We can learn a lot from reading about the lives of heroic men. Their example goads us to achieve great things in our own lives. But we can also learn from the mistakes of others. The Bible is full of examples of men who fell short of their potential.
We don’t have to get far in the Bible before encountering the first weak man—Adam.
Most people are already familiar with the story of how the serpent convinces Eve, the wife of Adam, to eat of the forbidden fruit:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’
The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’
‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
You may be wondering where Adam was while the serpent was tempting Eve. The Biblical text says he was with her the entire time. Yet he never stepped forward to tell his wife to break off the conversation. Nor did he rebuke the serpent, even though God had given Adam dominion over the entire earth. Instead, he dutifully ate some of the fruit himself in direct disobedience to God.
Theologian Scott Hahn argues that the serpent was much more than just a tiny green snake. He was a dragon. If true, this explains why Adam failed to step forward to protect his wife—he was afraid he would lose his life.
Regardless of the interpretation, the cause of Adam’s fall was his failure to exercise his masculine leadership over his wife. As the head of marriage, he should not have deferred to Eve. Instead, he should have intervened, broken off Eve’s conversation with the serpent, and prevented her from partaking of the fruit even if it meant that he would have to fight a dragon.
The theme of men who are ruined because they fail in their role as leaders in the marriage recurs frequently in the Bible. For example, Samson yields to Delilah, which leads to his capture and death. And Solomon, who was revered as the wisest man in the world, ends badly because he is led astray by his wives.
The lesson from this is that men must be always vigilant in their relationships with their wives. A momentary lapse of leadership can lead to disaster.
King David was certainly not a weak man by any measure. In most respects, he is an ideal male role model. David demonstrated great bravery from his youth when he volunteered to be Israel’s champion against the giant Goliath. Later, David became a great warrior. The Israeli women even sang of his exploits saying, “King Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”
But David did have one moment of weakness. He allowed his lust to get the better of him with regard to a wife of one of his officers.
King David had sent his army to fight the Ammonites while he remained behind in Jerusalem. One evening, David went to the roof of his palace. From there he observed that there was a beautiful woman taking a bath on the roof of her house. The King was immediately smitten and sent messengers to retrieve the woman, who was named Bathsheba. Unfortunately, Bathsheba was already married to Uriah, an officer in David’s army.
David and Bathsheba did what came naturally and he sent her back home. Not long afterward, Bathsheba sent word that she was pregnant with David’s child. Eager to cover up his wrong doing, David called Uriah back from the frontlines hoping that Uriah would sleep with his wife.
However, Uriah, a truly dedicated soldier, pointed out that it would be wrong to enjoy his wife while his brothers were still fighting in the field. That left David in a pickle: if it became clear that Bathsheba was carrying David’s child, David would have been found guilty of adultery.
Rather than risk it, David made matters worse by sending Uriah back to the front. He also told his commander to let Uriah lead a charge on the enemy, but to pull the Israeli troops back thus leaving Uriah exposed. In this way, Uriah was slain.
David’s adultery and subsequent murder of Uriah brought down a heavy punishment from God. Instead of enjoying a prosperous reign, he found himself fighting for his life and his throne against one of his sons.
The truth is that David was played. Bathsheba was clearly trying to entice the King by prancing around naked where she was going to be seen by him. David would have been a lot better off if he had just visited his own harem. Men haven’t changed. All of us are at risk for ruining our reputation if we fail to control our lust.
The last weak man that I want to discuss is the apostle Peter. Unlike Adam and David, Peter’s weakness was not related to women. Instead, Peter’s fault was that wanted to be liked by people too much.
Initially, the Christian church consisted of solely Jewish converts. These Jewish Christians continued to observe all the ceremonial aspects of the Jewish law, including abstaining from certain meats.
When the church expanded to include gentile converts, there was a big controversy within the church: how much of the Jewish law would gentile converts have to observe? There was a church council at Jerusalem where the apostles, including Peter, decided that gentile Christians would not be required to observe the Mosaic law.
When the apostle Peter went to visit the gentile Christians in the city of Antioch, he behaved like them. Consistent with the decision of the Jerusalem council, Peter ate the same food the gentiles did. However, when a delegation of Jewish Christians arrived from Jerusalem, Peter stopped hanging out with the gentiles and resumed his observance of the Jewish law so that he would be liked by his old Jewish friends.
Peter’s behavior made the gentile believers feel like second class citizens. When his fellow apostle Paul got wind of Peter’s hypocritical behavior, he chastised Peter “to his face.” From the biblical testimony, it seems Peter accepted Paul’s criticism with humility.
While the desire to be liked appears to be a minor fault, it may be one of the biggest problem that we face today. The whole SJW movement is based on virtue signaling by people who want to be liked and accepted into the “in crowd.” The conservative political movement gradually sold out all of its principles because its leaders wanted to be liked by progressives. Church leaders soft pedal the difficult parts of Christianity for the same reason. It is fair to say that the inordinate desire to be liked is causing our entire civilization to slouch towards its end.
The Bible is unique because it displays not only the virtues of its characters, but also their faults. Modern men, whether they are believers or not, can find comfort in the fact that even the great heroes were not perfect. But they can also learn from the examples of men like Adam, David, and Peter so that they do not make the same mistakes.
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