All men progress, or should progress, through 5 growth stages: Boyhood, Apprentice, Journeyman, Master and Sage. What does the Bible say about this? ♦
It is quite the privilege to watch a boy come of age. Think of a young son taking a first step, throwing a ball, riding a bike, his first day of school, first shave, driving a car, going on a date. These are his robust boyhood years through childhood and adventurous adolescence.
Boys move quickly from that point to job training or college or full time employment. Then it’s marriage and children, a growing family and career that advances, arcs and winds down to twilight years in retirement and enjoyment of grandchildren and favorite hobbies.
And such is the expected life of today’s average man in a modern sophisticated society.
Is this wrong? No.
Is it Biblical? Not necessarily.
Is there a better way? Absolutely.
Biblical Male Examples?
There are numerous examples of men in the Bible that we watch grow from boyhood to adulthood. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon are but a few in the Old Testament. These are not perfect men. We find youthful arrogance, selfishness, early successes, failures, and mistakes. These are our Biblical male role-models?
There certainly is no clear-cut example for us to mimic here or helpful guidance other than lessons to observe and pitfalls to avoid.
How is a man really supposed to live his life as he moves through male maturity?
God’s Male Model
There is one definitive example in the Bible. Jesus is the perfect man who, even in His short tenure on earth, left us with a real model to follow and even project into old age. Look at Jesus in light of the 5 growth stages of a man’s life:
1) 0-17 Boyhood (Childhood and Adolescence) – from birth a boy is under the watchful care of his parents and is to be raised up spiritual and emotionally in the ways and teaches of the Lord. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings…” – 2 Timothy 3:14-15. Jesus was raised as all Jewish boys at that time: “…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” – Deuteronomy 6:4.
A young boy through early adulthood should be taught a code of conduct (Bible precepts) and that there is a cause (God) bigger than himself.
2) 18-30 Apprentice (Early Adulthood) – at this point a young man settles into some vocation where he grows in skill and experience. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. – Lamentations 3:27. Jesus became a carpenter under the tutelage of his earthly father, Joseph. “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” – Matthew 13:55.
These can be years of experimentation in fields of vocational practice, but through age 30 they are years of skill development and honed expertise as a young apprentice. No need to rush or push. Things even out by the end of this stage.
3) 31-45 Journeyman (Adulthood) – this next age bracket can be a time of flourishing and thriving at home and at work if the right decisions are made. Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go. – 1 Kings 2:3. At about this time Jesus started His ministry. He, of course, did not live deep into this stage. We can imagine however that had He lived longer He would have continued to operate in His clear strength and calling. Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. – Luke 2:52.
These are prime growth years of a man’s career when one is on the rise and progressing through the ranks. However, power and success in one’s calling and “wheelhouse” are often countered by doubts, mistakes and questions about relative performance, losses, setbacks, integrity, life-balance frustrations, marriage, and family pressures.
Often poor choices are made about jobs, finances, relationships, and children. If ever the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ made sense, it could apply to these years particularly. Additionally, for most men, at about the 3 decade mark, they come to that “fork in the road” job choice – that crisis of decision to continue status quo or take the risky road (think start-up, launching on your own, etc.). All the more reason that one seek God’s guidance in discerning and honest, surrendering prayer. God will not forsake the man who seeks Him.
4) 46-60 Master (Middle Adulthood) – having weathered the growth years of the Journeyman, a man’s productivity now peaks at the Master stage. Or it should. At this age he is mature and seasoned in knowledge, skills and application of all he has learned over decades of experience. Of course, Jesus operated like a young Master well before ever reaching this stage.
Masters are skilled workman, managers, directors, vice presidents, presidents, owners and CEOs. Yet many men at this age are but fools, listening or following still only their own selfish desires and inclinations. Know that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7.
5) 61+ Sage (Late Adulthood) – we actually were not designed for retirement. Man slows down and his productive years of labor wind down due to physical decline, yet the mind at this age should still be wise, tempered and ripe for the picking. Jesus would have been an incredibly wise older man. Even in His short life He modeled as one who molds, mentors, develops and disciples the next generation.
The Godly sage-man should be a fountain for youth: of knowledge, guidance, assurance and teaching. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. – James 3:17. Consider the good fruit and impact of an aged man, not the trophy showcase or golf handicap.
The Road We Travel
For all men, it’s a long and winding road. The sooner we relinquish the reins of control to the all-wise God, the better the life in peace, wisdom, even joy. And not only for a grown man and his family, but for subsequent generations and all those with whom he encounters and influences.
Are you on the right growth path?
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:3-5