This article is part of a limited series called Be A Man. These articles are taken from a Bible study I conducted for several months. The purpose of these blogs is to examine and discuss what it means to be a man, a husband and a father according to the Bible, and how we are to live that out in our modern world. While the Bible study was originally for men, not all topics are gender specific, meaning that women, wives, and mothers can still learn and be encouraged from these articles.
If you haven’t read the Introduction, you can do that by following this link.
For whatever reason, men tend to link their identity, who they are, with what they do.
Think about the last time you were introduced to someone. Chances are as soon as your names were said and maybe where you were from was mentioned, this question was asked,
“So, what do you do?”
Our work and our identity are very much linked. And it isn’t something new, this has been going on for a very long time. Even in the days of Scripture, who you were and what you did were connected.
And I do not think that it is a coincidence that right after man was created, God instructed him in what he was to do. Right after man was made, God told him what he was created for, what his job was going to be.
Or supposed to be.
You may not be aware of the fact that there is some debate as to how we should understand the instructions that God gave to Adam. There are really two ways of understanding it, but there is a very large difference between the two of them.
And if that wasn’t enough, depending on how you understand this arguably first commandment from God to man, all your relationships will be impacted and altered. Not just your relationship with your friends and family, but with your coworkers, employees and the Earth.
With so much riding on who we are and what we do, it is very important that we have a proper understanding of what it was and is that God is calling man to do.
Look at the first command, the first job description that God gives to Adam.
“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”” – Genesis 1.28 NIV
It is important to know that this commandment is a sort of standing order for mankind. While the command was given directly to Adam, it is a command that is passed down to all of his children. As our forefather was instructed so we are instructed as well. We are to continue to do as God has commanded. While the command was given at the beginning of time, it still stands as something that the children of Adam are to abide by today.
But like I said before, there are two ways to understand this command. The command to “rule over”, to “subdue” the earth isn’t as black and white as it may be written. Other translations will use words or phrases like “have dominion over” or “have power over”. Even with these different nuances in language, there are still two ways to approach this commandment and live it out.
The first way looks something like this.
Man has authority over everything. Not mankind, or humanity, men and women, but only men have the right to rule and the authority to enforce their way on the Earth.
It is a very top down rule and reign. One could compare this to a kingdom. Man is the king of the land, while everyone else, and subsequently everything else is below him. Women, children and all manner of animals are subject to the ruling authority that the man has over them. Whatever the man wishes to do, whatever action the man takes is done by his right to rule and have dominion, or dominance, over the earth and all of its inhabitants. In this understanding, the man is to be served by those under him. This is not inherently an abusive relationship, although it could become one. It is simply a top down authority, the lower people serving the higher, the serfs or servants looking after the needs of the king.
(Quick aside: This is not an anti-feminist way of reading of the Bible. There are people that hold this view point that are married and support women having jobs, the right to vote, freedom to speak, etc. They are not against women, but see that it falls only to men to be the ruling authority. I am not saying that I support this view point, only stating that it exists and we should be aware of it.)
This is not an unbiblical way of understanding this verse. That is to say, that this understanding comes from the bible and that there are other portions of Scripture that would seem to back up this idea of top down authority that man has. Verses such as Ephesians 5.23 and 1 Corinthians 11.3 that talk about man as the head of the household, being the lead in the home are commonly used in this top down authority understanding.
However, just because the idea is found in the Bible, it doesn’t mean that it is biblically sound, or that it doesn’t fall under some scrutiny from some Christians. There are many critics of this top down authority. But I will only mention one here, as it leads right into the second understanding.
This kind of top down, everyone is subject to the man, kind of authority does not fit with the the kind of life and ministry that Jesus Christ lived out. In fact, it flies in the face of everything Jesus was about.
Consider these verses, what they say about Jesus and the life that He lived.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” – Philippians 2.5-8
If there was someone that had the right and the authority and even the power to have top down dominion over the earth, it would have been the Son of God. By every right, Jesus could have walked down the streets and commanded the entire inhabitance of earth, people and animals, to do whatever He desired.
But Jesus never did. This top down authority wasn’t something that Jesus ever used. Paul, an apostle of Christ, said that Jesus did the exact opposite of top down authority. Rather than being a king and commanding everyone below him to do whatever he wished, rather than being a selfish king, Jesus did the opposite. He refused his rightful power for his own gain. He rejected a place of prominence. He humbled himself to a position of servanthood.
Jesus was what we might call the Selfless King.
Jesus did not implement top down authority. Jesus said it himself, that he came to Earth to serve. He came to Earth, not of His own interest, not to serve His own ends, but to help. Jesus didn’t come to impose His agenda by power and force. He came to give aid to those that needed it.
Look at the life of Jesus. How many times did Jesus go out of his way for those that cried out to be healed? He went to them, to serve and look after them. How many times did Jesus go out, moved by compassion, and teach and feed the multitudes? He gave up his time and energy for the good of others, not himself. The Gospels are filled with story after story of times where Jesus is worried and concerned about the people around him instead of being worried or concerned about himself.
This is not top down authority that Jesus is exercising. This is something else. This is Selfless King power and authority being used.
This is in fact contrary to the first understanding of what having dominion on the Earth looks like. In every way, what Jesus said about Himself, what others said about Him and how He lived condemns the idea that any man is to live in a top down authority role. Jesus’ life serves as an example of how God intended man to live in this dominion power He has given us.
In the first understanding it was the man, the Selfish King. It was about him being served, his ends being met by those belonging to him. It was about the Selfish King’s needs being attended to.
In this second understanding, the authority that Jesus modeled as a Selfless King, the power is used not for the personal gain or gratification of the man. Rather, any power or authority is used for the blessing, well-being and safety of those that are in his care. It isn’t about the person at the top being served by the people below.
In the top down authority example, the Selfish King model, the king demands that all those below him serve him and all his wishes and whims. But in the second understanding, the Selfless King model, it is the king that does the serving. It is the king that is doing what his people ask, all those that are below him.
It may come as no surprise to you that Jesus is King or that Jesus was a selfless person, continually giving of himself, even to the point of dying on a cross. You may think, well of course, Jesus is the perfect example of a selfless King, of one who has the power and authority to help those under him. It could only be God, a God that understands what we are going through, that could aid us in our need, sustain us when we are weak and give us safety from the enemy.
But it is not just enough to know this. We must believe it. And we must act it out.
Yes, we are called to know and believe this about Jesus, that He is a Selfless King. That he is the only one that is able to help us. But we as men need to start acting like selfless kings.
Just as Jesus lived, all men are called to serve those that are below him. Not that they are beneath or less than any other man, but it falls on the shoulders of men to selflessly take action regarding those that have been entrusted to him or rely on his power and authority for safety and sustenance.
When you realize it or not, you are a king. You have a kingdom. You have a place, a domain that is yours, a place where you are the authority. It could be your house or your apartment. It could be your place of work or your division of a giant conglomerate. It could be your Sunday School class or it could be the whole church congregation. You are the one that has the power and authority.
Now you need to start using it like Jesus did.
If we are going to do as God commanded our father Adam, we need to take our place of authority and power and wield it in a way that is honouring and glorifying to God. We need to be acting in a way that demonstrates our willingness to be obedient to God and our honest hearts’ desire to live a life like Christ’s. That means we need to be serving. That means we need to be using our power and authority to help and aid those that we are responsible for. We are responsible for our wives and our children. We need to be sure that our efforts and energies are being used, not to build ourselves up or gain anything from them, but to see that their needs are met and that they are secure.
We are responsible for our employees. Yes, there are unions and organizations that look out for the employee, but as a boss, as a manager, it is in your power to see that the men and women that are working for and with you are treated well. It is up to you, the person with power and authority, to see that their needs are met and that they are not worried about their place in your company. It is up to you to make them feel secure, because you are the only one that can do that.
We are responsible for those that are learning from us, whether that be the children in Sunday School, youth group, the church congregation or in the school classroom. It falls on our shoulders to see that those in our care are given the best of what we have to offer. It is up to us as spiritual leaders to be gleaning and giving our students spiritual meat so that they may taste and know that God is good. We are the ones that they look up to, the ones in a position of authority. We need to take this seriously and deliver.
Yes, what we do is linked to who we are. There is good reason for men to instinctively think that. But what job are we supposed to connect to our identity?
I believe the Scripture makes it very clear. We, men, are to be miniature versions of Jesus. We are called to be selfless kings over the kingdoms that we have here on the earth. We are destined to use our power and authority to help those under us. We are called to act just like Jesus Christ.
That is what it means to be a man.
All Scripture references provided by Biblegateway.com
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