Ancient Wisdom for Modern Manhood, Part 3: Why the World Needs Real Men

Leadership is biblical. Domination is a moral failure.

Where did marital strife begin? What’s the source of all conflict between husbands and wives? 

It all started with a passive man, Adam, who stood by and said nothing while his wife fell into sin. And the world today is still suffering the consequences of Adam’s silence. But the great news is that God hasn’t left us without hope.

In my last two blog posts, we’ve been looking at “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Manhood” from Genesis 1 and 2, and about the unique calling a man has on his life. So if you haven’t done so, check out Part 1 and Part 2 now.

Over these last two posts, I’d like to deal specifically with Genesis 3 because so much happens in this chapter that twists God’s intention for our manhood and our relationship with our wives — and still impacts us today.

Remember, Genesis is a book all about beginnings. I shared that it is mythic — not in the sense it’s not true, but that it’s the standard by which men are to measure themselves. But I think there’s one pit men can fall into when studying Genesis, and that’s an over-inflated sense of who God made us to be.

Sadly, even mentioning male leadership today terrifies many people because so many have been abused or manipulated in the name of “headship.” And let me be clear about this before we go any further: There's a big difference between leadership and male domination. Leadership is biblical. Domination is a moral failure. Men who dominate others are, in reality, boys who are trying to act like men.

But men who lead biblically, the way God created them to lead, honor others. They esteem women. And the leadership they exhibit is gratifying, not terrifying.

So where did the tendency to turn leadership into something unhealthy and destructive originate? Again, the answer is sin, which corrupts the God-ordained sociological and spiritual order within marriage. 

That brings us to the tragic event in Genesis 3, which we call “the fall.” So let’s zoom in one more time for a really tight focus on a singular event that changed humanity forever. Let’s look at Genesis 3:1-7…

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

If you were just opening your Bible for the first time and reading these couple of chapters, this comes as a shock — because it’s the point in the story where everything is turned upside down. 

You’ve got a talking snake who’s clearly the enemy of God and this first family, and he’s engaging this woman in deception. So the question is, where’s Adam? Where’s the man as his wife is being deceived? Why isn’t he stepping in as the leader here? The text says he was right there with her, yet he didn’t show any initiative at all. He was passive. He was quiet.

So the woman engaged this serpent around the debate about whether or not God’s command was actually good. She began to take the leadership role in the relationship, and the dagger the serpent stuck in her heart was the doubt that God really did have her best interest in mind. She started to believe God was holding out on her.

“You’ll be like God!” the serpent told her. “There will be a fair playing field. You’ll have the same power, your own freedom, and you’ll be able to determine your own destiny if you’ll just eat this fruit!” So Eve listened, and she ate. And instead of leading in this situation, what did Adam do? He followed and also ate the fruit.

This is the same tragedy that takes place again and again in homes every day. Men refuse to lead out as God intended them. There are millions of men who stand around and do nothing while moral and spiritual corruption enters and rots our homes. And manhood is obliterated in those moments!

After the first sin was committed by Adam and Eve, God came in. And notice what happens in Genesis 3:8-13…

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?” And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’

God knew exactly what happened, and who did look for first? The man. He went right to the CEO, who just failed miserably at the task God had given him to complete — the task of leading his family. And what did Adam the CEO do? He deflected responsibility! “The woman did it. Why am I in trouble?!”

Eve went off on her own path, but Adam was ultimately held responsible for it. Like the head coach of a 4-and-12 football team, the buck stopped with him, and Adam took the heat.

In this moment, the issue of leadership wasn’t just whispered. It was shouted. And the same event is going to happen for every married man. One day, God’s going to look to you as head of the social agency called the family and say, “Where were you?”

Over years and years of dealing with men and marriages, I can tell you one thing that’s really clear: As a man goes, so goes the family. In our world today, we see children suffering as homes are breaking down. And if you want to trace the root of it, it can often be placed squarely at the foot of the man.

There’s much more to this story. And there’s some really good news that comes along with it. Read more about that and your renewed calling to authentic biblical manhood, in Part 4