Men (Not) at Work: Protecting Our Sons from a Dangerous Trend

Every Dad has his Dad-isms, i.e., things that he repeats over and over to his children, often much to their chagrin. Since my firstborn son was little, I’ve made it clear in no uncertain terms that my expectation both for him and all my boys is that they will one day get a J-O-B. I always spell it out, and I bring it up almost every time they talk about something that involves money (“Dad, do you think I could ever get _________?” “Sure, when you get a J-O-B”). Occasionally I’ll also tie it together with the process of maturing (“You’ve got to grow up and get a J-O-B”) or other milestones in life (“First a J-O-B, then a W-I-F-E”). My aim in doing this is not (just) to get the eye rolls and “awe, dad’s,” but to normalize the idea of working for my children’s future.

Work isn’t just a practical necessity for men; it’s God’s design for men. Work was intended to be a part of life for the very first man in the paradise of Eden (Genesis 2:15). When Adam and Eve were forced out of the garden because of sin, God told Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). This mandate is echoed in Paul’s words, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). A Christian man discovers an added opportunity to bring glory to God by working “heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

As with all aspects of God’s design, the idea of a working man is under attack by Satan. An economist named Nicholas Eberstadt recently documented the fact that in the United States there are 7 million men who are able bodied but neither work nor are seeking work.[1] Instead of working, they are playing videogames, watching pornography, and/or doing drugs.

Across the pond in Japan, this trend is so common among men that they have a name for it: hikikomori, which literally refers to one who withdraws from society. Researchers at Kyushu University in Japan have studied those who have given themselves over to this lifestyle and discovered a dangerous corollary: a steep drop in testosterone. Studies elsewhere increasingly link low testosterone in males with anti-social behaviors, depression, poor learning ability and memory, and even poor moral judgment and decision making. Far from being a toxin that must be purged from males’ systems like director James Cameron said it was, testosterone is vital not just in creating men but in creating good men. And, as the research suggests, rebellion against God’s design for work is robbing it from men.

Aside from using Dad-isms, how can those of us who are parents encourage work in our boys and keep them from Satan’s devices? First, I’d recommend that you make work a part of the fabric of life by giving your sons daily jobs to perform. Don’t fall into the trap of doing everything for your sons either out of love for them or simply because it’s easier than having to guide them in the right way of doing each task. Find age-appropriate tasks for them and hold them accountable for completing them.

Second, I’d recommend that you remove incentives from daily or weekly chores. Remember, work existed in the garden before need even existed. It’s normal and healthy to work, and it is a natural part of living in a family. While your sons will one day be able to work for pay, their future will be full of work and other tasks for which they will not be paid. If they learn to work for the sake of working, both these tasks and working in general will be infinitely easier.

Third, I’d recommend that you involve your sons in the work you do both as observers and participants. I’m not really thinking so much here about the “bring your son to work day” kind of thing as much as having your boys alongside of you as you do household chores and, importantly, as you do evangelistic and benevolent work on behalf of Jesus. Not only will this be good for them, but it will also actually help my first two suggestions go more smoothly.

Edwin Louis Cole rightly said, “Being a male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of choice.” If, you’re reading this as a man, embrace the way God designed you. If you’re reading this as a parent of boys, help your sons become who they ought to be in their future by helping them to obey Paul’s command to “act like men” today (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV, NASB).  
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org
[1] Research information gleaned from https://nypost.com/2023/06/05/us-men-falling-victim-to-japans-anti-social-hikikomori-trend/
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