I can almost hear the rolling of the eyes and the protests: “Doug, you have five daughters and no sons; seriously, what can you tell us about boys?” That’s a good question, and I think that I have three good answers. First, a theological one: I have never died, but Scripture and the experience of watching others has informed my understanding a good deal about the subject. Scripture is sufficient to inform those of us blessed with doll houses to still be able to speak to those blessed with tree houses. Second, a personal one: I have been a boy and am now a man and so I am not entirely ignorant about the matter. And third, a pragmatic answer: As a father of daughters I have been very aware of boys, and I hold to the conviction that my daughters will only marry those who have proceeded from boy to man.
As BBC continues on the path of being, quite literally, fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth, there seems to be a current trend of the birth of boys. In fact, rumour has it that some of our more female-dominated families are seeing the incredible wisdom of arranged marriages!
I am excited about the future of BBC. If the Lord keeps these youngsters here in the church for the next twenty years, much good can be accomplished as these young boys and girls grow into godly men and women. In this article, however, I want to focus on the boys of BBC and the importance of them becoming men. What a joy it is (and will continue to be) to watch them grow from boys to men; that is, to watch them grow from being busy to being responsible.
We as a church have come to appreciate that the so-called “adolescent” stage is a cultural myth; one that needs to be buried along with the cow that jumped over the moon. It is not a fact of life. The Bible that shapes our worldview reveals God’s categories of children and adults. Of course, we recognise that a young adult (biblically, a lot younger than we currently define one!), under wise leadership, will over the years develop a growing awareness and practice of responsibility. In other words, one does not become an adult simply because they have had a thirteenth birthday. Nevertheless, the idea that a young person lives in some kind of hormonal, emotional, relational and responsible “no man’s land” for five to eight years is a falsehood. In fact, when it comes to males, the Bible reveals the pattern of “boy to man.” And it seems to me that the book of Proverbs substantiates this thesis in its insistence that boys must learn to live responsibly. When boys are taught to pursue a lifestyle of fulfilling their responsibilities then they go from boys to men.
From the beginning of Proverbs, we have the record of wise sayings, primarily from a father to his son, concerning responsible living. In fact, 23 times in Proverbs we read, “My son,” each time followed by exhortation. Perhaps none is as passionate as that found in 23:26 when Solomon cries, “My son, give me your heart.” Solomon was passionately concerned to teach his sons how to function in this world responsibly. I don’t know their ages, but his goal for them was clear: to grow from boys to men. Let’s note three important observations concerning this.
First, in Solomon’s own case, the boy had become a man. And now that he was a man he desired the same for his offspring. At one point Solomon reflects upon the counsel that he had received from his father, King David. Note these autobiographical words: “When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: ‘Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live’” (4:3-4). David taught Solomon how to live with the result that, until the arrival of Jesus, Solomon was the wisest man who had ever lived. He became king over the greatest earthly kingdom to ever arise. In some way, David had succeeded in teaching Solomon the importance of fulfilling his God-given responsibilities. And in many ways he successfully carried these out. In Proverbs, he passed these lessons on to his son.
At one time, Solomon was a boy who no doubt played with the other boys in Jerusalem, but there came a time when he put away childish things. In other words, he became a man. Solomon was perhaps twelve years old when he began to reign. He definitely needed to become a man—sooner than later.
But this did not come with a birthday; it came after years of instruction and no doubt with years of learning to exercise responsibility under his God-ordained authority. The point that I want to emphasise is that he grew up. He grew to the point that he grasped his God-ordained responsibility and fulfilled it. Indeed, we can define masculinity as behaving responsibly. And I mean a lot more than SAB’s advice about drinking and driving.
You will remember that when God appeared to King Solomon and asked what he wanted, this wise man asked for wisdom. He knew that he faced a huge responsibility and wanted to fulfil it well.
In reading the Proverbs we learn from Solomon that wisdom is practical. Wisdom is displayed as one fulfils his responsibilities in various realms, such as financial, vocational, relational, sexual, judicial and spiritual, to name just a few. Wisdom is busy as it productively fulfils God-given responsibilities. Applying this, we can conclude that boys are busy but men are busy and productive.
I have always thought that training our children to be multitaskers is important, especially with regard to impressing upon them the importance of fulfilling their varied responsibilities. This is perhaps particularly true with boys and young men. They should be taught to be more than one-dimensional (see my article, “The One Dimensional Danger”) and therefore should know what it means to sweat in the garden, in their studies, in earning an income and in their pursuit of Christ. Those who are responsible require a lot of literal and metaphorical antiperspirant.
The second observation is that the boy became a man (at least in Solomon’s case) by the intentional instruction of both his father and his mother. Both parents were deliberately involved in training their boy to be a man.
As noted, Solomon had received counsel from his father, but in chapter 31 we have the record of his mother who had advised him what kind of a man (and king) he should be. She also advised him concerning the kind of wife he should seek. Sadly, he not only failed in his responsibility here but, to make matters worse, he failed as a husband. It seems that Solomon had a period in his life when the man became a boy as he was sexually and relationally irresponsible. And sadly this evil trend plagues our society today.
Someone has recently noted with reference to sexual abuse that “if we give in to the idea that boys will be boys, then girls will be treated like trash.” Parents need to make sure this never happens. Boys need to become men.
Dad and mom, help your boys to be men. Be intentional in teaching them to be responsible. Hold them accountable to treat others with respect and to fulfil their responsibilities to the elderly and to females, as well as to their fellows. Further, counsel them, encourage them and hold them accountable to finish what they start. Don’t bail them out too soon when they seem to be in something that is over their heads. Scratches and cuts and bruises and hurt feelings and wounded egos and disappointments—well, that is life. The sooner they learn how to biblically respond to such facts of life, the sooner we will all see these youngsters progressing from boys to men.
Finally, we can summarise by the observation that boys are to be raised to leave.
The old adage has some insight, “a son is a son until he takes a wife but a daughter is a daughter all of her life.” And therefore boys need to be raised in such a way that prepares them for the day when they go. And this requires them learning to assume responsibility. David (and Bathsheba) had prepared Solomon to leave and now Solomon was preparing his own sons to leave. And in each case they were to leave as responsible adults.
Much more can be said, but in closing let me encourage parents of sons to learn the Proverbs and enrich the lives of your sons by teaching them the practical application of their principles. As you do so our congregation, by the grace of God, will increasingly appreciate our next generation being strengthened by those who have grown from boys to men.