Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Proverbs Man

I think it's easy for men to feel left out when it comes to Proverbs. Concerning gender roles within the book, most discussions focus on the picture of a virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 - commonly referred to as the "Proverbs 31 Woman." Ministries have been founded upon this passage, conferences establish, movements incited, and it only grows more popular over time. Hallelujah! I rejoice in the fact that God's Word is living and active among women.

But men need to know that Proverbs speaks to them as well! If they are like me, emphasis on the virtuous wife can be a deterrent from reading the book; not because there is anything wrong with the passage or its usage, but because of the impression that little can be applied to me. The truth of the matter is this, though: Proverbs 31 has a high concentration of biblical womanhood, but scattered throughout the rest of the book are hundreds of references that apply men. With a little bit of focus, the references can be arranged into a thorough explanation of biblical manhood.

With popular culture and media shaping the Secular Man (one with little responsibility, lots of alcohol, bodybuilder muscles, and womanizing tendencies), men of God need to know what a Proverbs Man looks like. After all, scripture is clear that the key to healthy families and societies is the presence of righteous men.

So what does the Proverbs Man look like? Let's see what the book tells us; don't worry a lot of characteristics and passages are listed below, but I will summarize and explain in conclusion.

His Character
The Proverbs Man lives by righteousness. This means that he fears the Lord (1:7, 14:16), revering and acknowledging God in every situation; from this one action flows every other positive characteristic, for "Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge." As a result of his decision to fear the Lord and walk in righteousness, he hates falsehood (13:5), shuns evil (3:7, 16:6), speaks the truth (22:21), and does what is right (2:20).

His character is also marked by humility. The Proverbs Man is wise because he fears the Lord, and honored because he humbles himself (15:33). We see this aspect of manhood most prominently in Jesus, who gave up his divine privileges in obedience to the Father - taking on humanity and dying a criminal's death (Philippians 2:5-11); he taught servant leadership and meekness in every circumstance (more about that later)!

The Proverbs Man is also self-controlled. His temperament is restrained (29:11), calm (17:27), and steady (29:8). In his actions he exemplifies cautiousness (19:2) and thinks before doing anything (13:6, 14:8, 12:23, 15:2).

His Relationships
We already know that he fears the Lord and is ever mindful of his presence (3:6). It is also true that the Proverbs Man trusts the Lord (3:5, 16:3), chooses to follow his plan (8:10-11), submits to his discipline (1:2-3, 3:11), and confesses sin to him (28:13).

But his relationship to God is not the only one that matters; family life is also an important dynamic to which he attends. He respects his parents (17:6), listens to their council (23:22), and brings them honor and joy (10:1, 15:20, 23:24, 10:5). This is an aspect of biblical manhood that is often overlooked - but is a crucial part of building a lifestyle of humility and respect.

To his wife he is appreciative, treating her as a gift from God and as his crowning glory (18:22, 19:14, 12:4, 31:10-3). He also praises her (31:28), trusts her (31:11), and is faithful to her (5:15-20); this is not only the proper way to love and lead his wife, it also provides an example for children to follow. Maintaing marriage in this way is one of the most effective ways to build a lasting family legacy of righteousness.

Of course, the Proverbs Man also loves his children (3:12, 13:24). This may seem obvious, but remember: we live in a society of absent fathers. Men need to hear that they should be with their kids - training them (22:6) so that they might find peace, joy (29:17), and honor (1:8-9, 4:9). Proverbs informs us that it is a father's responsibility to teach his children (1:10, 28:7), discipline them (13:1, 13:24, 23:13-14), and provide for their physical (21:20) and spiritual (14:26, 20:7) needs.

His friends and neighbors should also benefit from his righteous and wise lifestyle. The Proverbs Man values his friends (27:10), is loyal to them (17:17, 18:24), and gives them wise counsel (27:9, 28:23). To all his neighbors he is trustworthy (2:27-28), strives for peace (3:29-30), and acts in truthfulness (16:29, 26:18-19).

His Words
The Proverbs Man is one of powerful language - using words that can bring life or death, healing or wounds (12:6, 13:14, 11:9-11, 16:24). This speech is a natural outflow of his righteous character (4:23) - as well as his personal reflections (15:28) and social surroundings (13:20, 27:17). However, he must also understand that his words are no substitute for good deeds (14:23), cannot alter facts (26:23-26), and cannot compel others to act (29:19). Nevertheless, his speech is influential - and is guided by truth (12:22, 16:13) and timeliness (15:23, 25:11); he speaks concisely (10:19), and is never boastful (27:2), argumentative (17:14), or slanderous (10:18, 26:20-22).

The Portrait of a Proverbs Man
That's a lot to take in! I just listed a ton of characteristics and an overwhelming number of scripture references. So what does the overall picture look like? It looks like a man that respects and honors the Lord in every way; as a direct result of the wisdom this reverence brings, he takes control of situations with humble leadership, walks in righteousness, speaks the truth powerfully, loves others effectively, and earns the respect of his peers while giving them honor.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it's because Jesus Christ embodied this lifestyle.

Proverbs gives us a great explanation of what men are supposed to be - people that model their lives after the only man that could possess every single one of these qualities. The fact of the matter is this: we cannot master this lifestyle (just as women cannot be totally virtuous like the one in Proverbs 31). However, it does give us something to strive after as we rely on the guidance empowerment of the Holy Spirit; and as we seek to be Proverbs Men, we become more Christlike everyday.

So do yourself, your family, your friends, and your community a favor - strive to be a Proverbs Man.

I want to here your thoughts about this! Did I forget any characteristics? Is there a certain characteristic that you find difficult to maintain? Do you have a plan for striving after biblical manhood? Let me know in the comment section below.

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