Thursday, February 12, 2015


I was sitting in my recliner reading a newsmagazine with the pages folded over, when Uni started snickering.  She was reading the headline on the opposite page:  "How to Tell Time Like a Man."  I flipped my magazine over and read the fine print aloud to her.  It was a full-page 81/2"x11" ad for a wristwatch.

"Your watch ..." it claimed (and I'm not making this up), "should look and feel like a power tool and not a piece of bling.  Wearing it shouldn't make you think twice about swinging a hammer or changing a tire.  A real man's timepiece needs to be ready for anything."

Urrrgh!  Shades of Tim the Tool Man!

But that's not all!  After some info about the price the ad continues:  "Call me old-fashioned, but I want my boots to be leather, my tires to be deep-tread monsters, and my steak thick and rare.  Inspiration for a man's watch should come from things like fast cars, firefighters and power tools."

The rest of the page has details about the watch and its bargain pricing and it features an actual photo of the watch, about double actual size (I'd hope - otherwise one would have to wear it around his neck).

Now while the watch I wear was purchased for much less - seems like it was around $10 at Wal*Mart - I can understand that men in some trades would require a heavier-duty watch.  I do wear leather boots - "manly footwear," as Merle's song goes (see picture above).  And I do have a few power tools.  Alas, my 14-year-old PT Cruiser doesn't qualify; it's not fast and doesn't have monster tires.

But is my masculinity to be measured by the appurtenances of manhood mentioned in the ad?  If I lack any of these am I less of a man?  That seems to be the implicit message I'm being given.  So if I'm a real man I should call the number given on the page immediately so that I can add this watch to my power tools, leather boots, etc.

I do suspect, however, that this type of appeal gets more response from those who are unsure of their masculinity than from those who are confident in theirs.

Well then, how should I measure my manhood?  What are the signs of manhood if they're not the external macho trappings mentioned?  How do I "man up"?

Once - and only once - is there an expression given in the New Testament telling us to "man up."  Paul uses the Greek verb andrizomai in 1 Corinthians 16:13.  The word is usually translated "be men" or "act like men."  It is related to the noun aner which is simply the word for "man" as male.  [This word is not to be confused with anthropos, which though translated "man" in older translations, basically means "human" or "person" and can include those of both genders.]

Andrizomai was, however, used about 20 times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (ca. 200 BC) usually in pep talks to troops before sending them off to war.  Moses to the Israelite armies before sending them across the Jordan to conquer the Canaanites:  "Be men (andrizomai) and be strong!  Don't be afraid or cowardly or fearful in their presence ..." (Deuteronomy 31:6).  He repeats the same to his successor Joshua in the next verse.  Then after crossing the Jordan, Joshua is found giving the same command to his troops (Joshua 1:6-7, 9; 10:25).  The word is still used in modern Greek, though more in the sense of "be strong."

But when Paul exhorts his (male?) readers to be men, he is not sending them forth to physical combat.  Neither is he telling them of those external features or accessories that are supposed to be the marks of a "real man."  In his concluding remarks to his First Letter to the Corinthians he says these words:

"Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, be men (or man up) be strong!  Let everything you do be done in love!"  (1 Corinthians 16:13, 14)

There are five imperatives in these two verses, all in the present tense, which gives the sense of continual action.  These are to be the characteristics of Paul's readers, including us - our continual behavior.  And the third command is the one that I believe sums up the others.  Or to put it another way, the other four commands tell us what it means to man up.

·       "Stay awake!"  This word is often translated "watch."  It's what Jesus commanded His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before He was betrayed.  Real men are spiritually alert.  They understand what's going on around them.

·       "Stand firm!"  The idea is of standing firm, confident in our faith in Christ and in our freedom in Him.  (Galatians 5:1; Philippians 1:27; 4:1, etc.)

·       "Be strong!"  The word is used of both John the Baptist and of Jesus as children.  (Luke 1:80; 2:40).  The idea seems to be of a continual growth in strength.  But I don't believe that Paul is commanded physical training here.

·        "Let everything you do be done in love!"  Love is an active word - that which seeks what is best in its object.  It is to characterize every action of the real man.

So how is our - my - manhood measured?  Apparently not by the standards enumerated in the magazine ad, nor by other standards urged upon us by American culture.

Our manliness is a goal we are to strive for - our likeness to Jesus Christ.  Or as Paul says elsewhere, we are to continue our growth "... until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man (aner), to the measure of the stature of Christ's fullness" (Ephesians 4:13).

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