A Four-Part Series Emphasizing Biblical Masculinity
Are you a man? I’m not talking about being a “male” – I am talking about being a mature man. Are you one of those? If so, when did you “become” one?
Do you attribute it to going through puberty? Was it when you turned 16, or 18, or 21? Was it when you joined the military or when you had your first beer or shot of hard liquor? Was it when you got your drivers license or got married, or when you first had sex? Was it when you got your first job, or when you moved into your own place, or had your first child, or when you voice changed? To what event or process do you personally point when you think about yourself becoming a man?
One of the most interesting phrases in the New Testament about “becoming a man” is in 1 Corinthians 13:11, which says:
1 Cor. 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
To this day, the first four words of the second sentence hit me like a freight train; “When I became a man.”
The first time I ever paused to mediate on that phrase (about 14 years ago), I became frustrated. I found myself talking to Paul (who obviously was not there), and asking aloud…. “When did that happen, dude? You said WHEN you became a man. Was it an event, a date, a ceremony, a rite of passage, or what? WHEN did you become a man???”
But the answer is in the text if you read it like this…
“I became a man – when – I put childish things behind me.”
Paul divides the childish things that he forsook (which brought him into manhood) into three categories: (1) Speech, (2) Thoughts, and (3) Reasoning.
In the original language, these are the words/concepts for these three:
Speech: laleo – “To use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts.”
In other words – Paul is saying, “I changed the way I talked about things, the way I spoke my mind, and the way I communicated with others from an immature and childish mode to a mode more befitting a mature man.”
Thoughts: phroneo – Conclusions, judgments, or a final mindset or an opinion about something.
Paul seems to be saying, “When I was younger, I thought about things, made judgments, had opinions, and came to conclusions that were very immature. I put that way of thinking behind me when I became a man.”
Reasoning: logidzomai – The specific steps and process used to make an educated or fully-informed determination.
Paul seems to be saying, “My whole process of arriving at conclusions was very immature. It was childish. I used the rationale of a child in order to think things through. I became a man when I changed the way I processed things in my head.”
Taking all three in reverse, we could expand on Paul’s words this way:
“When I was a Child, I had an immature way of thinking about everything, and processing everything around me. How does a child think about the things in his world? Well, that’s how I thought about my world. My thinking process brought me to immature conclusions, opionions, and judgments about just about everything in my world. My conclusions were the conclusions that a child would arrive at – not a man! And because of that, the way I talked about everything, the way I expressed myself, and my whole mode of communication showed how immature I was. That’s why you could tell, when I opened my mouth, that a little boy was living in my head, and not a mature man. I did not grow up and become mature until I grew in these three areas.”
But it all starts in the mind…
Jesus taught that “out of the over-flow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat. 12:34). The writer of Proverbs said “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
In simple terms, we are defined by our mindsets, and when we speak, we are declaring our world-view, our values, our beliefs, and our mindsets.
According to Paul in Romans 12:2, our life will not change in any area until our thinking changes.
So, how does a child think? This is a key insight into helping men identify where, and how we need to mature. Here are three possibilities for initial reflection (perhaps you could think of more).
A child’s thinking is self-centered. An infant child only cares about eating, sleeping, and comfort. A slightly older child becomes good at expressing an infant’s world view when he learns the word “mine”, and learns to pout or throw temper-tantrums when he does not get his way.
Immature men tend to build their whole world-view around their needs, their desires, their aspirations, and their self-interests. If they are very immature, they may throw fits, pout, and use all kinds of manipulation to get their way.
A child’s thinking is impatient. Most small children do not like to wait for anything. They have not learned to delay their need for instant gratification, so they cry, squirm, and look for short-cuts to gratify their immediate desires.
Many men try to take short-cuts to personal satisfaction, rather than paying the price for legitimate fulfillment. That’s why pornography is such an attractive trap. If offers the immature man immediate gratification. Many men structure their whole world so that they can get what they want when they want it.
A child’s thinking is impulsive and un-restraided. Most children act before they think, and speak before they think. That’s why the word “no-no-no-no-no” is so often heard in the home where a toddler is being raised. Mom and Dad are trying to impart restraint, boundaries, and consequences to teach restraint.
Many immature men give in to their impulses rather thank thinking things through first, or asking someone else (a friend, or their spouse) to think it through with them. Maxed out credit-cards, lots of “boy toys” – as well as careless words, insults, and even lies are the result of immaturity based on impulsiveness.
A word should be said here about the difference between “Child-likeness” and “Childishness.” Jesus celebrated child-likeness, and said that one could not enter the Kingdom of God unless he came like a child (see. Mat. 18:3). But this is a reference to a child’s tendency to be trusting, innocent, and accepting.
This is very different from the components of a child’s sin-nature that are based on immaturity. That’s why there are so many exhortations to God’s people to “grow up” while also referring to us as “little children” and “God’s children.” In our faith, we are to be child-like, not childish.
One more post…
I have decided to pause here and do one more post about the positive attributes of a mature man. This post will provide the contrast for the next one. Here, we’ve focussed on what immaturity looks like. In the next, I will try to focus on what maturity looks like for men.
Becoming a man…
I invite you to jump into the comment section below. If I can help you to minister to the men in your church in any way, contact me here and let’s begin a dialogue.