Book Review: The True Measure of a Man by Richard E. Simmons

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The book “The True Measure of a Man” by Richard E. Simmons lll, is a great work rich with biblical principles and practical examples of the contrasting differences between the Christian world view and the U.S. secular worldview. I will focus my net-out of this book on the three most compelling messages that spoke to me through the author’s work. As a man who struggles with people pleasing, and pride, my hope is the author's wisdom on three key topics will act as benchmarks to challenge me to be more Christ-like every day. First is the statement of “Character, wisdom, and love make up the essence of what it means to be an authentic man.”[1] Second deals with “What does humility look like?”[2] And third is the question of “When it gets right down to it, whose opinion of my life matters most?”[3]

“Character, wisdom and love make up the essence of what it means to be an authentic man.”[4]

The author makes some excellent points about how the world can shape and make-up a man’s character if we do not stay on guard. For instance, when we think of character, we generally think of honesty, integrity, diligence, fairness, and selflessness, but at the heart of the biblical view of character is the ability to restrain our desires and as a man grows in character, he builds the muscle of self-restraint.[5] Another good thought on the subject is the idea of how character and reputation relate. We can quickly become consumed with what others think of us.  In this, we can get caught up in image making, impressing others, and winning their approval.[6] When this happens, we are prone to compromising ourselves, and ultimately our reputation will suffer. The author calls us to focus on our character since it is the only aspect of the two, we own. The following is a beautiful point the author makes on the topic:

Again, our reputation is the way other people see us, while our character is who we really are. If the focus of our lives is on the development of our character and the maturing of our souls, then our reputation will take care of itself. Ultimately, we will be known for who we are and not for the impressions we make on others.[7]

If our goal is to become more like Christ, it should be our focus to be as Jesus is and was in his time, for who He is.

On the authors second topic of wisdom, the author's states “Wisdom will enable a man to distinguish between those ideas in life that are true and those that are false”[8]. This statement reminded me of the quote below from Author and Christian Apologist Ravi Zacharias about an excerpt from C.S. Lewis:

“In A Pilgrim’s Regress, C.S. Lewis wrote about a man who ordered milk and eggs from a waiter in a restaurant. After tasting the milk he commented to the waiter that it was delicious. The waiter replied, “Milk is only the secretion of a cow, just like urine and feces.” After eating the eggs he commented on the tastiness of the eggs. Again, the waiter responded that eggs are only a by-product of a chicken. After thinking about the waiter’s comment for a moment the man responded, “You lie. You don’t know the difference between what nature has meant for nourishment, and what it meant for garbage.”[9]

The quote above touches on the similar subject the author states about if we are not careful, the world will feed us a false map about wisdom laden with wrong ideas.[10] Solomon’s words in Proverbs 3:13-18 about wisdom can be summed up by the author in the two lines below:

               She (wisdom) is more precious than jewels.

               And nothing you desire compares with her.

By Solomon’s words, it is indeed tough to argue the pursuit of Biblical wisdom is vital to the maturation of a life focused on serving God honorably. In his last point on wisdom, the author states it needs to be understood that wisdom incorporates judgment as well as morality:

Wisdom is a combination of sound judgement and moral choices; together they complement each other, and consequences from such combined choices will ultimately shape our lives.[11]

He also writes about how wisdom is knowing how things really work and knowing why things happen, and then knowing what to do about it. I am reminded about the quote below from Warren Wiersbe about “knowledge without wisdom” James write about (James 3:13-18):

Knowledge enables us to take things apart, but wisdom enables us to put things together and relate God’s truth to daily life.[12]

I believe this is the kind of wisdom Solomon wrote about in God’s word of which nothing we can desire can compare.

               The capacity to love and be loved through God-honoring friendships with other men is at the heart of the author's message about love. He states friendships with men can bring something into our lives that marriage and family cannot. Through fully transparent, authentic friendships with wise Godly men over the past seven years of being a believer, I am convinced this and what Proverbs 17:17 and 18:24 tell us are truly gifts from the Lord (and can only thank God for the honor of walking with such men as I became a believer).

The author sums up this topic for us well with the following:

So when we think of manhood and masculinity, we should recognize that character, wisdom, and our ability to love others are at the heart of being a man. [13]

What does humility look like?[14]

               Humility is not a popular model exemplified in the business world nor the popular culture of today. And then to correlate humility to the word meek, which as the author describes as rhyming with weak, well, that about explains the world's misunderstanding of the word. When I looked up the word online here is what is being fed to us on the meaning of the word:

               Meek: quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive.[15]

Meek: describes a person who is willing to go along with whatever other people want to do, like a meek classmate who won't speak up, even when he or she is treated unfairly.[16]

It is incredible how great the divide is between the world’s definition and God’s purpose for its meaning. Here are the author's words to help us re frame our definition of Gods intention for meekness:

The word meekness actually comes from the word praus, used to describe a powerful animal that know how to restrain its power. The idea here is that meek and humble people are powerful people, though they do not flaunt their strength and power.[17]

I also appreciate how the author and evangelist John Piper expands on the idea of meekness below:

The quietness and openness and vulnerability of meekness is very beautiful and very painful. It goes against all that we are by our sinful nature. It requires supernatural help.[18]

God desires to gift His people with this supernatural help by providing believers His strength and power for us to become the men He created us to be and the men we want to be. Here are a few paragraphs from the author that expand on the gift he desires for us to receive:

There is a unique word that is very often used in Scripture to describe the power God imparts to us – the word “grace.”[19]

Grace is God’s life in us, where God enables us to do that which we cannot do by ourselves. It is divine enablement. We see its significance in salvation and in our day-to-day living. God makes it very clear: He gives His grace only to humble people (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)[20]

The humble are kind and gentle, but also brave and fearless. If you are to be humble, you cannot have one without the other (Tim Keller). This is where Life’s Great Paradox moves beyond concept into reality, particularly when one begins to live the humble life and begins to experience the extraordinary power God’s grace unleashes in your life. Strength indeed is found in humility, and strength, as Paul so well understood, is a gift of God.[21]

When it gets right down to it, whose opinion of my life matters most?[22]

The author states “Isaiah finds it quite incredible that mankind’s opinion is far more important to us/me than the holy and infinite God (Isaiah 2:22).”[23] Is this true of me? When I act in ways to please people, am I believing their opinion is far more important to me than that of God? I agree with the author's thoughts that it comes down to a matter of humility. Am I willing to humbly submit to serving a holy and infinite God in every area of my life, without questioning, or that of mere humans who are as frail as breadth (Isaiah 2:22 – NLT)? And, do I believe the audience I am performing for is always God, in all situations, circumstances, and opportunities? When I aim to people please rather than serve God, I am not living out the belief that God is my most important audience. I thank God for his grace and mercy as I learn to mature more in this aspect of my walk with him every day.  I am thankful for the author’s leadership to pull us back in this portion of his book to Jesus’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 8 (Luke 8:9-14) as a way to show us “Humility is the lens through which we are able to see God; as we come to know him, it enables us to see ourselves as we really are.[24]” I love these great few paragraphs from the book that I will take away with me as a reminder of my primary and only audience of concern as a fully devout follower of Christ:

Humility is a very natural consequence when Jesus is the primary loyalty in our lives. For when Jesus is in the box, He becomes the number one audience for whom we perform. Human opinion becomes less and less important as we seek to please Him above all others. But ironically, our pride often keeps us from giving Christ the primary loyalty in our lives. In the end, many of us resist God, deliberately choosing to follow our will and our own plans.[25]

Towards the end of his life, C.S. Lewis reached a simple conclusion about the nature of man. In the end, he concluded, there are really only two kinds of people. There are those who surrender themselves to Christ and say: “I want Your will to be done in my life.” Then there are those who choose to go their own way and say: “I want my will to be done in my life. I want to live for me.”[26]

I believe this was the reason for Lewis that the doctrine of hell was so logical and just. He recognized that hell ultimately is the greatest of all monuments to human freedom. God gives all people what they want most, and this is to be free--even if they choose to be free from God Himself.[27]

Conclusion

               After reading this book and writing this net-out for it I was presented with the following question; What is it that shaped my world view of the true measure of a man before being fully convinced of what Jesus did on the cross for you and for me? I grew up in a home filled with loving parents working hard to provide a better life than they had for their children. While love and acceptance was abundant, absolute truths in my home were not built on the bedrock of God’s word (Matthew 7:24) instead; my foundation was built on the quicksand of popular culture. Popular culture fueled by a heavy dose of the narcissistic, ever-changing idols in the arenas of people pleasing, sports, video games, gambling, business, money, materialism, sex and motion pictures. I am thankful for God’s immeasurable Grace to reveal to me through the people of His Church and His everlasting word, I was only “chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11) by seeking life in pop culture idols. Thank you, God and Richard E. Simmons for the book “The True Measure of a Man” as a biblical reference for how ultimately God measures our performance on the stage He created to bring honor and glory only to Himself.


[1] The True Measure of a Man – p. 67

[2] The True Measure of a Man – p. 93

[3] The True Measure of a Man – p. 99

[4] The True Measure of a Man – p. 67

[5] The True Measure of a Man – p. 67

[6] The True Measure of a Man – p. 67-68

[7] The True Measure of a Man – p. 68

[8] The True Measure of a Man – p. 69

[9] https://ironink.org/?p=641

[10] The True Measure of a Man – p. 70

[11] The True Measure of a Man – p. 72

[12] Me Mature, Growing Up In Christ – Warren W. Wiersbe p. 111

[13] The True Measure of a Man – p. 75

[14] The True Measure of a Man – p. 93

[15]https://www.google.com/search?q=meek&oq=meek&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j0j69i60l2j0l2.727j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[16] https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/meek

[17] The True Measure of a Man – p. 93

[18] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-meekness

[19] The True Measure of a Man – p. 94

[20] The True Measure of a Man – p. 94

[21] The True Measure of a Man – p. 95

[22] The True Measure of a Man – p. 99

[23] The True Measure of a Man – p. 99

[24] The True Measure of a Man – p. 99

[25] The True Measure of a Man – p. 102-103

[26] The True Measure of a Man – p. 103

[27] The True Measure of a Man – p. 103