22 Jan

Boy & Girls Really Are Different

We are all familiar with the old nursery rhyme describing the differences between boys and girls:

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.

Sure, it’s not science, but it’s true in so many ways. Yesterday we took our 3-year-old Zachariah to his favorite place—MacDonald’s Playland. Yeah, the food’s terrible, but who really goes there for the food? This playland is a tree house design, and Zach absolutely loves it.

We were there in the late afternoon so we had the playland all to ourselves except for one other family who had two little girls that were probably just a little bit older than Zach. They were playing while he finished up eating. As I watched them, I observed how sweet their play was—a lot of laughing, running, and talking. Zach soon finished up and began to play. He immediately wanted to make friends with them so he goes up to them and begins to pretend that he’s a ninja. Play punches and kicks flew through the air as he made sounds with his mouth. At first, the girls thought he was crazy. They looked at him and kind went their way, but he followed after them and demonstrated his karate skills again. This time they laughed and eventually began punching and kicking too. Zack soon turned around and hollered down from high up in the playland, “Daddy, I’ve made some new friends!” My wife Christy and I just cracked up.

The one thing that was so clear to me as I observed this whole event is the fact that boys and girls really are different. For a few decades now with the rise of feminism and the women’s rights movement, our society has really tried to downplay any gender differences. We would always here that differences are just a matter of nurture—we’ve conditioned boys and girls to act a certain way. But is this really true? Richard Laliberte points out in his article “Differences Between Boys and Girls” which appeared in the March 2006 issue of Parents magazine:

Parents have heard it for decades: Boys play with guns and girls play with dolls because society brainwashes them into rigid sex roles. Oh, really? Anyone who’s raised both boys and girls can tell you how different they seem from the get-go — and there’s not much you can do about it. When my wife and I wouldn’t give our son a toy weapon to play with, he made swords out of fence slats and guns out of Tinkertoys. Our daughter, by contrast, was always too busy managing the intricate social world of toy animals to have the slightest interest in hunting for anything. Was this subconsciously our fault?

Common sense has told us this truth for years, but as Laliberte points out, “It’s hard to argue with science, and evidence is mounting that male and female brains are simply not the same.” It’s not just anecdotal anymore.

Maleness and femaleness are not just flexible aspects of our life that we choose to take on. Rather it goes to the very root of our personhood. In fact, God’s glory is bound up in our different genders. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We as humans are made in the image of God, and part of the demonstration of this image is masculinity and femininity. We should glory in these differences and not shrink from them.

There is nothing wrong with different. However, when the contemporary mind hears “different,” it often hears inequality. One must be better than the other, they think. But this notion of difference is not biblical. The biblical idea of gender difference is grounded in complementarity. The root word in this view is the verb “complement,” which means to fill up, complete, or make perfect. The idea is that maleness and femaleness need each other to fulfill God’s goals for humanity. The genders mutually supply each other’s lack so that fullness is experienced.

So what is the purpose of all this talk? My purpose is as follows. Men, I pray that you celebrate your masculinity and strive toward its scriptural standard. Women, I want you to celebrate your femininity and strive toward its scriptural standard. In marriage relationships, I desire that you make every effort to complement each other through the roles God has given each gender in the Bible. Moms and dads, I hope that you work to raise your boys to be men who live out all that God meant for them in their masculinity and your girls to be women who live all that God meant for them in their femininity. In these efforts, we will truly find our happiness and God’s greater glory.

Gender is God’s design and blessing, and we praise the Lord that male and female are different!

13 Jan

The Last Shall Be First, and the First Last

Every Monday morning I get the privilege of sitting around a table at the Cloverleaf Restaurant in Liberty with a dozen or more pastors from our area. It’s a time of fellowship, devotion, breakfast, and prayer. As we’ve been meeting there over the last several months, we’ve noticed a trend. If the waitress takes your order first, you almost always get your food last. And if you order your food last, you are very likely to get your food first. Inevitably, one of the men will quote Matthew 19:30, which says, “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

I’ve often taken this verse to mean that many who are greatest, or first, in the world’s eyes will be the least, or last, in the kingdom’s eyes. But as I’m reading this passage again, that’s really not what Jesus is saying at all. Sure, I believe the axiom is true that many who are great by the world’s standards are not great by God’s standards, but Jesus’ statement is pointing to a different truth. How do we know? We know because He illustrates His statement with the Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20:1-16.

You probably know this parable well. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired a group of laborers early in the morning to work in his fields for the rest of the day for one denarius. A denarius was a silver coin in the Roman currency system and was seen as a fair wage for a day’s work in Jesus’ time. The landowner then decided that he didn’t have enough workers so he hired more of them throughout the day–some at 9am, noon, 3pm, and finally at 5pm.

At the end of the work day, the landowner gathered all the workers together to pay them. He began with the last group hired and gave them each one denarius. Naturally, the group that was hired first thought they were going to get much more since they had worked much longer than the last group. However, when it was their turn to be paid, each in the first group received just one denarius also.

Immediately, they began to protest and complain to their employer, basically saying, “This isn’t fair!” To which the landowner replied in essence, “I’ve done nothing wrong. It’s my right to be generous to these other groups if I wish.” And then Jesus finishes up the parable by saying again in v20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last.”

In order to really understand this parable, we must lay out what each part in the parable represents. The landowner is God, the vineyard is God’s kingdom, the workers are all believers, and the denarius is eternal salvation. The glorious truth contained in this passage is that all who place their faith in Jesus Christ get the same marvelous gift: eternal salvation. It doesn’t matter if the person was a follower of Jesus for only one day before they died. They still receive the same gift as the person who followed Jesus for 80 years and died a martyr’s death on the mission field. The thief on the cross next to Jesus received the same gift as the Apostle Peter. Isn’t that amazing!

You might not get why this truth is so amazing yet. Here is why it is: the thief didn’t deserve the gift and neither did Peter. This statement and illustration are designed by Jesus to highlight God’s sweet grace. Nobody deserves eternal salvation (in fact, we deserve the opposite, eternal destruction), but God gives it anyway through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Friends, there is no room for self-boasting in the Kingdom of God. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” May we glory in God’s grace through Jesus Christ and rejoice when another sinner receives it. In relating this truth to my Monday morning pastors’ fellowship, may we just be overjoyed that we are getting breakfast. Praise the Lord He has determined to shower us with grace!