn’t participate in.
Does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity – Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 lay out the commandment about entering into an adulterous relationship with another woman, especially a married woman, but the second one might not take hold with modern readers. Basically, this verse is telling men to be sexually pure when it comes to our relationships with women.
Does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge – Matthew 18:23-34 tells the parable of the king and the unmerciful servant. If we are in the role of the king, or the one who is owed something to, we are to be merciful and fair. If we are in the role of the servant, we are to honor God and pay back what we owe, and also be merciful to those who owe us anything.
Commits no robbery – Not only are we to be fair in all manner of practices, whether business or personal, but we are not to steal, as was told to us in the 10 Commandments by way of Exodus 20:15.
Gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment – A biblical man is merciful to the less fortunate, sharing out of what God has blessed him with.
Does not lend at interest or take any profit – I do not believe God is saying we should never make a profit in business. Rather that we are not to make a profit off our generosity, or do things only because they will benefit us.
Withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man – A biblical man acts in a just manner. He is fair in all his dealings with his fellow man, and other will seek him out because of this to help them resolve their problems.
Walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully – A biblical man has a heart after God and His statutes, His law, and His word. He reads them, follows them and acts on them faithfully.
God says that a man who does all of this is righteous in his eyes, and will live. Living here can be taken as being spiritually alive, and the only way to be spiritually alive is to be born again into a right-standing relationship with God. Ephesians 2:5 tells us that we were dead because of our sins, but because Christ is alive we too can have life, and this is only possible by the sacrifice Christ made for the atonement of those sins.
To be a man is to understand that real manliness comes from a relationship with God; that the Bible is our instruction manual and that Christ is the ultimate example of what a man should look like.
Jeremy Wiggins is host of In The Trenches. You can show him some love on his Facebook page or by listening to him on Saturday mornings at 6:00 CT on American Family Radio. He is also the producer of the Engage Podcast.