Of our 9 children, 6 are boys (our oldest is 17); so thinking about how to raise them properly is a constant. Children learn to do what they see the parents do; there are some things that the parents do that don’t make sense; and there are many things along the way that a parent needs to simply state because kids won’t know what you’re doing or why you’re doing it
(an example of this: I consistently explain to the kids that my work does not consist in lounging in my chair surfing the web. Being a sysadmin requires lots of server monitoring, research, emailing, learning and testing. I want them to know that, while it’s nice to have this job, and I do get some perks, it’s still work.)
But I’m not writing this to tell you about me or give lots of specifics. I’m writing to offer a framework for how to raise boys, and this framework is found in the Bible. There isn’t a chapter that gives this framework; rather, it’s found throughout the Scriptures. How I came across it was asking the simple question, “What does the Bible say about being a man?” This came about a long time ago (for me, anyway) as the assault on he value of males came to fruition and continues both to debase males, and the gradual positive shift with lots of input from non-Christian, though well-meaning, people and groups . Yes, males tend to sin, as do women, so I won’t get into the caricatures and facts about men…just read Genesis 3 and the Fall of Man, and you’ll see that our male/female issues started when the serpent started in, and those troubles have remained pretty much the same ever since: which should tell you something about the moral dullness of both men AND women.
If you find yourself wondering what the Bible says about being a man, I hope that you find something useful here.
C.S Lewis wrote: “Christianity has not, and does not profess to have, a detailed political programme for applying “Do as you would be done by” to a particular society at a particular moment. It could not have. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular programme which suited one place or time would not suit another. And, anyhow, that is not how Christianity works. When it tells you to feed the hungry it does not give you lessons in cookery. When it tells you to read the Scriptures it does not give you lessons in Hebrew and Greek, or even in English grammar. It was never intended to replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and sciences; it is rather a director which will set them all to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will give them all new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal.” Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 3.
(If you don’t know C.S Lewis, then he’s a good author to know. Why is he so popular? Many reasons, but seeing as he is accepted by almost all Christian denominations ought to speak for his influence).
I discovered 3 things in the Bible that specifically talk about being a man.
The first is in 1 Kings 2:2, where David says to Solomon: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man…” This is about Duty. Part of being a man is doing one’s duty. We’re not kings like David or Solomon, but the principle, however you live it, is duty. It’s not someone else’s duty, though; it duty based on the position that God has given you. If you’re a boy, the Scripture is plain – obey your parents in everything in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). If you’re a father, you are to train your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). If you’re a soldier, welder, CEO, manager, clerk – you name it, then you have duties to perform. As you do them, you’ll realize that consistently doing your duty is far from easy. Being a man is hard work; more often than not you have a duty to do almost each waking moment.
To be clear – it’s your duty, not someone’s duty imposed on you. There are lots of great ideas out there, but they are only to be used if they fit your duty. Some quote “Early to bed, early to rise” – but that’s only useful if it works (ask a professional musician). Or “Early is on time, on time is late.” Again – that’s to be taken only if it’s useful (ask an IT professionL). Quality and quantity time – useful, but maybe not for you. Many great saints throughout history haven’t spent that time with their kids, and they managed it by training their children biblically. You have to teach your sons timeless principles so that they ask themselves, “What’s MY duty?”
The second is found in Job 38:3: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” — Yahweh to Job. This is about Testing. Children of God WILL be tested; are your sons ready? Job was righteous, and maintained his faith, and in the midst of all of his tragedy, at the end of his rope, that’s when God tested him. Being a man requires the ability to stand up under times of scrutiny by God. Is your son ready for the daily rigors of being tested by life’s events? On the day that he quarrels with his wife and his children are disobedient and his car needs to be repaired and the dryer breaks and loses his job and has to take a child to the hospital – is he ready to praise the Lord?
This kind of training is very much like physical training. You don’t work out to waste and injure yourself. Rather you train to break down the muscles and, in time, come back stronger. These are days of intense pondering, thinking, and answering God’s questions as to your fitness for the tasks.
The third trait is this: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 — Paul to the Corinthian church. This is about Endurance. Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” On the days that your son is persecuted because of his faith, is he ready? These are the times when he stands up for biblical truth and receives insults, perhaps even death threats. These are more than just days of Testing mentioned above. There are some days where we are worn down, but after a period of rest we are back and stronger than before. And then there are days where we are broken and we can only stand firm in the faith. These days usually involve transformation – death of a close family member, drastic job transition, a devastating lawsuit – they’re times of intense soul searching, typically involving tears because we realize how fragile we are. These are the days when the only one who can do anything for us is Jesus, when the only salvation is from the Lord.
Is your son ready to do his duty, to stand before Jesus and be tested, and to endure when all that he can do is wait on the Lord? As you raise your boys, keeping these things in mind will give you a foundation for the blueprint that you develop. Remember that they are your sons, not the sons of another mentor or teacher or author. I’m not presenting my own 3-point sermon – I’m presenting what the Bible clearly says about being a man. There’s probably something I missed.*
For the Christian parent, the only rulebook is the Bible. It’s not any author or theologian. Other books can be valuable, and have great insights, and give good techniques. But the best one is the only one that you need. That itself takes training and time and study, but it’s applicable across all times and cultures. Much of what you’ll read off-the-shelf will be based on Western theology and middle-class, higher-educated ideals. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these, but they’re not Scripture. Be on your guard against those would take a good or great idea and then elevate it to the level of “Thou Shalt.” As a parent, you are free! Don’t enslave yourself to the ideas, practices and strategies of others.
* I know that the Greek for “act like men” in 1 Corinthians 16:13 can be translated as “show courage,” but it bears noting 2 things: 1. Traditionally and historically, being a man means showing courage, and 2. This exhortation is part-and-parcel of being a Christian, whether male or female, so it still holds as part of raising sons.