I read through the book of Proverbs this weekend. As I was trying to discern the right way through a difficult question I was asked and wanted to make sure my answer wasn’t couched in cleverness or pragmatic “well it sounds good so let’s do it” philosophy. I wanted my answer to be anchored in real, biblical reality. The question I was seeking to answer by looking through Proverbs is an altogether different story. However, I did find something that I believe a lot of churches today would have a difficult time swallowing. Wisdom doesn’t really appear like today’s “manly man.”
Darwinism, Not Biblical Manhood
Today’s “manly men” are seemingly the guys that shoot first and take prisoners later. They conquer everything. Passivity has no room in the life of a man. He needs to mount up, shoot the wolves, vanquish the foes, and save the princess. Some of the descriptions I get of the “manly men” today sound a lot like a Gideon (Judges 6-ff) or Sampson (Judges 16-ff). Honestly, those aren’t the most exemplary characters in the Bible. Don’t agree with me? Read Judges again, you probably remember the flannel-board versions. If there’s no place for weakness in men in the Christian faith then we have Darwinism, not biblical manhood.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor. 11:30).
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
“For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God” (2 Cor. 13:4).
Yet the kind of person I find in Proverbs that is truly wise is first described as a woman. Lady Wisdom “calls in the streets” (Prov. 1:20). Now, I understand the literary device the writer of Proverbs is trying to use here to coach his son to pursue wisdom. “Boy, think of wisdom as a beautiful, attractive, glorious woman. Pursue wisdom the way you’d pursue her.” But then the book gets to describing wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t sound like the manly man.
- Wisdom is quiet. It doesn’t talk too much, and never runs it mouth (Prov. 13:10, 15:1).
- Wisdom waits, it’s patient and sees all the sides before making a decision (Prov. 18:17, Jas. 1:19).
- Wisdom isn’t flashy. It quietly goes about its hard work (Ecc. 9:10.
- Wisdom is kind. It covers a multitude of sins (Prov. 16:24, 1 Pt. 4:8).
- Wisdom isn’t presumptuous. It lets the person finish before they respond (Prov. 18:13).
- Wisdom doesn’t demand the right to be heard. In fact, it rarely even asks to be heard, but those who value wisdom constantly ask for him to speak (Jas. 3:1-12).
- Wisdom is meager. Not building a big platform or making a lot of noise about itself (Prov. 25:27, 27:2, Jas. 3:13-18).
- Wisdom is somber. It’s not a coarse joker (Jas. 1:19-21).
- Wisdom is mature. It’s not the juvenile, “wrestle-them-to-the-ground,” berating, know-it-all that tells you how much he knows (Prov. 18:6-7, Jas. 1:26, 1 Cor. 14:20).
All-in-all wisdom seems like the slow to speak, respected, patient man that we should aspire to be. Not the goof-ball, overconfident, blabbering self-promoters that our culture clings to so much. If anything we should be quiet, grow up, listen up, and get to work. Wisdom doesn’t look like the young hip guy with opinions to spare and a head of steam. It looks like the older man who quietly goes about his work. In fact, if you hang out with the older guy, he’ll share the sweet honey of his wisdom (Prov. 24:13-14). Wisdom is “sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24). I hope to be the older wise man, not the young fool.
Jeremy Writebol(@jwritebol) has been training leaders in the church for over thirteen years. He is the author of everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present (GCD Books, 2014) and writes at jwritebol.net. He lives and works in Plymouth, MI as the Campus Pastor of Woodside Bible Church.