According to the Bible, this kind of work describes one of the two main planks in a man's calling. Not that men are all literally to work as gardeners. Rather, we are called to "work" whatever "field" God has given us. Men are to be planters, builders, and growers. A man's working life is to be spent accomplishing things, usually as part of a company or other grouping of people. We are to invest our time, our energies, our ideas, and our passions in bringing good things into being. A faithful man, then, is one who has devoted himself to cultivating, building, and growing.

Take a Christian man's professional life, for example. I'm going to address this in more detail in the next chapter, but for now let's observe that our calling to work means investing ourselves in accomplishing things of value. Men should be using their gifts, talents, and experiences to succeed in worthwhile causes that (if they are married) provide for their families. This can be anything that accomplishes good. A man can make eyeglasses, do scientific research, or manage a store; the examples are almost endless. But in each case, our mandate to work means we should be devoting ourselves to building good things and accomplishing worthwhile results. There is nothing wrong with a man working simply to earn a wage, but Christians rightly want their labors to yield more than money for themselves and their families. Christian men should also desire to cultivate something worthwhile for the glory of God and the well-being of their fellow men.

Of course, our "garden" includes not merely things but people. Several chapters in this book focus on relationships, but for now let us simply recognize that men's calling to cultivate means we are to be involved in the hearts of people placed under our care—people who work for us, people we teach and mentor, and most especially our wives and children. A man's fingers should be accustomed to working in the soil of the human heart—the hearts of those he serves and loves—that he might accomplish some of the most valuable and important work of this life.

This biblical mandate to work—here with the emphasis on cultivating and tending—explodes a great misconception regarding gender roles. We have been taught that women are the main nurturers, while men are to be "strong and silent." But the Bible calls men to be cultivators, and that includes a significant emphasis on tending the hearts of those given into our charge. A husband is called to nurture his wife emotionally and spiritually. This is not a side show to his calling as a husband but is fundamental and central to his masculine calling in marriage. Likewise, a father is called to be intentional about plowing up and nurturing the hearts of his children. Any counselor who has dealt with childhood issues can tell you that few things are more injurious to a child than emotional distance from his or her father. There is a reason why so many people are hung up over their relationship with their fathers: God has given the primary calling of emotional and spiritual nurture to men, and many of us fail to do it well.

It is the male arm around the shoulder or pat on the back that God allows to have the quickest access to the heart of a child or employee. Men who are seeking to live out the Masculine Mandate will be nurturers.

Keep: To Protect as a Sword-Bearer

The other half of the Masculine Mandate is found in the word keep. Here, the basic meaning is to "guard" or "protect." This is captured in another common Hebrew word, shamar, which is translated by such English terms as "watch," "guard," "protect," "take under custody," or "exercise care." The word is used of soldiers, shepherds, priests, custodians, and government officials. I especially love the way God uses this word regarding Himself. The Lord frequently states that He guards and keeps those who trust in Him. In fact, shamar is the idea behind the powerful biblical image of the Lord as a tower or strong fortress.