What does it mean to be a man?
We live in a culture that is extremely confused when it comes to manhood. Turn the clock back to the 1940s and 50s and my grandparent’s generation associated true manhood with Hollywood stars like John Wayne & Clint Eastwood. Jump forward twenty years to the 1960s and 70s and to my parent’s generation manhood seemed to symbolised more by the wealth, charm and sexual exploits of characters like James Bond or Hugh Hefner. Today in our post Christian Sydney society it almost seems wrong to even try to come up with a definition.
We’re deeply confused when it comes to manhood.
Thankfully the Bible is full of clarity and wisdom when it comes to God’s plan and purpose for manhood. Wisdom that we find clearly explained in this excellent book by Dr Richard Phillips.
Dr Phillips carefully shows us how the book of Genesis gives us God’s roadmap for manhood,
‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.’ (Genesis 2:15)
According to Scripture, God’s mandate to men can be summarised by just two words from this passage: to work and keep. Dr Phillips helps us to see that, ‘to work is to labor to make things grow’. He describes ‘work’ variously as ‘nurturing, cultivating, tending, building up, guiding, and ruling.’
‘This biblical mandate to work—here with the emphasis on cultivating and tending—explodes a great misconception regarding gender roles. We have been taught that women are the main nurturers, while men are to be “strong and silent.” But the Bible calls men to be cultivators, and that includes a significant emphasis on tending the hearts of those given into our charge. A husband is called to nurture his wife emotionally and spiritually. This is not a side show to his calling as a husband but is fundamental and central to his masculine calling in marriage.’
Similarly, ‘to keep is to protect and to sustain progress already achieved’. Keeping, therefore, refers to guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, and maintaining.
‘A man is not only to wield the plow but also to bear the sword. Being God’s deputy lord in the garden, Adam was not only to make it fruitful but also to keep it safe. Likewise, our basic mandate as Christian men is to cultivate, build, and grow (both things and people), but also to stand guard so that people and things are kept safe—so that the fruit of past cultivating and nurturing is preserved. To be a man is to stand up and be counted when there is danger or other evil. God does not desire for men to stand by idly and allow harm, or permit wickedness to exert itself. Rather, we are called to keep others safe within all the covenant relationships we enter.’
What is brilliant about this book isn’t just that it’s thoroughly biblical (so very rare these days in Christian books on manhood) but that it’s immensely practical. The second half of the book deals with various topics of marriage, the workplace, parenting, friendship, church and serving, with every chapter including discussion questions for practical application.
My only criticism of this book is that he slightly overstates the Bible’s emphasis on marriage when addressing single men. Singleness isn’t a special gift only for those who don’t desire to be married but rather a special gift for anyone who isn’t currently married (Matthew 19:12 cf. James 1:17). That said, since most men will be married at some point in their lives, and, since many men are ignoring God’s call upon their lives to servant leadership I can understand where he is coming from.
If you’re looking for clarity on what it means to be a man, or if you’re looking to grow in spiritual leadership at home, the workplace, church, as a parent, in your marriage or in preparation to be married I highly recommend you buy this book!
So why not buy two copies and ask someone you respect to disciple you in this?
The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men