Posted On March 6, 2012

Real Men… Work

by | Mar 6, 2012 | The Gospel and the Christian Life

Starting with The Old Spice Guy, Metrosexuals, and the Man-card, we interrupted our Living Like a King series to do a reality check and take a look at what God, as laid out in the Bible, expects from us as men.

Work. It’s a four-letter word for many of us. As men, we’ll spend most of our lives looking for it, doing it, finding ways around it, and ultimately trying to squirrel funds away for the day when we won’t have to do it anymore. It’s this rat race – this vicious cycle of things that the writer of Ecclesiastes looked at and declared “vanity.” But God did not always intend it to be so.

Man was, quite literally, created for work. When God made Adam, the first thing he did was to place him in the Garden of Eden for the purpose of work – and then to subsequently assign him the task of naming the animals:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. – Genesis 2:15

Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. – Genesis 2:18-19

Man was made for work. Man was created, placed in a workplace, and given tasks. Work was intended not to be not a burden, but an act of worship. It was a way to worshipfully imitate the work of the Creator. We are made in the image of God Himself, and thus we are tasked with bearing his image – with painting his likeness across the canvass of creation. Perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in the Dominion Mandate – God’s first charge to mankind:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28

But why, then, is work so difficult? Why do we struggle with the equally self-centered extremes of laziness and workaholism? For the answer, we need not leave the book of Genesis. In short, with the fall of man, creation itself was deeply, irrevocably broken. Not only was work one of the many things broken by the fall, it became the biting edge of the curse that we as men are to bear:

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  – Genesis 3:17-19

This passage is significant to our understanding of work for two reasons:

  • Work is hard now because of man’s sin. It is still necessary, it is still commanded. We are still image-bearers and we still have a mandate to take dominion. But it is hard and it is not always fun. And we will have to deal with this reality for the rest of our lives until we die.
  • Work (and specifically the stresses and trials associated with it) is the man’s curse. This is incredibly important to understand in a day and age when more and more men (and even and especially men in the ministry) are more than willing to let their wives be the primary wage earners in their household.

This is not to say it is sinful for a woman to work – however those men that allow their wives to be the breadwinners must be aware that they are forcing on their wives a burden and a curse that they, as men, should have born. To be fair, these husbands really ought to experience the menstrual cycle and pain in childbearing in order to evenly distribute the load.

But the good news is that we God doesn’t leave us hanging in Genesis. Even in the language of the Curse itself, we are given the promise that redemption is coming (Genesis 3:15). With the coming of Christ and the giving of the gospel (literally, the “good news”), work once again has its purpose restored. In Colossians 3, a chapter devoted to putting aside our Curse-tainted fleshliness and living under the gospel, Paul has this to say to those who work – and even to those who work as slaves:

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:22-24

“…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” The Lord Jesus Christ is watching you work and watching how you work. And good work will be rewarded.

I think a lot of Christians mistakenly believe that the only good work is “Christian” work – i.e., that the only truly profitable work should be full-time Christian ministry, that everything else is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In reality, the opposite is true. The only Christian work is good work, well done, to Christ’s glory.

For those men who will not work – those who will not support their families and bear the burden of manhood – Paul had some choice words:

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives [speaking specifically in the context of women and children], and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1Ti 5:8)

In the last post in this series, we mentioned the “real man” list. It’s the list that we all have in our heads of the things “real” men would or wouldn’t do. If we were to make a biblical Real Man List, I think we could start it off like this:

Real men do good work, well done, for the provision of their families and the ultimate glory of Jesus Christ.

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