FamilyLife Today® Podcast

A Man’s Call to Work and Keep

with Rick Phillips | November 8, 2010
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What do you do for a living? That's usually the first question a man will ask another man, and there's good reason for that. Pastor Rick Phillips gives some biblical teaching on what it means to be a man.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What do you do for a living? That's usually the first question a man will ask another man, and there's good reason for that. Pastor Rick Phillips gives some biblical teaching on what it means to be a man.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

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A Man’s Call to Work and Keep

With Rick Phillips
November 08, 2010
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Bob:  Genesis 2 says that God created the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to keep it.  Rick Phillips says that passage has implications for us as men today.

Rick:  It is true in the workplace.  Real men build something. He causes something to come into life and he makes it grow and it’s something useful and valuable.  Most importantly, are the lives of people placed under our care, our children, our wives, our subordinates in the workplace.  God calls men to devote themselves to the nurture, the cultivation so that good things will grow.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We’re going to spend some time today talking about what the Bible teaches us about what makes a man a real man.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  Do you see the scratch ‘n stiff sticker here on the book?  Here. Sniff.

Dennis:  I didn’t see that.

Bob:  Here.  Smell it.

Dennis:  I just opened the book up and (sniff)

Bob:  Yeah.  It’s got that testosterone smell, doesn’t it? 

Dennis:  Looks like it’s manhood time here. . .

Bob:  Heh, heh, heh.  (Big sniff!)  AHHHH!

Dennis:  for you and me to pound our chests and interview a guy who is going to challenge men – all of us – to be men who fulfill the masculine mandate.

Bob:  That’s right.

Dennis:  Rick Phillips joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Rick, welcome to the broadcast.

Rick:  Thank you.  It’s great to be here.

Dennis:  Rick has a lot of things in his background that I think help him speak about being a man from a lot of different angles.  He served in the Army for thirteen years; he’s spent a good bit of time in education and also in the pastorate.  He pastors Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.  I want to say something.

Rick:  You can just say “Carolina.”

Bob:  Well, no you can’t.

Dennis:  No, you can’t.

Bob:  You’ve got to hear the story, here.

Dennis:  I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.  I went to a wedding, arrived at the hotel in Greenville, South Carolina, and asked about the McCoy wedding.  And the woman looked at me and said, “Sir, we don’t have a McCoy wedding here tomorrow.”  She said, “Are you sure it’s Greenville, South Carolina?”

Bob:  You knew there was a Greenville, North Carolina?

Rick:  Greenville is the only city name that is in all 48 lower states. 

Bob:  Hah!  (Laughing)

Dennis:  I thought I was in the right state.  I thought I was in the right city.  I wasn’t right any way.

Bob:  You were six hours away, weren’t you?

Dennis:  It was longer than that. 

Rick:  Yes.

Dennis:  I think it’s like eight hours and it was midnight, and there was no way I was going to drive all night.

Bob:  Can’t get there from here.

Dennis:  I was a good friend of his, but I was whipped at that point. It’s a great illustration of how you can have all the good intentions of the world and arrive at the wrong destination.  That really is what your book is about, The Masculine Mandate.  It’s about challenging men to have the right destination as a man.  You begin the book with a story about a daredevil.

Rick:  I’m sitting in the barber shop, waiting my turn to get my hair cut.  Notice I did not say “hair salon.”  Barber shop.

Bob:  That’s where men go.

Rick:  And I’m reading a sports magazine and I read a story – it was actually ESPN The Magazine – and they’re telling the story of Brian Deegan.  Do you guys know who Brian Deegan is?

Bob and Dennis:  No.

Rick:  He is the Michael Jordan of Moto X.  This is that X-game sport where they flip the motorcycles and do all those terrifying things.

Dennis:  Was this the guy who took off across some bay in southern California and landed on a little miniature aircraft carrier of some kind?

Rick:  I don’t know, but the person was probably inspired by him.  And he’s just the classic young hooligan, renegade X-guy.  He formed a Moto X group ten years ago called “The Metal Mulisha.”  It’s all Nazi tattoos and it’s mayhem and violence. 

Well, three things happened in Brian Deegan’s life.  One is, he’s filming a commercial and he’s doing this death-defying leap, and he crashes and virtually kills himself.  His handlebars go through several organs, he loses as much blood as you can lose and still live.

Prior to that, he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant, and she had gone home.  When she was home to have the baby – she decided to keep the baby – her friends took her to an evangelical church.  Sure enough, they weren’t mean people who were judgmental.  They loved her, they led her to Christ.  So when Deegan is injured, he goes to be with his girlfriend and she takes him to church.  He comes to faith in Jesus Christ.

So that combination of events happens and, by the time I read this article, this hooligan hero of the Moto X scene, has become a Christian.  Boy, isn’t the new birth wonderful?  Because he comes back with a great boldness.  And this ESPN magazine tells the story of him doing Bible studies in the Metal Mulisha and leading them to Christ one by one.

Dennis:  (Laughter)

Rick:  And then the interview concludes with them saying to him,  Well, like, what’s going on in your life now?”  And here’s where I’m going.  He has his little baby girl now in his lap and he says, “Dude, now I gotta figure out how to be a man,” or words to that effect.  “I gotta be a father.  I gotta be a man that she’ll look up to.”  I thought to myself, “This guy needs biblical instruction.”

How many guys are there like this, who need biblical truth, coming out of all the confusion of our culture about what a man . . .  And a guy like this – Nazi, tattoos, drunkenness, drugs, women and all that – he’s a believer in Christ now, and here’s the question:  Will the Bible give a clear, simple, powerful answer to the question, “Dude, how do I become a man?”  And the answer is “yes,” and that’s what the book is about.

Bob:  Let me ask you this:  What answer is the culture giving to that question?  If a typical guy, if a Brian Deegan is looking around saying, “I’m gonna be a man,” how are they filling in the blanks?

Rick:  Well, I think that probably there is a generational shift.  It was the Duke when we were kids, and a kind of emotionally distant, solitary, tough guy was the cultural idea of masculinity.  That’s not biblical, either.  As a pastor, how many 50-year-old or older people do I know who are still dealing with their emotionally-distant father who never nurtured them and all that stuff?  Today it’s just hedonism.

Bob:  And you say that the picture that we ought to be looking at is the Genesis 2 Adam picture.

Rick:  Well, when we ask ourselves the question – and I’m a Bible expositor – so I always want to ask myself, not “How can I write a good book on this?” but “How does the Bible teach this?”  Whenever you’re dealing with any gender or relational issues, it’s Genesis 2.  On marriage, it’s Genesis 2.  On the relationship of women to men, Paul and Jesus both take us to Genesis 2.  And then I was asked actually to speak at a number of men’s retreats, so I thought, “Well, let me do some work on this.”

I was persuaded that in Genesis 2:15 we really have a – okay, I’m going to use the word here – help me out – I’m going to say – a paradigmatic statement.

Bob:  Way to go!

Rick:  Thank you. It’s a verse.  It’s not just a throw-away line.  It’s not just recording something that happened.  It’s like so many things in Genesis 2.  You know, Genesis 1 is macro-creation.  Genesis 2 is the creation of human society.

Bob:  Yes.

Rick:  What we read in Genesis 2:15 tells us the grid that God is going to place over the man that he has made.  It’s the paradigm, it’s the model, it’s the mandate for what masculinity is.

Bob:  Okay.  So Genesis 2:15 says:

Rick:  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Dennis:  So those are the two mandates for a man.

Rick:    Yes.  Let me even back up a little bit, because it’s of significance that God puts the man in the covenental context that God has designed.  As we are learning today and as we’re wrestling as a society, God’s the one who created human society.  So first you have [the fact that] that’s where he’s placed us.  I want to say right there, men do not find their identity by going on wilderness trips to discover their masculine side and to serve themselves and to seek themselves. 

Here’s the good news:  Men find their identity and purpose and they bear God’s image in the normal world of marriage, of the home, of the workplace, of the church, of the street that you live on.  God calls us to be men there.  So we don’t have to be sports heroes.  We don’t have to hunt elk and drink their blood after we’ve slaughtered them with our bare hands.

Bob:  You make it sound like gardening is where we find our masculine self, but gardening is a metaphor for the bigger creation, right?

Rick:  Yes.  God the Father created and he calls the man to enter in as the little “l” lord – God’s the capital “L” Lord – Adam’s the little “l” lord – and He says, “Okay, I want you to carry on my work.  I made it.  Now you cause the life to continue.”  And we go into the family business.

Dennis:  And he called the man to be responsible and to be accountable, to rule in that garden.  It’s interesting to me, Rick, that whatever God designs, the enemy is not long on his heels distorting the Creator’s original design.  How have men today fallen prey to the enemy in distorting this idea of a man working and keeping God’s creation?

Rick:  Well, you were right about God made men to bear authority, to exercise lordship.  Of course, the whole hedonistic, self-serving world says, “Instead of taking responsibility for things and working them and keeping them, I’m just going to serve my own interests.”  How many times do we see men in marriage where they just bow out of the leadership role?  Now the masculine mandate says, “I’m going to give you two things to do.”  Don’t you love that?

When I was a boy, my dad tried to teach me golf.  He told me fourteen things, and I couldn’t do it.  “Keep your head down, eyes on the ball, . . .

Bob:  Elbows . . .

Rick:  elbows slightly bent . . . .” Just give me a couple things, alright?

Bob:  To this day you’re still no good at it, right?  (Laughter)

Rick:  Look.  Life is frustrating enough without golf.  I mean, do we need golf?

Dennis:  What a humbling game.  It’s good for your Christian life, because . . .

Bob:  For your ego.

Dennis:  Lots of humility around golf.

Rick:  Well, I’ve got enough frustration without golf.  But as an example of how – you know the Bible consistently gives us clear, simple, direct, but profound instructions.  Genesis 2:15 directs men to be workers and keepers.  The work idea is one of those basic Hebrew words that is used in a lot of different contexts.  Sometimes it means “minister,” “serve.”  In the garden context, it’s “to cultivate.”  So God placed Adam in the Garden and said, “I want you to exert your labor in the Garden to cause life to grow, to cause it to cultivate.” 

So what do you do?  You plant, you water, you get your fingers dirty as you’re making it come together.  One of the two sides of the masculine mandate is that men are to be – get ready for this – nurturers.  See, this is what John Wayne did not know – and the whole John Wayne world.  In the book I talk about the cavalry movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and the Duke has two words:  “Never apologize.”  When I was twenty years old I saw that movie, and I was obnoxious for five years.


Well, the Bible gives us two words, and the first one is “You’re to work” in the sense of being a builder and a cultivator.  You know, it’s true in the workplace.  A real man builds something.  He causes something to come into life, and he makes it grow, and it’s something useful and valuable.  Most importantly are the lives of people placed under our care, our children, our wives, our subordinates in the workplace.  God calls men to devote themselves to the nurture, to the cultivation, so that good things will grow.

Bob:  Let me have you rant here for a little bit, because I could tell you do that well.  [Speak to] the whole issue of men and work and what’s going on in our culture today.  Do young men understand the work ethic and how do we recapture that?  Just speak to that, if you will.

Rick:  Why I would be happy to rant about that, Bob.  You know, we always go from one error to another.  It’s probably true that in a prior generation, or maybe even people who are in their middle age today, work was something of an idol, that we lived for work.  But you know, the Bible does treat us that way, that men were called to work. 

I say in the book that a guy can afford to be ugly, he can afford to be stupid, he can afford to be a little surly, but nobody respects a man who won’t work.  And the Bible has called men to work and to labor.  You meet me on the plane.  You say, “Who are you?”  “I’m Rick Phillips.”  What’s the next question?

Bob:  What do you do?

Rick:  What do you do?  Now that’s not wrong, because men are called to work.  Of course, we live in a sin-cursed world where it’s even made harder.  The curse upon the man [is] “by the sweat of your brow will you eat your bread.”  But I do find, Bob, that it has kind of gotten into the evangelical culture that to be a good man and a family man means that I’m supposed to be home for dinner every night.  Don’t get me wrong.  You’ll hear me say, and the book certainly talks about this:  “We need to be fully engaged in our families.” 

But you know, we’ve got to work hard.  So God placed us here to accomplish things and to be builders.  In the Bible we use the masonry metaphor – to build the building, to build bricks – and the gardening metaphor.  But I do think, most significantly, that God calls men to be cultivators of hearts.  We are really being biblical men when our fingers are dirty with the soil of the hearts of our children and our wives and our friends and the people around us.

Dennis:  Give me an illustration of what that looks like in your life.

Rick:  For me, one of the great examples was my father.   My father was an Army officer.  He was a tank colonel, which was very cool in a number of ways.  I fired my first tank at age ten.  And people would say, “Oh, it must have been terrible to have a tank colonel . . .” No, he was great!  He was fully involved in my life. 

But I remember when I was twelve years old, my dad was in Vietnam for that entire year.  He had been for a year previously when I was younger, but that was a big year.  I’m in sixth grade and my dad’s at war.  But I would get these letters from the battlefield.  He, from the battlefield, would write me a note saying, “Son, I want you to know how much I admire what you are doing.  I’m so proud of what you’re doing.  I heard you made a great play in the game.  I wish I could have been there.”  Just the fact that he was involved in my life and interacting with me. 

He might rebuke me – “Dear Ricky, Your mother has told me that you’ve been fighting with your brother.”  I always say that I was the younger of two boys, and when my dad went to Vietnam I remember him saying, “Jimmy, you’re the man of the house.”  You may note that my name is not Jimmy.  I always say both my father and my brother spent the year in guerilla warfare.


Bob:  Against the rebel.

Rick:  I would get letters from my father, but that’s just one example of how my father, who had every reason to be too busy for me, was deeply involved. 

Let me give you another example, one I think is very important for husbands.  Here’s a question I ask husbands:  “Tell me what’s going on in your wife’s life today.  Tell me her schedule.”  They are clueless.  It’s not trivial information about her – you know, what song does she want to hear.  What is your wife afraid of?  What makes her feel beautiful?  What is she ashamed of?  What is the source of her anxiety? 

We are to know these things, and like a gardener in the garden, we are to be ministering the Word of God.  I have three chapters on marriage in the book as we apply working and keeping.  I apply it to different relationships. 

It is my job as a husband to be emotionally and spiritually nurturing my wife in a cherishing ministry that’s really involved in her life, not in trite ways, but understands her struggles.  Like a gardener, who is growing plants, it’s my job as a husband to be ministering to the spiritual growth of my wife.

Bob:  Let me pull you back to work, though.  Somebody comes up to your church and they are a new couple.  The wife says, “Well, I’m a physician and I work at the hospital and I have this practice.”  And the husband says, “And with her job being so important and so good I stay home.  I take care of the kids, and we’ve found that that really works out okay for us.”  And you say what?

Rick:  Well, we have some examples of that actually in my church.  You know, like everything else, it all depends.  We would not say that a woman cannot have a career.  God may call her to that.  If she has children she is to be a mother and she is to be faithful to her calling as a mother and as a wife.  I will say that as our society becomes more and more flexible in job relationships, it is putting strain on the biblically-designed relationships between men and women. 

I would say to them that they need to be very intentional in obedience to Christ to relate to one another in a biblical way, irrespective of that.  And in some cases it may not be hard.  But there are some cases I know where they actually do it well and the man is the leader of the family and there may be a temporary reason.  You know, a marriage is a team, and there may be times when the guy is out of work, or in his career he has to go back to school.  Look, when I went to seminary my pregnant wife had a job.  But it was very important – and it’s difficult , that’s the thing – but we need to be biblically intentional and I need to still say “Okay, God’s given me the authority of this home, and let me minister in your life, and let me lead you.”

Bob:  And there’s still something in the soul of the man to want to create and to work and to do what God’s put him in the garden to do, right?

Rick:  Well, my wife home schools five children, and I will say, “Honey, if I was doing the homeschooling, sooner or later you would come home to five bloody corpses.”


Rick:  Testosterone, and you have estrogen . . . I mean there is a certain make-up, although I have to say, “Lord, bless her,” because it’s demanding work and she sacrificially serves our family.  It is not easy.  At least as a woman I think she is more equipped for that than I would be.

Dennis:  Okay.  So here you are.  You’re a student of the Bible, you’ve been leading men in your church, you had a father who put you in a tank when you were ten and let you shoot it.

Rick:  It was great.  It was great.

Dennis:  I’m jealous, by the way.  There is a man listening right now, though, who is saying, “I didn’t have a dad like that.  I’m not a student of the Bible yet.  I do long to be that man who, when he looks in the mirror, he respects the man that he sees.”  Where does he start?

Rick:  Well, I think first he starts with his personal relationship to the Lord and his feeding upon the Word of God.  The strength to do any of this is going to come through the Holy Spirit as we walk with God, so we always need to be building ourselves up as men in the sense of being disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dennis:  Yes.

Rick:  So I would say to that man, “Start building yourself up as a Christian. Go to a church that preaches the Word very clearly and has godly worship.  Start reading your Bible daily.  Start praying and growing.”  But then I will say, “God does call you to be a worker and a keeper.  Start taking an interest in the well-being – the emotional, spiritual well-being -- of people you know. 

Maybe you’re not married.  Find someone that you can minister to.  Get involved, and you will find masculinity.  You know, a real man is a tender man who has his arm around somebody’s shoulder and is building them up.  I would say in terms of the working side, especially, I hope that the book helps to show how Genesis 2:15 gives a very clear and direct mandate and these are things that we need to start doing. 

Even if you had the best of fathers – and I really was blessed with a great father – it was the Word of God that really taught me.  I was raised in a church-going family, but it was still the Word of God that had to give me direction.

Dennis:  My encouragement for a man would be to do everything you just said plus one thing.

Rick:  What’s that?

Dennis:  Find a man who models 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be watchful; stand firm in the faith; act like men; be strong; let all that you do be done in love.”  Find a man who is both tough and tender, who knows how to be a man in the biblical sense of the word, and is comfortable with his skin and would put his arm around you as a younger man and coach you and encourage you and pick you up when you fall, and build into your life to help you become the man that God created you to be.

I think one of the most powerful parts of the church is the mentoring that can occur up close and personal, man-to-man, heart-to-heart.  Bob, as you talked about it, opening some books like Rick’s book together and smelling the testosterone (sniff) right there in the middle of the book . . .

Bob:  I’m just thinking – if you got together with either another guy or a group of guys.

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  I’m getting together with a group of guys from church.  We’re going through this book every other week, a couple of chapters at a time, having a great conversation about the themes that are in this book.  It’s helping us think more biblically about our assignment.  I think it’s given us courage as men to be the kind of men, husbands and fathers that God has called us to be in his Word.

We have copies of Rick’s book in our FamilyLife Today resource center.  You can go online at and find out more about The Masculine Mandate by Rick Phillips.  Again the title is The Masculine Mandate and you can go to to request a copy or to order from us online.

You could also call 1-800-FL-TODAY to find out more about the book or to order a copy; 

 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”  Or again, if it’s easier, just go online at 

Let me just say this is a strategic time of year for us here at FamilyLife.  Over the next couple of months the donations that we receive will, in large measure, determine the kind of ministry we’ll be able to do in the year 2011.  It’s during November and December when many of our listeners either go online or call us to make a year-end contribution for this ministry. 

So I want to ask you to pray for us; pray that there would be a generous response from listeners that would enable this program to continue on this local station, would allow us to continue to enhance the website,  If you’re able to help with a donation between now and the end of the year, we would appreciate that as well. 

We are listener-supported, so the funds that we receive from listeners are what make this program possible.  You can go online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation to the ministry.  We do appreciate your support of FamilyLife Today and appreciate your prayers for us as well.

Now, we want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow.  Rick Phillips is going to be here again and we’re going to talk about a man’s relationship with his helpmate, the woman that God has put in his life.  We’ll talk about our assignment as husbands tomorrow, and I hope you can be here with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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