Previously I addressed the issue of the need for men to not only be good men but to also be good at being men. This matter must be addressed again and again because, in fact, we must work at being good at being a man—again and again. It is because we so often approach masculinity in fits that we often fail. We need to continually be working at being good at being men. Such men, in fact, are masculine and therefore do what is necessary to continue to improve. Men who are good at being men are teachable; they are eager to learn and to do the hard work of conforming to what God requires. Let me illustrate.
Some Sundays ago I made the comment that there are many godly women who desire to marry and yet it seems that, in the church globally, there is a huge disparity between the number of such women and the number of godly and mature young men who even desire to marry. Many, such as Albert Mohler, have written about this disturbing disparity and the need for young men to learn to launch into marriage.
After the service a young man asked me if he could meet with me during the week. When we got together he asked a very important question: “How does a young man prepare for marriage?” I was impressed. I so appreciated his humble and teachable spirit. He desires to do all that he can so that, when the Lord blesses him with the opportunity for marriage, he will be ready. Rather than passively waiting for “providential clues” (sometimes we can mask our slothful laziness with “spiritual” language), this young man is preparing to launch. He is showing himself good at being a man. He is taking his biblical responsibility seriously.
We talked about the prevalence in our culture of young adult men who are delaying marriage and that, when they finally do decide to marry, they are actually not prepared for such responsibility. This pattern needs to be reversed. We should be raising our sons—and the local church should support parents in this—to pursue marriage with a passion. After all, God says it is a good thing. But the pursuit of marriage must be a part of a larger goal: young men who live responsibly before God and the world; men who have practically embraced biblical masculinity; men who have practically demonstrated that they are good at being men.
So, what kind of masculinity issues should a young man embrace if he will be a good man who is good at being men?
First in order of importance is a track record of masculine worship. He must be a man who is committed to worshipping God according to God’s prescription. Cain may seem like the tough guy between the brothers, but in fact Abel was the man’s man. He was committed to worshipping God according to God’s orders. Godly men who are good at being men are characterised as seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. They work hard at being responsible in their worship. I doubt that there is a more important means of providing security to a bride than this good work. Men who are good at being men, and therefore good at being husbands, prioritise submission to the Lord. After all, a man who will not submit to his authorities will prove in the end to be a lousy leader. Those who respectfully acknowledge that they are under authority are the ones to be most trusted with authority (see Matthew 8:5–13).
Second, men who are good at being men know by experience what it means to work hard; to labour responsibly. Even if a man is born with a silver spoon in his hand, he learns to develop callouses by holding a spade.
Education has become an idol of our culture. The nation spends billions and we are still a mess. Parents spend hundreds of thousands of rands to educate their children and many who come out with good grades and a well-paying jobs have learned little about what real work looks like. The result is that many young men are woefully deficient in life skills such as stewardship of time and resources. In many cases, self-indulgence has trumped self-discipline.
I understand, from personal experience, that labour is required in studying, and for many this involves blood, sweat and tears. Yet so many young men with a university degree have little or no experience with the realities of the real world. I am sure that there are young men in our society who have never cut the grass or painted a house or weeded a garden or cut down a tree or laid a brick. Further, many young men have never held a job outside of doing some chores at home. This is not helpful. When mom and dad dole out money to their young men rather than expecting them to shoulder some of their own economic responsibility, the result is often men who are twenty-something, and even thirty-something, who have no idea what it means to live within their own means and have little clue as to how to support another. When this is the case, they are in no position to marry.
I am not, of course, being prescriptive; I am simply making the point that a man fit for marriage is one who has learned to assume responsibility in many areas of life, and often the best place for such an education is the workplace. If one is studying, then working in some way to secure his own finances at the same time is a wonderful combination to help a young man prioritise as he learns the value of self-discipline and financial responsibility. We call this the “real world.” Let me drive this home further.
Let’s assume that a young man desires to marry. As the father of the woman is approached by the young man, a father who is good at being a man will assess the ability of the man to be a good spiritual leader. But the second most important consideration for a potential son in law is how he plans to support the father’s daughter if they marry. And coupled with this is the proof that he can do so. In other words, he must have a track record to back up his promise.
Men who are good at being men actively do what is necessary to provide for their own (1 Timothy 5:8). And this characteristic must be evident long before he and she say “I do.” When a man desires to marry, a wise father will make sure that the potential son-in-law has a history of financial responsibility and a record of doing-what-it-takes integrity before he gives his daughter’s hand in marriage. This has less to do with how much money the young man has than it does with whether or not he has the biblical masculinity to care for his potential wife. A good man who is good at being a man will move heaven and earth to see that the needs of his family are met.
Finally (at least for this article), I understand that not all men will marry. Nevertheless, all Christian men are expected to be good at being men. And so, married or not, men must learn to put away childish things when they become a man (1 Corinthians 13:11). Good men who are good at being men put their toys away. Playing is no longer their primary pursuit. Whether it be sports, computer games or hobbies, men who are good at being men know the difference between the need for occasional recreation and self-indulgence. There is nothing impressive or wise about the mantra, “Work hard, play harder.” And those with their “executive toys” are no exception. If a man will lead others, including his wife and children, he must take himself in hand, knowing that if he continues to play now, he will pay later. And he will pay dearly.
Men, let us seek the face of God to prove ourselves men—again and again.