I suppose our society is struggling with the idea of manhood now more than ever. What is your definition of manliness? What is your description of a real man? Is it the idea of the Marlboro man of the cigarette commercials many years ago? Or is it the husband/father of today’s sitcoms in which men are portrayed to be so inept? In truth, we are in trouble if we rely on our world to define manhood for us.
I am most passionate about this discussion. In part because I believe if our country is to be saved, the men must step forward and lead us back to GOD. The foundation of the home, grounded with a faith in GOD, is the cornerstone of this country. And for several generations the men have abdicated their position in the home.
Recently I have examined passages like Job 38:2 and Job 40:7 wherein GOD said to the patriarch Job, “Prepare yourself like a man.” Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV) “…act like men…” This caused me to wonder. What does GOD expect a man in today’s world to look like? What does it mean to the Father to act like men or to prepare oneself like a man? It is past time for us to examine what our Creator expects of us as men.
The corollary to our discussion, the worthy woman, has been studied many times. Indeed, Proverbs 31 is a wonderful study answering the question, “who can find a virtuos wife?”
There is an equally compelling discussion in the book of Proverbs directed at the man. I am surprised that more attention is not given to the question found in Proverbs 20. Here by Inspiration, the question is asked, “Who can find a faithful man?” In the surrounding verses of Proverbs 20 we find at least 10 traits of the faithful man.
It is noteworthy that the English word “man” is found more times in the book of Proverbs than any other book. In the NKJ version it is found 146 times. Looking at Proverbs 20 and all the verses containing the word “man” makes for a great study. Let us observe some characteristics of the faithful man.
- A faithful man can manage his emotions.
Verse 3 It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.
A faithful man can manage his emotions. In the context we are talking specifically about anger, temper, etc. I will admit that I have struggled with this one for years. I know that each time that I have failed to control my emotions related to anger, it has always led to problems. It might be road rage or giving someone a piece of my mind, but it never leads to good.
We are told in Proverbs 22:24 to make no friendship with an angry man. And the next verse tells us why, lest you learn his ways.
The New Testament passage in Ephesians 4:26 reminds us to be angry and sin not. Thus the sin must be in our actions associated with our anger. It is interesting to note this passage comes from the Psalms.
Psalms 4:4 adds this interesting phrase. Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still. The word for anger in the Psalms passage means to tremble. Have you ever been so angry you are trembling? Yet the Bible says when this happens you are to lie on your bed and meditate or literally have a conversation with self.
- A faithful man will work!
Verse 4 The lazy man will not plow.
Let him who stole steal no longer but rather let him labor, working with his hands – Ephesians 4:28
If anyone will not work neither shall he eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10
What do we know about Jesus’ growing up years? He learned to work! We can imagine that because He was the son of a carpenter He knew what physical labor was.
Proverbs 20:13 is one of my favorite verses. Work. There are few things that I respect more and conversely will cause me to lose respect for someone, than their work ethic. I want to see someone who will roll up their sleeves and put their hands in the dishwater!
Did you know the “ant” is only found 2 times in all of Scripture? And both of the references to the ant has to do with work.
“Go to the ant you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise…provides her supplies in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8
“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.” Proverbs 30:25
Many people would consider work as a curse given to man after the fall in the Garden of Eden. But a closer examination of the text reveals work predated the fall and was in GOD’S original plan of everything good. Genesis 2:15 notes that Adam was placed in the Garden “to tend it and to keep it”.
- A faithful man acquires wisdom.
Verse 5 Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water.
The NLT translation renders the passage, “Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.”
The passage extols the man of understanding or insight.
Verse 16 of our text gives us an example of wisdom. It is foolish to lend money to a stranger without securing a pledge (collateral). The Israelites could not require a pledge from other Israelites (Exodus 22:25—27). The stranger here is a non-Israelite.
See also verse 29 of our text. A faithful man acquires wisdom with age. Some people grow older and wiser; some just grow older. I want to be the former.
As I grow older it is very apparent the truth found in verse 29. As we grow older we lose our physical strength. The word for this process is sarcopenia. It is a known medical fact that after about age 30, one begins to lose muscle mass. The rate of loss differs depending on many factors but this is a process that is unavoidable and is a factor in the occurrence of falls and fractures in older adults.
The glory of young men is their strength but age will change that. However as we are losing this strength, our wisdom, our inner strength, should be increasing.
Proverbs 19:20 – Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. Note it is a process!
- A faithful man has humility.
Verse 6 Most men will proclaim each his own goodness.
Interesting the text says “most”. Yes we live in a society of men who subscribe to the adage “He who tooteth not his own horn finds that it is not tooted.”
It is very apparent this attitude stands in stark contrast to the rest of the verse. But who can find a faithful man?
Consider how frequently the Scriptures address humility.
Proverbs 27:2 – Let another man praise you and not your own mouth
Proverbs 15:33 – Before honor is humility
Proverbs 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall
Proverbs 31 – her works praise her, her children rise up and bless her, her husband praises her
1 Peter 5:6 – Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of GOD that He may exalt you in due time.
- A faithful man has integrity.
Verse 7 The righteous man walks in his integrity.
Webster defines integrity to be honest and fair. The faithful man is honest.
Verses 10 and 23 refer to diverse weights and measures. The full meaning of this reference is lost in our modern time. When I go to the store to buy deli meat the clerk uses a digital scales to measure my purchase. At the time of Proverbs it likely required a balance scale to make this type of measurement. Measuring out exactly one pound was done by balancing the purchase with a known one pound standardized weight. This opened the door for deceit. One could have various “standards” with which to use depending on who the purchaser was. If the seller was so inclined diverse weights could be used. Incidentally, that is one reason Lady Justice is blindfolded as she holds the scales of justice.
Verse 17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.
- The faithful man leaves a good name.
Verse 7 His children are blessed after him.
Proverbs 22:1 – A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches
Ecclesiastes 7:1 – A good name is better than precious ointment
When my boys were growing up and as they would leave home for an activity, I would frequently remind them to “remember who you are.” I wanted them to be proud of their name and not do something that would tarnish it. But more importantly we should remember “whose we are”. We wear the name Christian and should protect that good name.
Having a good name leads us to expand the point.
A faithful man has a good reputation.
Verse 11 Even a child is known by his deeds.
The legendary coach John Wooten is credited as saying, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
BUT our reputation is so very important. A reading of Luke 2:52 notes that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with GOD and man.
- A faithful man is a student.
Verse 15 But the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Do you want to be approved of GOD? 2 Tim 2:15 in the KJV reads, Study to show thyself approved.
The last recorded words of the apostle Peter are, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The story is told of the church member telling the older preacher upon leaving church services one day, “I would give my life to know the Bible like you do.” To which the older preacher replied “Well ma’am, that is exactly what it cost me.”
Let us be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 – they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily.
Study. The word is not enthusiastically embraced by many. Perhaps it is because of unpleasant memories of school days, cramming for those tests. But observe, study is significantly different from a mere devotional reading, as pleasurable and valuable as that can be. Study is not merely reading.
Study involves probing, analyzing, comparing, etc. It is the task of digging deep. The Greek word, spoudazo, means to apply oneself, to devote oneself. Effort is the implication.
Let us grow old and grow deep in the word…a lifelong learner.
- A faithful man is careful with his speech.
Verses 19 and 20 …talebearer…flatters with his lips…curses father or mother…
Verses 14 and 25 further describes the man who is not careful with his speech. And verse 25 ends with the idea of needing to reconsider afterward. How many times have I said something that I later regretted!
Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 21:23 – Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.
Proverbs 12:18 – the tongue of the wise promotes health.
If someone defined you solely by your speech, how would they describe you? Would you be characterized as promoting health? Would you be a builder or a destroyer?
- A faithful man is loving and compassionate.
Verse 28 Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king (ESV)
Steadfast love. Is this what we normally associate with manhood? If we truly want to emulate our Father we should (Psalms 119:149).
Love and kindness exemplifies a man’s man! It may not be what we normally associate with “manliness” but remember we are talking about what GOD describes here as a man!
And it is here I will make a very important point. A boy learns to be a man from his father! He can’t learn to love like a man from his mother. She can teach him a mother’s love but he needs to learn a man’s love from his father.
- A faithful man follows the LORD.
Verse 24 A man’s steps are of the LORD.
Indeed, without this last trait all the others are futile. Unless his steps are ordained by the LORD, he is a failure in the sight of GOD. This is his greatest asset.
Without this one trait undergirding all the others he has no chance of being a faithful man.
As I consider what it means to be a man, I realize the Scriptures have much to say about the subject. I wish to be like the Apostle Paul when he said “when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Let us strive to be the men GOD wants us to be. Yea, men who will lead our families and communities to a closer relationship with Him.