By Hector M. Earle
Despite what society says, how is a man to be?
Up until the latter part of the twentieth century, a man’s primary role was viewed as the main breadwinner and disciplinarian, who prided himself on his physical strength and fortitude. The roles and expectations of a man have changed somewhat in today’s fast-paced society. It appears the focus now is working to gather as many material possessions as possible, while at the same time trying to keep out of debt. Many modern men are pressured to keep up with the ever-increasing demands to buy the latest gadgets to keep up with our modern culture’s emphasis on materialistic gain. This is not easy in today’s economy and joblessness.
Gone are the days when a man brought home the bacon and the woman stayed home to look after all the domestic chores. Today it seems both the man and woman have to work full-time just to make ends meet. Aside from helping with domestic chores, most men are encouraged to be more open and in many cases, to play dual roles both on the domestic front and in the workplace. Then there is Hollywood’s version of a man. We see this view in the movies and sitcoms starring men who are womanizer’s, loud, opinionated and emotionally charged. In other cases, Hollywood’s version of a man is portrayed as timid and weak.
What should matter most to a man is whether he lives up to the expectation of his Creator as outlined in God’s Word. The value of a man in Scripture is not portrayed in material possessions, wealth or physical appearance. God’s Word speaks first and foremost about the importance of a man’s character and integrity. For God is not so much interested in a man’s intellectual ability, his education or his training as He is in looking at the deep desires of a man’s heart.
One definition of a man of God is having a good character. Character comes from emulating Christ himself and from the great men and women of the Bible who displayed the type of integrity and character traits all of us should develop in our lives. We can follow the example of men like Noah, who was a beacon of light in a dark generation. He stood out as a righteous man, willing to obey God when everyone else sinned. Abraham, too was a great man of faith and a godly man in his generation.
Who can forget Joseph, who showed compassion, forgiveness and love for his brothers instead of revenge after they sold him into slavery. He also fled sexual temptation because of his reverence for God. Moses chose to obey the Lord rather than live a life focused on passing pleasures. The three young Hebrew men, stood up for their beliefs under the most severe persecution and threats. And Daniel as a young man in exile, would not compromise his standards, nor hide his faith.
There were others who showed great character and integrity, such as the psalmist David who showed his devotion to God in difficult circumstances; the young Stephen’s relentless faithfulness to Christ, even to death; and, of course, who can forget the apostle Paul’s hard work and boldness for the Christian faith under the most severe hardships?
The Bible is full of examples of the character traits of a good man. One only has to read the book of Proverbs to see how godly wisdom and knowledge can shape our character and instill the kind of integrity God is looking for in a man. But perhaps the best place to look is 1 Timothy 3, which specifically outlines desirable characteristics of a man and his place in the Body of Christ.
A man of God should also strive for perfection. This does not mean a man cannot sin, for we have all sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). What it does signify is that a man must have a pattern of life in tune with biblical standards of behavior and conduct. God’s Word speaks about the importance of a man’s character and integrity. He is to be a husband of one wife. There is no ambiguity here. A married man must honor his marriage vows and be faithful to his wife “at all times”.
A man of character must be temperate. The word means “showing moderation and self-restraint.” A man who is temperate in his Christian walk does not lose his spiritual orientation, nor does he give into destructive extremes, but, rather, lives a balanced and steadfast life. He is instructed to be sober-minded. This refers to the quality of being sensible and sharp in one’s thinking and actions, thereby exercising responsibility in making sound judgments and decisions.
He must be of good behavior and hospitable. A man should be trustworthy, respectable and honorable in all his actions, both in his public and private life, so his true character matches his reputation. The term hospitable refers to a man’s inclination to show kindness and empathy to friends and strangers alike and a willingness to help those in need. In today’s desensitized world, we all need this trait.
A Godly man also should have the discreet ability to teach others, and to be teachable himself if he is to grow and mature in Christ. He is not to be a slave to alcohol or display violent behavior and is not the kind of person who is controlled by substance abuse. He should not abuse his own body, which is the temple of God’s Spirit. Therefore, he must strive for good physical health through proper diet and exercise and other good health practices. He is also instructed to be sober and no longer be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit instead (Ephesians 5:18). He is described as gentle and not quarrelsome. A good man is to be gracious, kind and considerate, while showing the kind of etiquette that displays the utmost consideration for all human beings.
A man of God should not be greedy for money nor covetous. To acquire wealth and material possessions is not wrong. Some of the most godly men of the Bible were wealthy, like Abraham and Job. However, it should not be an obsessive priority overpowering him and destroying his relationship with God. Both Jesus and Paul warned against a preoccupation with money (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Timothy 6:10). Also, Proverbs 22:1 advises us if we have a choice between a good reputation and great wealth, choose a good reputation.
As father, a man should be the type of person that has the respect of his children through his teaching and role modeling. Many children are missing a father figure in the home today, and society is suffering for it. A man has the responsibility to make sure the relationship with his wife and children is good. He is to love his wife as much as he loves himself and to rear his children up in godly values as outlined in Ephesians 5.
A man of the house should be the one who is there for his children and who helps them in time of need. He should be a person his children can confide in. He is to respect and honor his wife and take on the responsibility of a good leader and manager of his home life. The words under submission do not mean a father is to use his leadership to force his children into obedience. Rather, he is to develop the kind of relationship with his children that builds love, trust and respect so the children want to learn proper behavior. Proverbs 20:7 states children are fortunate if they have a father who is honest and does what is right.
Finally, he should have a good testimony among those he encounters. A man must have a good reputation in the community and display the kind of behavior seen as a good role model to young and old alike. His conduct should exemplify the very character of Christ Himself in showing a strong witness to others. He should even use words if necessary.
In summary, God is not expecting a man to start out as a perfect, sinless individual, for He knows to err is human nature. This is why He sent His Son to forgive our sins if we repent and believe in Him (John 3:16). However, God does expect every man to be a beacon of light in a world of darkness and to be the best role model he can be.