“What does it mean to be a man?” is a question I’m sure a lot of men (and women) have asked for generations. I’ve asked it hundreds of times myself only to receive responses such as, “a man is strong and tough,” “a man is successful and has a lot of money,” “a man never cries,” etc. Though all of these answers fall short of answering the question, I bought into every one of them at different times in my life.
When the lead evangelist at my church announced that we would be starting an online course about manhood, I was elated. Manhood is a topic I’ve wanted to explore for a long time but never knew where to start. I also bought an audio book on Biblical manhood to complement the online course and to deepen my study on the subject. The book is called: “The Masculine Mandate” by Richard D. Philips. I highly recommend reading it. It challenged the boy out of me and opened my eyes to God’s design and plan for manhood.
The book is biblically grounded and filled with great examples and analogies. It also focuses on topics such as identity, purpose, work, marriage, friendship, fatherhood, and more. In this blog post I will provide you with the key teachings and insights I gleaned from listening to the book.
Man is Made in the Image of God
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27
No other creature on Earth was created in God’s image, not even the angels in heaven. God reserved this calling for humanity alone. He created us to represent Him on Earth by carrying out His will for our lives. Humans have the ability to love, reason, rule, raise families, and exercise self-control, characteristics that come directly from God.
In his book, Richard D. Philips focuses his teachings on the two main roles that God assigned to Adam: to “work” and to “keep”. This teaching comes from Genesis 2:15 where God places Adam in the garden and instructs him to work and care (keep) for the land.
Man is Called Work the Garden
In this primary role, God called Adam to cultivate the land as a gardener; that is, to make things grow. Gardeners plant seeds and work the soil in order to reap a crop. Similarly, God calls men to cultivate the soil of human hearts by taking the initiative in building and nurturing relationships with their wives, children, friends, and people in their sphere of influence. This role of “working” also applies to career, church, community, and other areas of life. God calls us to be responsible with everything He placed within our stewardship.
Men are Called to Keep the Garden
God also called Adam to “keep” the garden, a role that required him to care for it and protect it from possible dangers. Likewise, God designed men to be the primary protectors and guardians in the lives of those that He has placed in their care. God is like a watchtower in our lives, guarding us and keeping us from evil; as men, we are called to imitate God in this manner, protecting our families from worldliness and other threats.
Though Adam was instructed to fulfill these roles, we see a turn for the worse when satan enters the picture. Satan plants a thought in Eve’s mind, enticing her to disobey God. But notice that while all this was going on, Adam remained silent. He was passive and allowed satan to entice his wife. He knew that if his wife ate from that fruit she would surely die, yet, he chose to not to say anything. Instead, he joined her in eating the fruit knowing the consequences of their action.
But isn’t this what men are often like by default? We can be passive and disengaged when our families need us to nurture and protect them. I see these tendencies in my own life. It’s what I default to when I’m not intentional about Godliness. For example, it’s much easier for me to focus on my own desires, hobbies, and work while casting aside the needs of those closest to me. Nevertheless, I see my need for growth, and I am determined to change in these areas, praying that God will shape me and guide me with every step I take.
In the words of Timothy Keller,
“The mark of the godly man is he likes to change. The mark of the godly man is he says, ‘Lord, show me where I should change, and I’ll do it. Show me where I should obey, even where it’s hard, and I’ll do it.”