Better Men (Part 2)

better manIn a previous post, I presented the opening section of an article that seeks to present a biblical understanding of godly manhood.  In this section, I lay out the first of three essential qualities that combine to help men become “better men.”


Men are to be productive to support others

Genesis 1 reveals that when God created the first man and woman, He gave them an assignment: “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” (1:28). From the beginning, God intended men and women to partner together to fill and oversee His creation.

When we get to Genesis 2, we find a more detailed account of how God’s creation of the first man and woman played out.  Here we learn God created them, not simultaneously, but in succession.  Adam is created first and given a job to do.   “And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (2:15).

work menThe Hebrew term for work (obda) is often used of agricultural labor (Gen. 3:23; 4:2, 12); however, the term is flexible enough to refer to other kinds of work (for example, shepherding in Gen. 29:30; weaving in Isaiah 19:9).

Contrary to much current thinking, paradise was never meant to be work-free.  Adam was not created to enjoy an endless vacation but was given a meaningful vocation.  It’s important to notice that Adam was given work to do before sin entered the equation.  Work wasn’t part of God’s judgment on sin.  Work is part of God’s good plan for humans. In fact, even in the New Creation, we will be given meaningful ways to serve God (Revelation 22:3).  Sin didn’t give us work to do; God did.  Sin just made work a lot harder than it was originally designed to be: “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain, you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).

As we move through the rest of the Bible, we see both men and women working hard—in the home, church and society.  For example, in his closing greetings in to the church in Rome, Paul commends a number of men and women for working hard in ministry (Romans 16:1-16).  Once again, when it comes to productive work, the two circles of the Venn diagram overlap. At the same time, starting in the opening chapters of Genesis, it seems God assigns men a primary role in working to providing for themselves and others.

In the New Testament, Paul echoes this expectation for men in 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  While there will be circumstances that prevent a man from productively working (illness, disability), God’s expectation for a man to be a provider hasn’t changed from the opening days of creation.

This is not an argument that women cannot be productively engaged in work outside the home—Priscilla and Aquilla seemed to be have been small-business partners.  Rather, it is a reminder that God designed men to carry the primary responsibility of working to provide for others—starting with their families (1 Timothy 5:8).

productiveWhen it comes to discipling men, we must instill in boys and young men a sense of responsibility to live productive lives.  In a day when many young men are reticent to pursue gainful employment,[1] the biblical expectation for men to work needs to be taught.  Here’s where older, mature men can mentor young men, helping them step into a vocation and find ways to be productive.

On the flip side, some young men will need biblical guidance and practical strategies for keeping work in proper balance.  Men who are driven to produce must be discipled to give attention and energy to other important areas of life:  physical health, relational depth, and spiritual growth.  A helpful tool for training young men in being productive to support others is Matt Perman’s excellent book, What’s Best Next. [2] I’ve taken a number of young men through the concepts in Perman’s book as it provides a biblical vision and a workable approach to God-centered productivity.

Discipling men will also involve helping them understand that productivity is not simply a means for self-support or selfish gain.  Instead, working hard gives men a way to provide for their own families (1 Tim 5:8). Beyond this, a productive life allows them to “have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28).  Once again, mature men can help younger men learn to manage money well, avoiding the downward pull of consumer debt and developing healthy habits of generous giving to kingdom causes.


[1] See Investor’s Business Daily, “Men without Work: Why Younger Males are Disappearing from the Workforce”, accessed October 14, 2019,

[2] Matt Perman, What’s Best Next, (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Press, 2014).

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