What is manhood? If we asked any random fella on the street, we may get markedly different answers. It’s a difficult question. We’re more likely to find out what it’s not…or tie it to extrinsic characteristics as we previously discussed: a series of dos and don’ts more complex than any modern day religion. Today we will explore the relationship between masculinity and religion with the unspoken manhood commandments.
Boys are not taught to be men.
We teach them to not be feminine. It’s performance based. The feets you do at school, on the field, in an office, at a club/party will mark you as a man. We’ve forgotten…masculinity is nurtured, not earned or bought.
In another era, manhood was passed down through the family tree or a community of men. Some cultures had rites of passage to initiate boys to men. But much of that changed during the Industrial Age when fathers left home to work in factories. Work became the model to achieve manhood (men provided for their families through going to work).
Christianity shaped much of Victorian era masculinity. Muscular Christianity was created for “the expulsion of all that is effeminate, unEnglish and excessively intellectual.” Young men began moving into the city during the Industrial Revolution. Organizations like the YMCA were created to foster a model of masculinity based on Christianity to ensure they wouldn’t lose their rural upbringings and values.
Rules, a system of dos and don’ts, began to mark what it mean to be a man. These charges may now be unspoken, but many of us still adhere to…
10 Manhood Commandments:
- Thou Shalt Be a Self Made Man
- Thou Shalt Not Feel
- Thou Shalt Dominate
- Thou Shalt Never Be Weak
- Thou Shalt Watch and Play Certain Sports
- Thou Shalt Conform to Your Peers
- Thou Shalt Lead (and often subjugate) Women
- Thou Shalt Find Your Worth in Providing
- Thou Shalt Not Engage in Creativity
- Thou Shalt Not Be Gentle
Though Christianity was the primary source behind the new Victorian era masculinity facade, this doesn’t seem to be wholly supported by scriptural verses found in the Bible. And if Christianity is to shape a model of manhood, shouldn’t it be based on the life of Jesus? “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved…” Ephesian 5:1-2 NASB
Do any of the common manhood requirements fit with the life of Jesus? Let’s go through each of the manhood commandments and see if they share correlation to New Testament verses in the Bible.
What does the Bible say about the self made man?
“Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Luke 17:33 NASB. This verse seems to say we should surrender our life and expectations to Jesus rather than living for self.
What does the Bible say about not feeling?
“…and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” Ephesians 4:19 NASB. A whole man is full of compassion and mercy, but with a firm and steadfast character.
Separating yourself from feelings can lead to intimacy issues which can affect relationships.
What does the Bible say about dominating?
“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 NASB
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
The Bible has little to say about sports but does call us to train as athletes, but for our spiritual development and faith:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
What does the Bible say about weakness?
“…for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 cor 12:9 NIV
What does the Bible say about conforming to peers?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV
What does the Bible say about leading women?
“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”1 Corinthians 11:3-10
Before emphasizing “the man is the head of a woman,” it’s important to recognize that “Christ is the head of every man,” and in early Christianity, especially in Jesus’s own ministry, women held more positions of honor and leadership than anything prior. The leadership paradigm works only when men are fully submitted to Jesus.
What does the Bible say about providing?
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8 NIV
So while men can’t shuck their responsibilities, a verse also points to God providing for men…
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”
What does the Bible say about creativity?
“and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.”
Exodus 35:31-33 NIV
We were made in the image of God…to create
What does the Bible say about gentleness?
“to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:2 NIV
Many of the ideas of manhood that have evolved through Victorian era masculinity don’t seem to align with the teachings of Jesus in the Bible.