rebelling against low expectations

The Marks of Manhood: by Albert Mohler


The Marks Of ManhoodWhen does a boy become a man? The answer to this must go far beyond biology and chronological age. As defined in the Bible, manhood is a functional reality, demonstrated in a man’s fulfillment of responsibility and leadership. With this in mind, let me suggest thirteen marks of biblical manhood. The achievement of these vital qualities marks the emergence of a man who will demonstrate true biblical masculinity.


The Bible is clear about a man’s responsibility to exercise spiritual maturity and spiritual leadership. Of course, this spiritual maturity takes time to develop, and it is a gift of the Holy Spirit working within the life of the believer. The disciplines of the Christian life, including prayer and serious Bible study, are among the means God uses to mold a boy into a man and to bring spiritual maturity into the life of one who is charged to lead a wife and family. This spiritual leadership is central to the Christian vision of marriage and family life.

A man’s spiritual leadership is not a matter of dictatorial power, but of firm and credible spiritual leadership and influence. A man must be ready to lead his wife and his children in a way that will honor God, demonstrate godliness, inculcate Christian character and lead his family to desire Christ and to seek God’s glory. Spiritual maturity is a mark of true Christian manhood, and a spiritually immature man is, in at least this crucial sense, spiritually just a boy.


True masculinity is not a matter of exhibiting supposedly masculine characteristics devoid of the context of responsibility. In the Bible, a man is called to fulfill his role as husband and father. Unless granted the gift of celibacy for gospel service, the Christian boy is to aim for marriage and fatherhood. This is assuredly a counter-cultural assertion, but the role of husband and father is central to manhood. Marriage is unparalleled in its effect on men, as it channels their energies and directs their responsibilities to the devoted covenant of marriage and the grace-filled civilization of the family. They must aspire to be the kind of man a Christian woman would gladly marry and children will trust, respect, and obey.


Advertisers and marketers know where to aim their messages — directly at adolescent boys and young men. This particular segment of the population is inordinately attracted to material goods, popular entertainment, sporting events and other consumer options. The portrait of young manhood made popular in the media and presented as normal through entertainment is characterized by economic carelessness, self-centeredness and laziness.

A real man knows how to hold a job, handle money with responsibility and take care of the needs of his wife and family. A failure to develop economic maturity means that young men often float from job to job, and take years to “find themselves” in terms of career and vocation. Once again, an extended adolescence marks a huge segment of today’s young male population. Slothfulness, laziness and economic carelessness are marks of immaturity. A real man knows how to earn, manage and respect money. A Christian man understands the danger that comes from the love of money, and fulfills his responsibility as a Christian steward.


Unless afflicted by injury or illness, a boy should develop the physical maturity that, by stature and strength, marks recognizable manhood. Of course, men come in many sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical strength, but common to all men is a maturity, through which a man demonstrates his masculinity by movement, confidence and strength. A man must be ready to put his physical strength on the line to protect his wife and children and to fulfill his God-assigned tasks. A boy must be taught to channel his developing strength and emerging size into a self-consciousness of responsibility, recognizing that adult strength is to be combined with adult responsibility and true maturity.


Even as the society celebrates sex in every form and at every age, the true Christian man practices sexual integrity, avoiding pornography, fornication, all forms of sexual promiscuity and corruption. He understands the danger of lust, but rejoices in the sexual capacity and reproductive power God has put within him, committing himself to find a wife, and to earn her love, trust and admiration — and eventually to win her hand in marriage. It’s critical that men respect this incredible gift, and to protect this gift until, within the context of holy marriage, they are able to fulfill this gift, love their wives, and look to God’s gift of children. Male sexuality separated from the context and integrity of marriage is an explosive and dangerous reality. The boy must understand, even as he travels through the road of puberty and an awakened sexuality, that he is accountable to God for his stewardship of this great gift.


Stereotypical behavior on the part of young males is, in the main, marked by recklessness, irresponsibility and worse. As a boy grows into manhood, he must develop moral maturity as he aspires to righteousness, learning to think like a Christian, act like a Christian and show others how to do the same.

The Christian man is to be an example to others, teaching by both precept and example. Of course, this requires the exercise of responsible moral reasoning. True moral education begins with a clear understanding of moral standards, but must move to the higher level of moral reasoning by which a young man learns how biblical principles are translated into godly living and how the moral challenges of his day must be met with the truths revealed in God’s inerrant and infallible word.


To be a man is to make decisions. One of the most fundamental tasks of leadership is decision-making. The indecisiveness of so many contemporary males is evidence of a stunted manhood. Of course, a man does not rush to a decision without thought, consideration or care, but a man does put himself on the line in making a decision — and making it stick. This requires an extension of moral responsibility into mature ethical decision-making that brings glory to God, is faithful to God’s word and is open to moral scrutiny.

A real man knows how to make a decision and live with its consequences — even if that means that he must later acknowledge that he has learned by making a bad decision, and then by making the appropriate correction.


An inversion of values marks our postmodern age, and the predicament of modern manhood is made all the more perplexing by the fact that many men lack the capacity of consistent worldview thinking. For the Christian, this is doubly tragic, for our Christian discipleship must be demonstrated in the development of a Christian mind.

The Christian man must understand how to interpret and evaluate issues across the spectrum of politics, economics, morality, entertainment, education and a seemingly endless list of other fields. The absence of consistent biblical worldview thinking is a key mark of spiritual immaturity. A boy must learn how to translate Christian truth into genuine Christian thinking. He must learn how to defend biblical truth before his peers and in the public square, and he must acquire the ability to extend Christian thinking, based on biblical principles, to every arena of life.


Psychologists now talk of “emotional intelligence,” or EQ, as a major factor in personal development. While the world has given much attention to IQ, EQ is just as important. Individuals who lack the ability to relate to others are destined to fail at some of life’s most significant challenges and will not fulfill some of their most important responsibilities and roles.

By nature, many boys are inwardly directed. While girls learn how to read emotional signals and connect, many boys lack the capacity to do so, and seemingly fail to understand the absence of these skills. While a man is to demonstrate emotional strength, constancy and steadfastness, he must be able to relate to his wife, his children, his peers, his colleagues and a host of others in a way that demonstrates respect, understanding and appropriate empathy. This will not be learned by playing video games and by entering into the privatized world experienced by many male adolescents.


While the arena of the home is an essential and inescapable focus of a man’s responsibility, he is also called out of the home into the workplace and the larger world as a witness, and as one who will make a contribution to the common good. God has created human beings as social creatures, and even though our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, we must also fulfill our citizenship on earth.

A boy must learn to fulfill a political responsibility as a citizen, and a moral responsibility as a member of a human community. The Christian man bears a civilizational responsibility, and boys must be taught to see themselves as shapers of the society even as the church is identified by our Lord as both salt and light. Similarly, a Christian man must learn how to relate to unbelievers, both as witness and as fellow citizens of an earthly kingdom.


A man must be able to speak, to be understood and to communicate in a way that will honor God and convey God’s truth to others. Beyond the context of conversation, a boy must learn how to speak before larger groups, overcoming the natural intimidation and fear that comes from looking at a crowd, opening one’s mouth, and projecting words.

Though not all men will become public speakers, every man should have the ability to take his ground, frame his words, and make his case when truth is under fire and when belief and conviction must be translated into argument.


The literature of manhood is replete with stories of courage, bravery and audacity. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Now, with manhood both minimalized and marginalized by cultural elites, ideological subversion and media confusion, we must recapture a commitment to courage that is translated into the real-life challenges faced by the Christian man.

At times, this quality of courage is demonstrated when a man risks his own life in defense of others, especially his wife and children, but also anyone who is in need of rescue. More often, this courage is demonstrated in taking a stand under hostile fire, refusing to succumb to the temptation of silence and standing as a model and example to others, who will then be encouraged to stand their own ground.

In these days, biblical manhood requires great courage. The prevailing ideologies and worldviews of this age are inherently hostile to Christian truth and are corrosive to Christian faithfulness. It takes great courage for a boy to commit himself to sexual purity and for a man to devote himself unreservedly to his wife. It takes great courage to say no to what this culture insists are the rightful pleasures and delights of the flesh. It takes courage to serve as a godly husband and father, to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It takes courage to maintain personal integrity in a world that devalues the truth, disparages God’s word, and promises self-fulfillment and happiness only through the assertion of undiluted personal autonomy.

A man’s true confidence is rooted in the wells of courage, and courage is evidence of character. In the end, a man’s character is revealed in the crucible of everyday challenges. For most men, life will also bring moments when extraordinary courage will be required, if he is to remain faithful and true.


A close look at many churches will reveal that a central problem is the lack of biblical maturity among the men of the congregation and a lack of biblical knowledge that leaves men ill equipped and completely unprepared to exercise spiritual leadership.

Boys must know their way around the biblical text, and feel at home in the study of God’s Word. They must stand ready to take their place as leaders in the local church. While God has appointed specific officers for his church–men who are specially gifted and publicly called — every man should fulfill some leadership responsibility within the life of the congregation.

For some men, this may mean a less public role of leadership than is the case with others. In any event, a man should be able to teach someone, and to lead in some ministry, translating his personal discipleship into the fulfillment of a godly call. There is a role of leadership for every man in every church, whether that role is public or private, large or small, official or unofficial. A man should know how to pray before others, to present the Gospel, and to stand in the gap where a leadership need is apparent.

To respond to this article, send your thoughts and comments to [email protected].
Copyright © 2005 Dr. Albert Mohler. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • What an article! I will use this as a devotional for my two teen boys. We do not have any daughters. My husband and I have been praying for them. They are surrounded by friends who do not follow Christ, and therefore need constant discipline, encouragement, and direction to follow Jesus. It is very hard for us. It is not easy finding Christian friends for them. Thank you for this insightful, timely word for our family. God bless Mr. Mohler, and this site! May the Lord use REBELUTION for HIS GLORY, and may many teens see Christ through it.

  • To my brothers in Christ:
    Brothers, if you want to grow up to be men of God, this is one article that will help you SO much. This is what a Christian woman seeks in a husband. This is how you become a real man.

  • *oops* I clicked the send button by mistake!
    As I was saying, this is how you become a real man. To endeavor in these practices will help you so much in life. Thank you Dr. Mohler!

    ~Kirsten A. Gruber

  • Brilliant article. A wonderful encouragement to me personally and something I can use to help my younger brothers.

    A friend put me onto The Rebelution, and I’ve been amazed and encouraged. Thanks so much Alex and Brett for the example you are setting and the trail you are blazing. Thanks to Dr. Mohler as well…this is one of the best summations of Biblical manhood that I’ve seen in a long time.

    Forward for Christ Forever!

  • This is a great post and an encouragement/standard I think to a lot of guys. Thanks Dr. Mohler. I also think it would be an even greater encouragement to include that this standard applies, maybe in some different aspects, to guys who God calls to remain single (like the Apostle Paul).

  • Thank you for putting what God has been showing me in high school into words…awesome truth!

    God Bless

  • I just got the little booklet of this that we’ve had on our church book-table for forever this past Sunday. It’s great. And yes, I AM a girl, but I know that knowing all of that will help me to evaluate any guys that may come knocking someday.

    ~Lady Tai

  • Excellent list! Right now, it looks like I’ve got an almost impossible task to if I ever want to reflect all of the things listed. Praise God, I can do all things through Christ.

  • This is an excellent post. I have always enjoy the insights that the Lord has given to Dr. Mohler. I look forward to using this with my son and examining myself to see where I am lacking.

    In addition, I am going to pass this on to a couple of men that I know need to read this information. Also I will review this with a couple young men who are in high school that the Lord has allowed me to be involved in their lives.

    My wife and I are praying for you guys.

  • God is really using you guys to talk to teens our age so they can rebell to to low


  • wow you lay a tough line for any man to live up to. But it is very well worded. One thing that i’ve noticed about you posts is that they often go against the grain of society. (rebelution) That is awesome because that is what we as Christians are supposed to be. We are different because we live differently. Not because we think differently but because we LIVE differently.

    I feel like i have a long ways to go but God is awesome and will help. That’s also why he created community.

    Thanks again

  • I believe every young man should hear or read that post. I’m so sick of how this world is turning out and it’s all because the heads of the house are not taking true Leadership. Have had a desire in my heart now to speak to the guys in public schools, and any other schools out there. Whether there home schooled or go to a christian school. Every young man needs to here this. I will post more later

  • Thank you so much for posting this article. This is just what I have been wating to read. It answered most of my questions about manhood. THANKS AGAIN!!!

  • This is a mind blowing article! I sit her thinking that every man (teen or otherwise) should read this! in fact it should be made into a book and sold everywhere!Concise, complete, sharp.I will use it for my sunday school and my husband will use it for the mens ministry!

  • Boy!!! Oh!!! Boy!!! Is that what america needs today. Real Men! that have ,stabilty,courage,consistence,knowledge,Maturity,Direction!. I agree. Iagree . I agree! Its so Great how God awnsirs Prayer:) I”ve been praying for direction and to be honist… have been feeling a little lost.. But!!! God is great! He lead me to read this Article.Its very insiteful and incouraging. Thanks and Glory to God.:) oh yea! and thank you Catherine for sending it to Me.:)

  • Thank God for someone who has finally written something on the topic . I have 2 sons who I am raising alone not by choice I might add. Their father has completly abandoned them and words cannot express the pain that I feel on their behalf for making such a poor choice. I do believe that GOd can protect and redeem the widow and the fatherless. But I am so gladd to have come across this article as my boys are entering the preteen and teen years. Thank God for you

  • I think there is a lot of good stuff in this, however, it seems like a lot of it is tied into how man can best perform as a citizen in the democratic, capitalist state of America. Furthermore, where is man to develop such characteristics? The man is here pictured as mostly autonomous and capable of achieving these things apart from a community of likeminded characters.

    The points made about commitment to wife and children are really good. However, there seems to be a correlation between American 1950s manhood and biblical manhood in the assertions about being active in society, committing to a long term career that gives you enough money to sustain your family.

    I think there could be some more discussion about what ‘economic’ maturity actual means, because if it merely learning how to operate within the constructs of American economics then I think Christian men have not risen to the challenge of naming powers and deconstructing oppressors.

  • I loved this article. I had a few questions about it though. As in becoming a man, are we required to take on the “Marks of manhood”, or is it a choice ourselves we have to make? Also, does becoming a man require us to wear the armor of god. Are we required to do that too? Or is that too a choice that we make ourselves? I do believe that we are fighting spiritual battles, but who is the enemy. I read in an earlier comment that sayed we get in the way of ourselves sometimes, so is our enemy the devil, or is it ourselves? Do we get in the way of ourselves sometimes, or is it just the devil? Speaking of Satan, is he our real enemy. I do believe he is, but i also believe that our own souls can be a problem. Do our minds and souls sometimes join in on Satan’s side and that is what causes anger? What is anger, and where does it come from. Is it from us, the devil, or is it from both of them. Do our minds and soulds turn against them, or is it just the devil. We may never find out the answer to that question, but we can do other things to see what our minds are doing. If you see an oppurtunity, does you mind tell you to take it, or to not. If you are taking it, i believe that the devil is working against you trying to get you to turn away from God. This has helped me become more of a man. Thank you so much!!!!

  • This is awesome, thank you!! I was going through some major problems with not being masculine, wishing I could be like the guys at my highschool, but now I see, that I’m not weird I am pretty much straight on with this advice. WOW this has just changed my life and perspective and the way I view myself. Thank you again!! This rocks!!

  • This is great!!! There are so many men and young adults who need to hear about these principles. This has helped me realize how far I have to go to be a true ‘man.’ It’s definitely hard, but I know that it will be worth it in the end. Thanks Mr. Mohler.
    Josiah Kenniv

  • Hmmmm….thats a lot to think about but i would have to agree to that. I just hope i can be a man like that 🙂

  • As a 53 year old man, this artlcle reminded me of ideals that I was taught by my father, but have allowed to be distorted by todays culture. I idolized my father though he made mistakes and seemed at times overbearing, he was a man of God and a believer in God’s grace through Jesus Christ. I too am a Christian, believing that Jesus Christ is my salvation, not of myself but from His sacrifice through love. I have 2 teen aged boys and want to train them up to be good Christian men. We talk and I try to be an positive example, but they seem unmotivated and think church and religion are outdated concepts that don’t have anything to offer them. I appreciated this article because it has reminded me of God’s priciples for being a man and has inspired me to strive to be a better man for God, my wife, my children, and my world. Thank you for your God inspired words.

  • i am working on tryimg to be a better christian and i want to help stop smoking i am a 13 year old pls email me alex or brett please i just finishe readin your book

  • I used to be recommended this website by way of my cousin. I am no longer sure whether this publish is written by him as no one else understand such targeted about my difficulty. You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  • Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My website is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would truly benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Regards!

  • As I was in the middle of a time where I saw myself having to redefine a lot of concepts, especially “what are the characteristics of a man” and “what are the characteristics of a Godly man,” I stumbled upon this. It’s some good stuff that plenty of people I know should be aware of.

  • C.S. Lewis wrote “The only fatal thing is to sit down content with less than perfection.” I think this article captures that idea nicely.

    However, I wonder whether each piece of advice is rooted in scripture or is biased in ideal qualities of an American man. For example, “common to all men is a maturity, through which a man demonstrates his masculinity by movement, confidence and strength.” Sure, a man is to put others before himself, namely his wife and children, but is the mature Christian man marked by physicality or rather by the decision to die to himself and serve others first (Matt 20:26)? And, “A boy must learn to fulfill a political responsibility as a citizen.” This does not seem necessarily true of a mature Christian man, but instead a quality of a mature U.S. citizen.

    I like the charge and the conviction; this is a good article. But I have to wonder whether some of these qualities are modeled after the life of Christ or focus more on American ideals. It is easy to compartmentalize and lose focus. Good article, though.

  • Wow. That was a good post! My brother and his best friend, had manhood cerimonies when they turned 13. I think both of them have an impossible task of being everything this article states. But with God, nothing is impossible! My mom is planning a womanhood cerimony for me, later on, and I hope to be GREATLY improved from the person I am now. I read a John Piper book called What’s the Difference, and it really made me think about what true men and women really are.
    My goal: not to blend in with the average woman. I want to stand out from all the other worldly women, to be something I thought impossible.

    God’s Girl

  • Parrents if you have children develop plans for what you want them to learn prior to leaving your house on thier own. “People don’t plan to fail they fail to plan” your childrens teacher wouldn’t dream of going into a year of education without lesson plans; why should you go into the next 18 years without a plan of what you want to impart in your children. Taking them to church and doing devotions is great, but show them how much you care about them and their future by planning things to teach them and then set up a time each week (or more) to do it. We utilize a 3 part format of Spirit, Mind & Body. Start with “Raising a Modern Day Knight” for some ideas & this article & dig into your own plans for your children. God bless your endeavors and may we raise the generation that changes this country again.

  • I really like this article! Is there another similar article about womanhood? I’d like to see what the marks of womanhood are!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →