The Role of Manhood

The Bible ordained the structure of the family, and man as the head of the household. For nearly all of recorded history to this point, this framework has been at the core of society and culture, worldwide. Today our North American culture attacks this foundational understanding of the role of man. Other roles are also under assault, but man’s role specifically has been pummeled severely by radical and revisionist thinking. Some of the most pressing cultural challenges we currently face include:

  • Androgyny, the blurring of the lines between the sexes and their roles.

  • Narcissism, or man’s belief that life and purpose revolve around self.

  • Abdication, where men do not lead in the marriage, home or workplace.

  • Materialism, with man focused on making money and acquiring possessions.

  • Technocracy, man valuing technology as power.

  • Pornography, the pursuit of physical and mental sexual pleasure over a real and lasting relationship with the opposite sex.

  • Idolatry, putting possessions, power, prestige and personal pursuits above God.

These pursuits have a common thread that redefines the traditional and biblical role of manhood and replaces it with a substitute, which is devoted first and foremost to a type of self-satisfaction. Each of these is a form of the last, idolatry, in that God is dethroned in favor of a man-made substitute. In this culture, how does a man fulfill his biblical role, and grow as a leader in his marriage, home and workplace? 

These pursuits have a common thread that redefines the traditional and biblical role of manhood and replaces it with a substitute, which devoted first and foremost to a type of self-satisfaction.

Psalm 1:1-5 provides some excellent insight. It says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

The man who walks in wise counsel. Surrounding yourself with godly men is a practical way to build a foundation of biblical manhood. Notice the Psalm doesn’t say that a man is openly wicked, but rather the danger is in surrounding yourself with voices of those who are ungodly. Even if this counsel sounds practical, or of good intent, a godly man weighs it against the Bible and shuns anything that is not in keeping with the Word. Do you surround yourself with wise counsel?

The man who stands apart from sin. The phrase “stands in the way of sinners” means to do what sinners do, and in so doing to align yourself with their sinful behavior. Jesus was with sinners, but did not sin. Only by pursuing a daily relationship with God will you be able, over time, to identify sin and stand apart from it, while still engaging with sin-pursuing people. Do stand apart from sin?

The man who does not mock. The phrase “sitting in the seat of the scornful” implies we are comfortable around those who would scoff, mock or deride others. In today’s culture this is lived out in the “mob” mentality—groups of people with a cause who act out toward those they disagree with. And it is also shown in the more passive aggressive form we call “political correctness”. The godly man, though, is one who treats other with respect and courtesy, out of a love for them that comes first from Christ. Do you have the courage to keep your thoughts independent of the mob, and to act out of respect versus reprisal?

The man who delights in the Word. Here the Psalmist turns from the actions of a man in his world to how a godly man develops a mind that is tuned to God. Often we think of the Bible as only a book of serious study and stern rules. Here the word “delight” implies a man who takes personal pleasure and finds joy and contentment in the Word of God. Are you one who opens the Bible to be captivated, entranced by it? Is the Word a great positive in your daily life?

The man who prospers. Finally from this Psalm, a promise. The man who has the courage to act and think according to the Word and will of God will be blessed. Verse 1 begins “Blessed is the man…”, and the end of verse five is the bookend: “In all he does, he prospers.” 

How does a man avoid the self-centered tangents of culture and live as a godly individual, husband, father, leader? Only in the pleasure of God’s Word does He find the strength to discern wise counsel, to avoid sin, to set aside mob rule and build up others. Such a man is blessed by God and prospers. In God’s Word we find all that we need to fulfill those greatest desires. Pursuits of idolatry, narcissism, materialism and pornography will not give us the satisfaction and success we will find in knowing and living by the Word of God.  

And that is the role of man, even in today’s self-styled culture: to know God, to obey God, and to delight in God. Perhaps the Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1647, memorized and recited over the centuries by English and Scottish school children says it best: “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”