Part of Mark’s challenge to the 900 plus men who attended the ‘300 Men For Jesus’ night was for men to start taking responsibility over their lives. Mark cited recent Australian statistics to the effect that Australian men now live at home until the average age of 25 and do not get married until they are 32. His conclusion in relation to these statistics was that Australian men are delaying growing up and taking responsibility for as long as they can. To bolster his argument he said that by the time he was 25 he was already married with children and starting a church plant.
This challenge struck a particular chord with many of the guys I know that night. Some were challenged to find work to stop living off their parents. Others reacted strongly against the suggestion that men should not be living at home after the age of 18. Still, others took it with a grain of salt knowing that, culturally, it’s more acceptable for Chinese people (even Australian Born Chinese – ABC) to live at home until you are married (like I did).
But that got me thinking as to whether or not our (Chinese) cultural assumption is biblical at all. Certainly in scripture there is no defining point at which one becomes an adult. Ephesians 6 encourages the fathers to ‘bring up’ children in the discipline of the Lord, which leads to the conclusion that there is a point in which fathers no longer ‘bring up’ children. John Stott in his BST Ephesians commentary adds that whilst we don’t normally read our cultural understandings into the bible passages we are reading, he believes that because Paul’s word usage is so general that Paul would allow for culture to dictate how one defines a ‘child’.
I’ve heard it said that in Australian culture you are a ‘child’ until you turn 18, at which point your parents (historically) encouraged you to move out and get a job. With university and further education becoming increasingly popular that age has been shifted back a little – perhaps 22 or 23. Adulthood in an Australian context is achieved once you have a job and have exercised independence by moving out of home.*
For Asians, however, I’ve heard it said that you are a child until you get married. So adulthood is reached upon marriage. Adulthood is not thrust upon a child by the parents gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) prodding out of the family nest, but when that child reaches for the independence found in marriage.**
Which leads me to the thought as to what should an ABC be doing between the ‘just graduated from uni/starting a new job’ period in their life to ‘getting married’. Mark would say they should have a job, should have moved out, started looking for a wife and serving within their church. The longer you delay these steps the harder it essentially is for young men to be a part (let alone interested) of a church. The largest population of people who don’t go to church are young men between the ages of 18-35. The reason Mark gives: they aren’t growing up quickly enough to want to take responsibility. Men need to be encouraged to exercise godly dominion, in their lives, in their homes and in the church.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and examine this from our church perspective. How many single guys, aged 18-35, are there in our church? Now how many of them are actively serving within the church? How many of those who are not active still live at home?
But what if it’s culturally appropriate for a young, single, ABC man to be living at home even whilst they are working? Initially I’d say it is, however there are a few other excuses as to why some ABC’s continue living at home. Excuses which I’d say are characteristic of the type of man Mark Driscoll wants to hammer.
I have everything I need at home – meals cooked for me, laundry done for me, cheap rent (if at all), bills paid…etc
This caricature is often a lot more subtle. It’s very hard work living on your own and doing things to sustain your life – doing the dishes, washing your own clothes, paying the rent/mortgage and the bills. The fear of these things is only quashed when a man decides to pluck up enough courage and get out there.
I saw a documentary once of a social worker who was helping a particular group of refugees. These refugees weren’t Asian, but their culture had left some devastating consequences for their men. The social worker was finding that even though the refugees were set up with a fridge full of food and a simple home to live in, after a week they were starving. None of the men knew how to cook or look after themselves because culturally they had been conditioned to learn that cooking and cleaning were women’s/wives jobs.
Are our men the same? I’m not expecting guys to cook like Jamie Oliver, but if you want to grow in taking up responsibility, cooking for yourself is one place to start.
It’s too expensive to move out and buy a home.
Firstly, who said you have to buy a home? The issue here is not home ownership, but growing up and taking responsibility. If you’re single, working and on a wage of more than $35k a year renting is not going to kill you. Sure, rent money is dead money (as ‘they’ say) but if it means you’re getting out of home and growing in exercising godly dominion then consider it an investment into your godliness as a man.
I’m not moving out because I’m not getting married yet. Why do I need to find a wife? I might have the gift of singleness…
I heard this one more recently – the idea that since getting married means moving out of home, not desiring marriage = not having to move out.
Gifts are always given to us for the good of the body. Marriage is a gift because, as Mark said, it is there to make us holy (not happy). Singleness is a gift also – but it’s not a gift purely for our own sake, it’s there to allow us to serve better and fuller. For instance, I was told recently that bible college students are told that if they are single more is expected of them. And it’s true – if you’re single you don’t have the cares and worries of this world (as Paul notes in 1 Cor 7). Jesus was single, the Apostle Paul was single, John Stott and John Chapman are single. But in each case look at what they did/are doing. The gift of singleness is not simply a lack of desire for wanting marriage. It’s being able to more fully devote yourself to the work of the Lord.
This last point I won’t call an excuse. It’s a valid reason for some to still live with their parents: my parents expect me to look after them when they are old/I have relatives I need to care for. I want to first say that this is a great exercise in responsibility for carers. It is very godly to take care of the elderly and there is much that the family of God should be doing to assist.
So what excuses do you have left?
* On a tangential note, whilst in High School (and bored) I picked up Bill Cosby’s ‘Fatherhood’ to have a read. It was quite an entertaining book with the wit that I became accustomed to listening to Bill Cosby whilst I grew up in the 80’s. Cosby is also a big fan of pushing the kids out the door (and never letting them back in!) when your children reach ‘adulthood’.
** This is probably the cause of most conflicts between OBC parents and ABC children. An ABC spends most of their waking hours learning how to reach for independence. An OBC parent expects their kids to remain submissive to their parent’s wishes until they get married. Conflicts generally occur at the later university stage of life when ABC’s start to exercise independence (going out more + spending less time at home) but the OBC parent considers this behaviour to be unruly and offensive to their parental provisions of home and food (ie – treating your home like a hotel: you only come back to eat and sleep). So you’ll often hear complaints that their ‘child’ is out too often and not doing things like seeking a job, finding a wife/husband and settling down. Who is right or wrong? No-one really. Both the OBC parent and the ABC child need to understand each other’s culture. The OBC needs to recognise that their culture is not exactly shared with their children and the ABC ‘child’ needs to ensure that they are home enough to respect their parents by showing love and honour.