I never watched the Disney movie, Mulan, when I was a kid. But my wife did, and she recently played a YouTube clip of the song, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” for my 3-year-old son. The tune promptly became one of his favorites. Now he asks multiple times a day to watch—as he calls it—“He’s a man, he’s a man, he’s a man man”.

The song is comical because the accompanying movie scenes depict a bunch of young army recruits learning to catch fish with their bare hands, to run through a barrage of flaming arrows, and to clobber their foes with a bow staff, among other skills needed by ancient Chinese warriors.

For all the slapstick drama, Mulan raises a good question. What’s it mean to be a man? More specifically, what biblical obligations do I have as a man toward other women, including my wife? Here’s my attempt at a simple answer.

A real man is a guy who takes initiative to lead, provide for, and protect the women around him.

Let’s take a quick look at the parts of this definition.

Initiative to Lead

We need to realize that our God-given responsibility to lead as men is not based on some kind of superior skill set. I know many women who are more capable leaders than a lot of men. No woman should ever feel the least bit less feminine for using her leadership gifts in God-honoring ways. If God gave you a leadership gift, you need to use it. (Romans 12:8)

However, we must remember that the strength of our leadership gift as men is not what makes us responsible to lead. The basis of our responsibility is God’s perfect design as our Creator. If you read Genesis 1-3, you’ll notice the following.

  • God created man (Adam) before woman (Eve).
  • God entrusted the couple’s marching order to Adam, not Eve.
  • God gave Adam responsibility to name Eve.
  • God brought Eve to Adam as his “helper”.
  • God held Adam accountable for their sin as a couple.

Obviously a single guy cannot lead a single girl in the same way a husband can lead his wife. Yet God has created both men to lead, first and foremost by setting high the bar for godliness for the women around them. Which means that, if you’re a man, the women around you should be more like Jesus because of your example, not in spite of it.

So strive for holiness. Fight the good fight of faith. Fear God more than you fear man. Live a life of radical obedience as you follow Jesus. If you want to be a man-man, you must be a faithful leader.

Initiative to Provide

In Genesis 3, both Adam and Eve disobey God. The curse of sin enters the world affecting their respective responsibilities in unique ways. Sin brings pain to Eve’s role in bearing children. And sin brings pain to Adam’s role in working the ground.

Out of all the consequences for sin God could have mentioned, why highlight the effect on Adam’s work as a farmer? Because the responsibility to provide for Adam’s family fell primarily to Adam. The same is true today, men. God has called you to be the primary provider for your family.

That doesn’t mean your wife can’t work, or that if she does, your paycheck has to be bigger than hers. There are many situations where God will empower a woman to provide for her family (Proverbs 31). It’s just that the ultimately responsibility lies with the man. He must take initiative to ensure that a workable plan for provision is in place, even if she does some or most of the actual work.

Let me give a couple suggestions to the single men for how you can embrace your responsibility to provide long before you’re married.

  • Get a good job where you can learn to work hard and be generous.
  • Realize provision is not just a money thing. It’s also about providing spiritual encouragement. Learn to notice how God is at work in the lives of the women around you, and tell them.
  • If you still live at home, pay attention to how your mom or sisters need help around the house. If you have chores do them the first time you’re asked, without complaining.

As men our responsibility to provide for the women around us is ultimately about learning to care more for their needs than our own, and taking the initiative to serve them. If you want to be a man-man, you must be a faithful provider.

Initiative to Protect

In Ephesians 5 the Apostle Paul gives some direct instruction on how husbands should love their wives. His application is specific to the marriage relationship, but the principle behind it is true in every season of life, whether you’re married or not. Look at verse 25:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

Here’s what God is saying, men: “I died for the church. I made the ultimate sacrifice. Now go do the same. Lay down your life to care for the women around you. Make whatever sacrifices are necessary to nurture, cherish and protect them. Rescue them the way I have rescued you. Learn to care more for their interests than your own.”

So, if you’re walking downtown with a girl and get accosted by a masked assailant, it’s your job to step in front. I hope that’s obvious. But there’s a lot more to our responsibility to protect women. Here are a couple other examples.

  • Refuse to talk about women in a way that’s disrespectful. They are not stupid girls. They are not sex toys. They are daughters of the King, and He expects us to speak accordingly.
  • Refuse to view pornography. It’s not just about fighting for our purity. It’s about protecting hers.
  • If you have a girlfriend, establish and honor boundaries of physical contact that will guard your relationship from sexual immorality.

If you want to be a man-man, you must be a faithful protector.

Our responsibility as men toward the women around us is a high calling. It’s a calling few men are willing to embrace. But it’s a calling every man is able to embrace. God has already promised to provide all the help we need through the gospel of Jesus Christ if we are willing to humble ourselves and ask for it. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Note: this is the second in a 3 part series on gender. Click here to read part 1.

Matthew grew up attending KingsWay and joined the pastoral staff in 2009. God has blessed him and his wife, Aliza, with three rambunctious boys. Matthew did his undergraduate work at the University of Richmond in chemistry and political science, spent a year at the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College, and received his Masters of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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