Week 42 in the year of our Lord 2021

How to bear the weight of masculine workmanship & competence

12 minutes to read

In the past, most men had no choice but to exercise dominion. If they weren’t productive, they died. But today, we are so wealthy, and our governments are so eager to pass around that wealth to those who will not earn it, that this problem barely exists. It is not only easy to be soft in the West, but our world is designed to actively make you soft, to make you a sluggard, to keep you living in the moment, putting off for tomorrow the hard things you could be doing today. You can literally live a life where every day you are fatter, poorer, and more dependent.

This naturally exacerbates our fatherlessness problem, and results in many men simply failing to start. It also makes correcting course much more difficult—there is not the pressing need of survival to force us to action. Being under the crushing weight of the curse, of God’s law, has natural outworkings. The futility of labor turns dominion from something purely joyful into something that can be a real chore. We work all the days of our lives, and then at the end, for all our labors, we return to the dirt.

But a man does not escape the duty of dominion by refusing to perform it, any more than he escapes sin by refusing to obey the law. God made us to perform it. We must perform it; it is part of our very nature. A man who will not perform is not escaping the burden; he is merely laying another on top of it: the burden of kicking against the goads, of being constantly anxious and depressed because he knows he is a dead weight on society, a failure as a man, a powerless loser, and a sinner under judgment. No relief will be found by rebelling against our design. Work is, by nature, a source of happiness and fulfillment for men. Olympic runner Eric Liddell famously said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.” Conversely, one Korean study has found that while retirement does not increase rates of depression in women, it does in men. Because we are workers.

This must be embraced. We must live the life God intended us to live. The curse makes it hard—but passivity and weakness destroy men in a way toil never can.

How do you treat work as a gift and a blessing and a joyful duty when it can feel like Sisyphus, pushing a heavy boulder up a mountain every day, only for it to roll back down? How can you be grateful about what seems like an unending, pointless grind? Like the Preacher, you might wonder, “For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22)

There is an answer. Part of that answer is finding a mission. But before you even do that, you must get out from under the spiritual weight. There is a way to lighten the burden of any work. Not that you can make it less difficult or toilsome. But you can redeem it. That is what the gospel does, because God rewards all work done in faith.

Jesus is the answer to the curse. This is not a health-and-wealth, seeker-sensitive motivational line. It is not meant to convince you that your life sucks less than it does (although, count your blessings all the same). It is a real solution to the burden of dominion. Because of Christ, we are no longer slaves, but sons. Paul writes, “…when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).

If you are thinking this is “just” a spiritual change, that is the conditioning of neo-Gnostic evangelicalism talking. The Spirit changes everything. Theology has consequences. Because we are in Christ, who fulfilled the law—who performed what we never could, and now exercises dominion from the right hand of the Father—we have everything he has. More than that, because we are in Christ, who died to the law—who is therefore no longer under it—we are freed from ever having to work to earn God’s favor and gifts. God loves us in Christ and has already given us every possible treasure in him. He is a Father. He has promised us an inheritance, and he is pleased to reward all his children.

And even more than that, some of the treasures he has provided for us are good works. The connection between works and workmanship is not a pun; it is theologically significant: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

God redeems our work, by working himself through the Lord Jesus, to create new work for us. Thus, we should live not with a mindset of toil and futility, but a mindset of abundance and reward. Again, Paul explains, “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-25).
All work done in faith for Christ has value, even the menial work of a slave—or, in the modern day, tediously filing TPS reports in a corporate cubicle. The value of this work is known by faith, not sight. It might not be realized in this life—but it is promised. God keeps his promises. And because we do this work, from the heart, for the glory of God, we are also freed from the burden of the approval of others.

—Excerpted from It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity, Chapter 11, “How To Bear The Weight,” now available for preorder from Canon Press.

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Masculinity is both caught from the older generation by the young, and taught by them to the young.

It’s very difficult to learn from a 10-step curriculum what should have been caught from an older man.

And yet those who missed out on that education are always asking for steps and sub-steps on everything.

Why?

Because they want to do a good job, and not make any major mistakes.

Hence, they’re looking for a detailed map with the ideal course charted on it.

But that’s not how it works. Not even with the well-fathered.

The well-fathered are gifted with a compass pointed North, an ability to course-correct on the fly, and the knowledge that there are lots of paths to a destination.

So they are oriented towards taking action, freed from the paralysis of analysis.

They don’t need a detailed map. Being well-fathered gave them an internal GPS.

But the fatherless man was never gifted this “caught” education in manliness.

He must come to terms with the fact that he will mature much later than his well-fathered peers.

And he must realize that he will never become a mature man if he is risk-averse, and requires a detailed map.

The fatherless man must catch all he can from other men, and throw himself into the work of living life.

Mistakes will be made.

The course will need to be corrected.

And masculine competency may come later.

But it will come.

Go after it.

You can face the difficulties of this world because God made you to.

A great deal of confidence flows from a simple trust in the goodness of God’s design.

For instance, when someone says that something isn’t possible, you should hear them out—because they may be saving you a lot of heartache. But usually, what people mean by “it’s not possible” is actually, “that would be incredibly hard and painful.”

If you have children, you know what this looks like.

“It’s time to pack all the books back on the bookshelf.”

“[Wailing] But that’s impossible, I can’t!”

No, it’s not impossible. It’s just going to take longer than the child wants to spend. The number of books is greater than he can easily count, so trying to consider them all at once overwhelms him, and he perceives the task as insurmountable.

In his mind, the thing truly cannot be done.

But it is possible.

Our job as fathers is to discipline our children to see that, helping them to approach break the task into manageable chunks—one book at a time—until it gets done before they realize it. That way, they won’t grow up to be the kinds of people who see things as impossible when they are actually just hard.

And we have to lead by example. It is our job to discipline ourselves in the same way.

Life should be lived in a cycle of rigor and recovery, work and rest. Most Christians wouldn’t disagree. However, their definition of rigor is defined by the lackadaisical pace of our day. Some men think 40 hours is a big deal.

It isn’t.

Most of us haven’t ever truly tested our limits. It’s one thing to break a sweat on a jog. It’s another to push through excruciating stomach and muscle cramps to finish a 5k with nothing at all left in the tank. One more rep. One more sales call. One more paragraph. One more.

There’s a limit. A breaking point. You can’t always run at 100%. No machine runs at 100%…not for long anyhow. No athlete does either…but he can, when he really needs to. He can turn on beast mode when it matters. He can leave it all on the field precisely because he had his limits tested.

You should push yourself to failure on occasion. You should test your limits. Perhaps the person who said it wasn’t possible was right. But perhaps they were just scared of failure and it placed unnecessary limits on them.

There is only one way to find out.

Failure is the doorway to success. We have a bunch of failed projects in our past. So what? That’s part of the process. Push yourself hard. When you fail, don’t let it break you.

Back off. Sleep. Recreate. Recover. Regain some margin.

And then go at it again.


This is an observation and not a moral judgment: Men who talk more about what women shouldn’t do or be, than what men should do or be, are rarely high-quality, masculine men.

Correlation does not equal causation—but there is an undeniable correlation in our circles.


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Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

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