Four Questions to Examine a Man’s Character

What makes a man? 

That’s not an irrelevant question for a day in which gender is so widely misunderstood and misused.  It’s also not irrelevant to ask in the wake of Father’s Day. 

While opinions of manhood, fatherhood, and gender abound, I have found the four qualities of mature manhood in Titus 2 to be a sound guide for my life. 

“Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.” (Titus 2:2; NASB)

Now that I am in the phase of life characterized by “older men” [sigh], the pursuit of these qualities is particularly important.  But even as a young and then “middle-aged” man, these were helpful qualities, because they taught me the goal — this is where I needed to end my life.  And if that’s how my life needed to be characterized at the end, it was also how my life needed to be oriented at the beginning.

Here then are four questions that every man can ask himself, both to evaluate his life and to set goals for his life, based on Titus 2:2.

1. Am I Self-Controlled?

The word “temperate” literally means, “sober.” It refers to someone who is not a drunk. But the word also is used figuratively, referring to people who are sober-minded, clear-headed. They are not given to excess in any area of their lives, and they are able to say “no” with their minds and actions when their bodies and flesh are saying “yes.”

This is a man who is not in bondage to the desires of the flesh; because of that, he is always vigilant. He is always watching and alert to everything around him and anything that might divert him from obedience to Christ.

The tendency in our later years is to let down our guard — we’ve been in this situation before, we know what to do, it’s not a problem. And, “BOOM,” we’re blind-sided by sin.  If we’d been watching, we would have seen it, but we were being inattentive.

The mark of the godly and mature man is that even in his maturity he is guarding his heart. He may not be able to control all his physical functions, but his spiritual functions are under his control (2 Cor. 4:16-18). 

2. Am I Dignified?

The word “dignified” refers to seriousness.  That doesn’t mean this is a grumpy old man, but he does take life seriously. Not everything is a joke.  Rather, he is fatherly — grandfatherly — and paternal. He fulfills the role given to him.

He is serious because he has seen life and it has provided perspective for him about essentials.  He has seen people die suddenly, horrifically and “out of order.”  He has seen his own mortality through growing physical inabilities. He has seen children with leukemia and the not very elderly with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  He has seen people experience great misfortune — perhaps he has known significant trials himself.  He has seen the importance of time and priority and knows that time and opportunities are fleeting.  He has seen that utopian ideas about the future are best left as fables and fairy tales; he knows that only what is done for Christ will last and that no one but Christ has answers.

All these things have made the godly man to be serious and dignified.  As one commentator has noted, “Frivolity in an older man is unbecoming, especially to one who has matured in the Christian life as well.”

3. Am I Discerning?

The word “sensible” means prudent, thoughtful, and discerning. This man avoids extremes and is thoughtful and careful.  He can evaluate and know what needs to be done and when and how it should be done. It refers to someone who can evaluate life clearly because he has spent a life-time walking with Christ.

This man is discerning about himself and his position in life (Rom. 12:3) — he can distinguish truth from error and godliness from ungodliness.

A mature man really has learned and is continuing to learn, even in his later years. What he is learning is that God alone is worth fearing (Prov. 1:2-7).

4. Am I Healthy?

The word “sound” a form of the word “hygiene,” stating here that the spiritual life of the elderly man is healthy and not diseased. Specifically, Paul mentions three kinds of health — faith, love, perseverance. 

Is his faith healthy?

Very often “faith” refers to objective faith — the gospel. Here (because of the two attributes that follow), it is subjective faith — his faith. Does he believe what he believes about God?  Does he trust God? Does he believe that God is good and wise even when the failures and disappointments are relentless?

There is a certain temptation to give up trusting in God later in life because disappointments are bigger and more numerous. As you read the Scriptures, it is sad to see how many men fail in the final years of their lives, men like Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jonah as just a few examples. 

The older man, particularly, is to work hard at trusting God. He works hard to believe that God will accomplish what he’s promised.  Though the storms of life may still be crashing in on him in his final years, he hangs onto the buoy that is Christ and the gospel. 

Is his love healthy?

Paul is talking about every kind of love (notice that he doesn’t specifically denote the object of love, suggesting that it is all-inclusive):  love for God, love for God’s people (the church), and love for those who do not yet know God. 

The test of love is not: can you say “I love you” on the wedding day? The test of love is: can you say, “I love you,” when someone has intentionally sinned against you? when you continually have to sacrifice to keep the relationship? when your wife gets ill on the honeymoon and you have to take care of her the rest of your life?  Are you committed to love others when they don’t seem willing to reciprocate love?

Is his endurance healthy?

The difficulty in life is not doing the right thing. Most of us can do the right thing once.  The hard thing is to keep doing the right thing day after day and year after year.

So the mature man “perseveres.” He keeps holding up and moving forward in the face of great adversity.  He is under attack and experiencing trial and he is patient, steadfast, and immovable.

When you are in a perverse culture and there are attacks within the church and false teachers (1:10-16), there is a temptation to give in after a time — “it’s not worth the fight…”  (which has been one of the lessons of the sermons from Hebrews 11).  The mature man is the one who perseveres in those battles.

He is waiting patiently for the fulfillment of the Christian hope. He keeps on going and keeps on trusting and keeps on laboring not because he is strong in himself, but because he believes that there is a crown of glory awaiting him and he wants to hear “well done” from his Savior.

If you are a man, what kind of old man do you want to be?  What kind of men are you training your sons to be?

Paul would answer it this way:  “I want to be an old man who is self-controlled, dignified, discerning and spiritually healthy, even (especially) when my body is failing, as an expression of my trust in God, my love for Christ and His people, and the hope that something better is coming.”

Father’s Day Cake” by Mina Magiska Bakverk (My Magical Pastries) is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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