Masculinity piety has ebbed in the life of the church. Look around at what we’ve come to picture as exemplary piety. Too often what we picture is teary-eyed swaying to sappy songs about an emotionally fulfilling Jesus that is ravaging us with His love. We think that piety is tame and sits politely in a circle sipping wine at prayer group, sharing about how a text of Scripture makes us feel, followed by gossip under the guise of prayer requests. We do not picture masculine piety as anything more than men behaving like women.
There is much talk about toxic masculinity, but I’m reminded of an episode in Lewis’ The Great Divorce where the he is rebuked by George MacDonald for referring to an overbearing mother’s attachment to her son as an excess of love; his saintly mentor tells him there was no excess, only defect. We face a similar situation. We don’t face an excess of masculinity, we face a plight of defective masculinity. Anything that smacks of true masculinity piety is quickly dismissed as toxic. In reality, it is our effeminacy that is toxic, and the remedy is a healthy dose of Paul’s reminder to the Corinthian church to “Quit ye, like men.”
And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.1Samuel 17:48-51
Summarizing the Text
A striking feature of this very famous text is the short line about David not having a sword in his hand. Saul had offered his armor as well as his sword to wield (1 Sam. 17:39). But David went in the strength of the Lord alone, toppled the giant, and used the giant’s own sword to behead him. The author here summarizes and then provides detail. While the stone stunned the Philistine, and though David hadn’t brought a sword to the fight, he completed the defeat of Goliath by taking his head off with his own sword.
Christ Restoring Man
It isn’t difficult to see why this story so easily conjures up the son of David’s battle with the dragon upon Golgotha. Paul tells us that Christ became a curse in order to make us righteous. The greatest sin which ever happened in history was the very thing that brought about our deliverance. If the principalities had know what they were bringing about, they would have aborted the mission to crucify the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8).
When Christ rose, He rose a true man. Man, not only as he was in Eden, but glorified, as God had intended for us. As Bavinck famously put it, “Grace restores nature.” Satan used what God had intended for good and glory as the means whereby to ensnare our first parents to servitude to him. From then on, the story of mankind is that of striving for good, for glory, and for God, but in all the wrong ways. The first sagas of Scripture tells a series of woeful tales of brother slaying brother out of envy, of man trying to ascend to heaven with a pile of bricks, of our misuse of sex for demented and demonic purposes instead of the commanded fruitfulness, and so on.
All the good things of creation were mired in the badness of sin. God’s blessings had become curses. Of course, what Christ does is defeat the enemy at his own game, and then by His Spirit restores us to true humanity so that we might, by the same Spirit, grow in true holiness. The saint is restored to the office of human. Thus, the good blessings are restored to us in order that we might war against the lusts of the flesh.
The Christian life is learning to war by the Spirit through the Word, and thus overcome our sin. One key principle which works in both war and hand to hand combat is learning to use your opponent’s weight and momentum to your advantage.
Satan wants men crippled with Marxist Envy, addicted to the fruitlessness of porn, and lulled into the sloth precipitated by welfare checks. The Christian man must learn to battle these temptations by using the very thing the Enemy tempts us with.
The Potency of Contentment
Man desires glory. But too often we take the path of attempting to obtain the crown without a cross. Christ showed us to lay down our lives, in order to obtain the crown. The remedy for the class struggles we see, particularly in a country with a history such as South Africa, is for Christian men to slay envy with the contentment inducing power of the Gospel of Christ.
The tenth commandment is something profoundly internal. The other nine can be broken, and be witnessed as broken by two or three witnesses. But covetousness is a parasite that we harbor inside, and no one may be the wiser. James warns that divisions in the church spring from the bitter waters of envy (Jas. 4:1-5). Your desires are all askew.
The clamor around the world is demanding that someone bigger than us take the stuff from that other guy and give it to us. We’re taught that if you are white, or straight, or male you must be knocked down a peg. Especially if you’re all three. Notice that a few years ago, the mantra from the Sodomites was that they just wanted the same “rights” that straight couples had. Very few have actually availed themselves of that “right”, but in Canada, as of last week, it’s now illegal to counsel a transgender person seeking to return to the gender of their birth. Envy is never satisfied.
Throughout the New Testament, the word for lust and desire is the same word. Our problem lies in the heart and what it’s desiring. Solomon admonished men to be satisfied with the breasts of their wife. Porn is a Petri dish for cultivating a deep dissatisfaction with what you do have, while offering you that which you will never possess. Sex without intimacy, covenant, commitment, or responsibility.
Your desires spring from your heart. A dead heart has dead desires. Wealth without work. Sex without covenantal sacrifice. Glory without courage. Rest without Sabbath. A new heart desires to do the will of God, seeking His blessing on it all. You want your work, marriage, and legacy to be blessed? Then stop looking out of the corner of your eye at what that guy over there has, whether it be his corporate success, his bombshell girlfriend, his influence and power, or even his ox.
Contentment with godliness is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6). This is how we defuse the envy which has booby-trapped the entire current order of the world. Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit. Contentment takes the momentum of the Enemy’s temptations, and uses them against him.
The Sword of the Lord
Men, we’re in a moment which requires staunchness. It will require you to be unshifting in your gratitude for all the gifts God has given you. Are you a man? Do not feel a twinge of guilt for being so. Did your ancestors provide a great legacy and inheritance? Give thanks, and don’t let anyone guilt trip you into surrendering that wealth. Instead, use that wealth to be as generous as you can be to your own family, and then to the poor amongst you.
In other words, they won’t be able to overcome the deep contentment that comes with having your sins forgiven. You are free. You are a beloved son of God. He has given you a thousand undeserved blessings, and instead of boasting in them, or being ashamed of them, you must give thanks for them all and use them all for His glory and the good of your neighbor.
Satan holds the sword of envy & lust. But Christ has slain that giant dragon. You now overcome the wicked one because you are born of God (1 Jn. 2:14), you’ve been given a new heart, your desires have been reordered. The Word is our sword, and this Word is how the Spirit converted us in the first place, and now by the Word our hearts are guided to desire rightly. The sword of the Lord is in your hands, now find a dragon to kill.