What is it that makes a man a man instead of a bigger-than-average boy?
Is it strength, muscles, stature? Or facial hair, intelligence, the ability to lead? Maybe being good at sports? How about not being afraid, being tough, able to take a punch, knowing how to grill, or the ability to make money and provide for a family.
There’s one thing wrong with all of these qualifiers; they’re all about us looking good or how others perceive us. And the bible is VERY clear that nothing in God’s design, when working correctly, has the primary job of making us look good. Because God’s creation is over and over, all the time about making HIM look good, and bringing HIM glory. If this is true, these other things cannot be biblical manhood.
God teaches us(as does history) that where men and women fulfill their design, society around them flourishes. When you look at the very beginning, in the garden, man was given RESPONSIBILITY. Responsibility over the garden, over the animals, and over creation. He was to name and lead woman, to subdue the earth, and be fruitful and multiply. He was also given one rule, one thing to avoid. When they disobeyed God’s command and ate the fruit, God points out Adam’s fault. He points out that the MAN was responsible for carrying out God’s command, for stewarding morality, and for leading his family to do the same.
Since creation, true masculinity has always been intertwined with responsibility. With this in mind, a better definition of masculinity/manliness is this:
Real masculinity is the sacrificial assumption of responsibility.
Put simply, this means seeing what needs to be done in every sphere of influence we have, in every area of our lives, and taking the initiative to do it. It is sacrificially; whether you enjoy it or not, whether you’re tired or not, whether you’re busy or not; taking the job wherever there is a job to do. Men are responsible for much. It’s a great weight and burden to be a man, living by God’s directive. And like all paths we take, there are consequences to both sides. If we look in Scripture at men and their responsibilities, we see two truths.
- Authority flows to those who take responsibility
- Authority flees from those who abandon responsibility.
Let’s look at some places where we see this.
Examples of authority flowing to those who take responsibility:
- Parable of the talents: In Luke 19 and in Matthew 25, the master rewarded more responsibility to those who stewarded their talents well.
- Joseph after being sold into slavery demonstrated uprightness and diligence in all he did, so God continued to give him favor.
Examples of authority flowing from those who abandon responsibility:
- You can look at a plethora of the kings of Israel and Judah recorded in the OT. You will find kings who took responsibility for the nation, God used. But those who were self-serving and narrow minded or when the once faithful kings lost their focus, God punished their reign, and often removed them from power.
- King David after his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah, God set a curse of brokenness upon his family and rule.
- Parable of talents on the other end: those who sat idle were punished. Notice by our society’s standards, they didn’t do much wrong because they didn’t lose anything. They were worried, concerned, they played it safe. But this wasn’t to protect their master or his possessions in the end. It was to protect their own life. Idleness and passivity comes from selfishness.
Those who sacrificially assume responsibility are living in the great and heavy design God has for them. Authority and ability to carry out these tasks are given to them. Daniel 2:21 says “He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” So we see in scripture that we are given more of what we steward well. To steward is to continue the proper use of something. On the other end, those who don’t take responsibility, but instead make excuses for their actions OR their circumstances OR the world around them see authority flee from them. This means what God would normally ordain and empower you to do will be removed from you. As we forsake true manhood, God removes authority and power from our life, further removing us from true manhood.
So how do we act on this, practically and more in depth? What are we actually responsible for, and how do we carry out that responsibility biblically? There are 4 main areas of responsibility.
1) Take responsibility for yourself.
- You’re responsible for your faith, to seek the Lord, to know Him, to study and apply His Word in your life. You are responsible to pray, to commune with Him, to confess your sinsfaults, ego, arrogance, pride, laziness, temper, etc.
- You’re responsible for evaluating yourself at every turn. Titus chapter 2 talks about how men should act; sensible, dignified, sound in speech, demonstrating good deeds, SO THAT the world would have nothing bad to say about us. Why? So as to not hinder the work of the Gospel. We work hard on ourselves so the Gospel is most potent. Our responsibility for ourselves is directly linked to the furthering of the Gospel, and there is no more important movement. God leads us to give ourselves for this because masculinity is the sacrificial assumption of responsibility.
2) Take responsibility for your neighbors.
- When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus said to love God. Then he went a step further and said the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor. We have two types of neighbors:
- 1) The lost around us, to whom Paul would say in Romans 1 that we are under obligation to share the Gospel, that we are to let our light shine before others so they would see our good works and turn to God. We must meet needs as we see them, spiritual and physical, because that is how Scripture defines love.
- 2) Our brothers and sisters in Christ. Galatians 6:2 teaches us to bear one another’s burdens. Much of the new testament letters are instructions for how we are to build up, encourage, and help the body of Christ. We are to lay down our lives for our fellow believers (1 John 3:16). Being responsible for our neighbors also means we care about social justice, and that the problems and needs of others ARE our business so long as we are ambassadors of Christ. Real masculinity is the sacrificial assumption of responsibility.
3) Take responsibility for your family.
- Ephesians 5:29 paints a great picture of how a man treats his wife… “For no one ever hated his own flesh (referring to his wife), but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does the church.” John Piper would translate this to mean that leadership in the home involves nourishing provision and tender protection.
- You are to nourish your children, nourish your wife, nourish relationships; meaning you feed them, you give to them, you provide what they need. You are an endless source. You are being drained all the time, but you must be the source. Children aren’t the woman’s job, because everything in your house (everything) is the husband and father’s responsibility first and foremost. You must be the one taking initiative for big decisions (discipline, spiritual health, finances, lifestyle issues, sports, tv, social media).
- This doesn’t mean your wife won’t do certain things and you’ll do certain things. Our wives are often strong in areas where we are weak. She may have superior wisdom in certain areas. But it does mean that you’re active in engaging, teaching, encouraging, and affirming your kids. We’re called to make disciples. This begins with your family. If you aren’t discipling them, you will never be successful in the great commission.
- The word cherishes implies tender protection. Women don’t want or need you to be harsh. The godly husband is not mean-spirited, hard, or demanding. The truth is that we as men are much more vulnerable to violence, to hot-headedness. But that’s not a godly leader. That’s not sacrificial love and tender protection. 1 Corinthians also tells us to love our wives as Christ loved the church. I would encourage you the next time you find it difficult to show your wife love in action, instead of turning inward to be fueled by your own self-worth, turn to and dwell on the amazing grace of God. This causes your pride to be broken by your own need for a Savior and the command to love her as He loves us; unconditionally. We are to be the sacrificial Christ in the Christ-Church relationship. We are to lay down our life for her. Our pride, our desires, our down time, and our plans. Masculinity is the sacrificial assumption of responsibility.
4) Take responsibility for your church.
- The church is God’s organized hands and feet in the community. It’s also a huge avenue for growth and support. So you need to be involved. Involved in corporate worship, community with other Christians, serving, missions, investing time money and prayer to the furthering of the gospel and ministry of the local church. You need to be leading your family in valuing the things of God. It’s time to stop viewing the gathering of the Church as another optional activity. You will NEVER serve the purpose God has so beautifully designed you for if you treat the service as a throwaway, take-it-or-leave-it routine. And if you’re a leader in the church, a teacher, deacon, servant-leader, then others are looking to you to see what is acceptable. Lead them well. The world’s priorities should not be ours. We must step it up here.
I said earlier that we as men are responsible for much. It’s a great weight and burden to be a man, living by God’s directive. And if you don’t feel that responsibility, you may be living in passive rebellion. If you are responsible over what you have, God will bless your leadership. You’ll see it bear fruit all around you. But if you shirk responsibility, that authority will be stripped from you one way or another. I pray we all can take record of how we live, how we lead or don’t lead, and further lean into the glorious roles God has given to us.