The Value of a Man Questions

These questions were asked by the congregation on Father’s Day 2017. Since I could only reply to a few then, I answered these in a little more detail. 

(Speaking of men) What makes you tick?
This a great question. What does make a man tick? What motivates a man? Of course, every man has his unique make-up and follows his own course. Nevertheless, there are things that are common among men which are reflective of the way God made men. When God created man he gave him the responsibility to cultivate and keep the Garden. In essence, God gave him a stewardship over earth, a responsibility. Carrying responsibility is what makes a man out of a boy.

I remember when my father gave me the responsibility to take the last few hours of the family business every day. At 17 I was being entrusted with a great responsibility. Needless to say, I was pleased that dad trusted me and a little scared as well. Carrying that responsibility made me walk a little straighter. Carrying responsibility is what men are created to do.

When a boy does not receive adequate affirmation, he may shrink from responsibility, and give his energy and attention to play and pleasure. A man’s greatest fears are rejection and failure. He thrives on respect, and carrying out responsibility can give him that respect.

A man’s identity is rooted in his experiences and accomplishments. This is not to say women do not value accomplishment. They do. But typically a woman’s identity is vested in her relationships—who she loves and who loves her. That is not to say that men are not relational. They are. Yet they think of themselves in terms of activity and will normally describe themselves by the things that they do.

What makes a man tick? Doing things that he can be proud of doing, that generate self-respect and the respect of those around him. Give a man an interesting and challenging task (along with a woman who loves him) and he will likely be a happy guy.

Why are not more men seeking the man, Christ Jesus?
Jesus had no trouble is recruiting men to follow Him. He did not shy away from saying that the good news of God’s salvation demanded their total allegiance. We often make the gospel more about the personal benefits of forgiveness and provision and de-emphasize the call to give your life to the greatest mission ever conceived. When men do not understand the gospel as worth their whole life, it can seem to be more about avoiding hell than changing the world.

Jesus presented the good news as God’s call to serve the king and his kingdom. If we think about that call like King Arthur calling men to be Knights of the Round Table, commissioned to fight evil and injustice, to rescue the King’s subjects from enemies foreign and domestic, then we can get a sense of why men wanted to follow Jesus. What man wouldn’t want to be chosen for that great mission?

In some ways we have made the gospel less appealing to men by making it primarily about attending church when the gospel is more about how we live after church. To attract men we must point the way to be part of the great mission of Jesus, which Jesus describes this way, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12) Following Jesus means the willingness to be forceful (not physically violent) in our presentation of the gospel because the enemy resists godly incursions into dark situations. Gospel work is not for the weak of heart.

Why do we (men) work so hard?
Working hard gives most men a sense of purpose and significance. In my construction days I vividly remember the sense of satisfaction in a job well done. When we had to finish a job in a certain time-frame, or overcome some difficulty I felt determination arise in my soul in the desire to get the job done or resolve the difficulty.
Hard work with affirmation just feels good.

For some of us there may be another aspect. If we are not experiencing intimacy in our marriage or other important relationships, we may try to compensate by filling the space with work. Work is a poor substitute for emotional intimacy, but it is something that gives a man some sense of identity.

What is the best way to show honor to men (to a man)?
Men thrive on respect. Paul advised wives to respect their husbands while men are meant to love their wives. Apparently men have to be told to love their wives, to make sure that they are the center of their husband’s affections. Love is the gift that husbands must give their wives. In the same way wives are instructed to give their husbands respect whether or not they believe that they deserve it.

My wife asked me, “Do you need to be thanked for everything you do?” The answer is, “Yes!” Men do not like being taken for granted. The best way to show honor? Say, “Thank you” in as many ways as you can.

What do you (men) consider your greatest challenge or responsibility?
Family. Probably the greatest challenge that any of us face is the commitment to marriage and family. Who really knows what marriage is going to be like until you are actually married? Marriage forces a person to look at himself through another’s eyes, and that is as challenging as it is illuminating.

Raising children is often viewed as primarily a mother’s responsibility with the father providing back-up. Most mothers are fierce about their children, and rightly so. That intensity can be intimidating to a father trying to work out what his place really is. So it is definitely a challenge to work out what leading a family and engaging in hands-on parenting looks like.

Are men the head (of the home) or not? 
In short, yes! But I should be clear that the scripture says this about husbands and wives in the marriage relationship, not men and women in general.

Perhaps the best place to begin is with Paul’s instructions for wives in Ephesians 5:22. Note that Paul speaks to wives about their responsibility to have an attitude of submission, that is, of receiving her husband’s leadership graciously. This does not mean mindless obedience or even perpetual deference. The wife’s submission is a gift that she offers to her husband from her commitment to Christ and trusting in Him. This gift cannot be demanded or required by her husband. It has to be freely given as an expression of faith in Christ. This gift of submission is an attitude that colors her approach to her husband through her relationship to Jesus. She still engages in spirited dialogue and expresses her opinions freely, but without demand.

In the same passages husbands are instructed to love their wives three times, as Christ loved the church, as his own body, and as he loves himself. His responsibility in the relationship is to meet her where her need is: to be valued and cared for without limit. She, in turn, is asked to respect her husband, which answers his greatest need.

When this dynamic is established with the husband loving and caring for his wife sacrificially and without limit, and the wife offering her respect through receiving his care graciously and thankfully, then the question of the husband being the head can be better understood. The word “head” is probably better understood as “source” in the passage where it occurs. (1 Corinthians 11:3) God (the Father) is the source of Jesus in that Jesus says that He only says what He hears from the Father and only does what He sees the Father do. Just as Jesus represents the Father to the husband, so the husband is to be a channel of spiritual life for his marriage. He is meant to be the source of health for his marriage. That is, God has charged him with the responsibility for the health of the relationship. With that responsibility comes a measure of authority, but not the authority of demand because that would nullify his wife’s gift of submission. He cannot demand what can only be given as a gift. His authority is to act to insure the best for her and their relationship in cooperation with Christ in the Spirit.

This does not mean that the husband is in charge of his wife. It does mean that he has the responsibility to speak and act in the best interests of his marriage and family, doing so as an agent of the Lord Jesus. Peter speaks of this (1 Peter 3:7) when he says that a husband should live with his wife with an attitude of mutual submission in an understanding way, showing her honor as a fellow heir of grace, so that his prayers will not be hindered. Apparently God takes this so seriously that he will put the brakes on any other dialogue until a husband’s attitude and actions towards his wife are brought in line.

Unfortunately, many husbands abdicate their responsibility and yet try to claim the authority that comes with it, attempting to gain it through some show of superiority. Jimmy Evans (of Marriage Today) confesses to this unhealthy dynamic with his wife Karen as he tried to dominate her because of his own insecurities. In the same way some wives may try to goad their husbands into taking leadership which often comes across as disrespect and usually has the opposite effect.

Rather than disputing about headship, couples would be better served by focusing on how to obey Jesus in their relationship with their spouse themselves instead of considering how well their spouse is doing. I know that when I give my attention to fulfilling my commitment to Christ, I can leave any concerns about others in His hands.

Why do some men not take the lead in their families?
Often we men are afraid of failing. If we do not know what is expected, we may not want to try. We may not have had good role models, or any role models at all. We crave respect, and if we feel that our performance is being called into question, we often back away from our responsibility. If our wives give us what sounds to us like an ultimatum, then we likely will resist. Adam was passive in the Garden during the temptation even though he had clear responsibilities and authority delegated to him. That is fallen man’s default, now driven by fear.

What is also true is that God gives the responsibility and the outpouring of the Spirit to enable believing husbands and fathers to act for the benefit of their wives and families. We can encourage each other to trust the Lord to guide and empower us to take the responsibility for the well-being of our families.

What is a man’s greatest fear?
It is probably failure, especially in the eyes of his wife and family.

How come men (husbands) do not talk (to their wives)?
Men and women use words differently. Women generally use words for their emotional content to establish connection, while men use words primarily to exchange information. A man’s emotions are more comfortably expressed through actions. So a wife looking to connect with her husband will normally attempt to do this with talk. Many husbands do not understand what she wants or needs from conversation, and so may respond with impatience or even irritation. Many a husband sees his wife’s need to tell him about the problems or concerns that she has as a request for help or instruction, which usually frustrates or even infuriates her.

Both husbands and wives have the responsibility to enter their spouses’ world so that they can fulfill their responsibilities to each other in a way that the other can receive. For husbands this means learning to listen just to hear her and connect with her day-to-day emotional life. For wives that means understanding that getting him to express himself may mean doing something together that he enjoys.

Why do men avoid expressing emotion?
Perhaps because we have heard since we were small that “Big boys don’t cry!” Get called a cry baby a few times in a group of boys and you will learn to control your tears.

Men are as emotional as women, but we are not as apt to express them verbally. Often a man does not know how to describe how he feels, or even to give his feelings a name. When that is the case, our emotions are often expressed by what we do. We act out, so to speak. Guys will clam up when the emotion gets too strong rather than talk about it. Give us some space to figure out what is going on, and we can be very expressive. Demand a confrontation and it can get ugly.

What is a man’s highest call?
To paraphrase the Westminster Shorter Catechism: to honor God in every area of life and enjoy Him forever.