If you own a home, you understand the second law of thermodynamics: entropy. The degradation of matter and energy. Yes, home ownership is a blessing—but it is also work. Why? Because everything breaks down.
This is not true of the spirit realm. Yet God, a Spirit Being, created physical material to decay and return to dust. It happens to our homes, our gardens, our possessions, our vehicles, even our bodies.
Why did God create matter this way? Because it requires us to take care of these things, to preserve and protect them. In making us perform regular maintenance, God is teaching us a lesson.
A household requires a lot of maintenance work. It starts with routine day-to-day tasks such as cleaning dirty dishes, dusty floors and soiled clothing. On top of that are the demands of more involved maintenance—changing the oil, winterizing equipment, repairing plumbing, replacing electrical fixtures and so on. Traditionally there has been somewhat of a delineation between what is considered “woman’s work” and everything else, although there are differing ideas of just where that line is. The truth, however, is that there is justwork—work that needs to be done. A man delegates some of it to his wife, who is his helpmeet (not his slave—Genesis 2:18), in accordance with the instruction that women be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5). Still, in times when a woman is unable to work due to sickness, a new baby or other reasons, or not even in the picture, that work becomes the man’s responsibility. It should not go undone.
God commands us to maintain what He blesses us with, and for centuries this principle of maintenance has been a responsibility of manhood.
The Slothful Man
“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction” (Proverbs 24:30-32).
Even a slothful man can come to possess a field and a vineyard. “What a man acquires doesn’t matter much, for goods may come by work, gifts, or just being in the right spot at the right time,” Bob Schultz wrote. Obtaining a possession might not require money, and it certainly does not require virtue. “What he does with what comes is a test that reveals his outlook on life, good and God. The getting isn’t hard, the keeping is” (Created for Work; emphasis added throughout).
It is easier to open a checking account than to keep it balanced. It is easier to buy a nice car than to keep a car nice. It is easier to get happily married than to stay happily married.
The author of this proverb knew this field owner was lazy and ignorant, though he didn’t even meet him. How could he have such insight into this man’s character? It was reflected in his property.
Perhaps this field owner was like so many of us today: so prosperous that we just tend to accumulate more and more stuff. And our tendency is to allow that stuff to deteriorate, because we have other stuff, and we can always buy more stuff if we have to.
Look around: Is your life full of stuff? For each object you accumulate, you have three options: let it break down, get rid of it—or maintain it.
Many of us probably need to choose the second option more frequently. Don’t just let stuff come into your life and pile up. When you, your wife or your children want to acquire something, ask yourself more than just, Can we afford the money to buy it? Also ask yourself, Can I afford the time to maintain it?
When you own something, the duty to maintain it comes with it.
Limit your possessions to what you can take care of. If you can’t afford the time or resources to maintain it, you are better off not acquiring it in the first place—or, if you already have it, getting rid of it. This is not a “throwaway” mentality; it is the opposite. The throwaway mentality is what leads to acquiring piles of stuff inside a house in disrepair with an overgrown yard. You may need to purge a lot of possessions to start: sell, donate or even discard. But moving forward, the manly mentality is to keep and preserve what you have, and to abstain from acquiring something new unless you intend to keep and preserve it.
Dress and Keep
When God created the first man, He gave him a job in Eden: to dress and keep the garden. This physical type has a spiritual parallel. Relationships need attention and work—maintenance. 1 Timothy 3’s qualifications for a minister include “[ruling] well his own house.” He cannot be a man who just married a wife: He must be working to preserve and enhance that marriage. He cannot be a man who has just sired children: He must be actively attending to and working on raising those children into godly adults. He must not simply be in God’s Church: He must be fostering his spiritual life by going to God to eradicate every mental and spiritual thorn and nettle—and then to pull all the new weeds the next day!
God is using the maintenance mindset to build your character to think like Him. He is Creator and Sustainer. He maintains what He creates. He created all things, and “by him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17; rsv). Read Psalm 147—it is an inspiring homage to the great Sustainer. It shows how detailed is God’s work of preserving and maintaining His creation.
God “preserves what He creates by His government,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in The Incredible Human Potential. “What God creates, He has created for a purpose—to be used, preserved and maintained. And this use is regulated by God’s government.” He describes the wreck that resulted when Lucifer and his angels rebelled, and God’s government was no longer present on Earth to tend and care for it. Everything decayed (Genesis 1:2). “God is Creator, Preserver and Ruler,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Satan is destroyer!”
Little wonder that in Satan’s world, the tendency and pressure to ignore maintenance and “just buy another one” is so strong.
Reject that mindset; learn to think like God, care like God and work like God. See the wonderful vision contained in the simple yet important responsibility of looking after your things.
What to Do Right Away
Here are actions you can take right now to become a maintenance man.
Inventory the things you own. Look around: Are these vehicles, appliances, furnishings, housewares and other items in good working order? If not, ask yourself: Fix it, or purge it? Remember the principle of Proverbs 24: What is the state of your possessions saying about the state of your character?
Make a checklist. Consider using or adapting the ArtofManliness.com version, “Keep Your House in Tip-Top Shape: An Incredibly Handy Home Maintenance Checklist.” It constitutes a comprehensive and helpful year-round plan for maintaining your home. If this looks daunting, don’t give up. You can learn these skills!
Start with one skill. Take one step toward learning a new manual skill. For an idea on what to start with, look around the house to see what is broken. This will give you a skill that is immediately needful and will provide real, hands-on practice right away. Here are some possibilities: change your car’s oil, replace some old grout, fix a leaky faucet, install a ceiling fan, tune your bike, fell a tree, wire a light, lay tile, replace your brakes, solder an electronic component, landscape your driveway, plant a garden, or go out to your yard and clear the nettles thereof.
Get help. Online step-by-step tutorials and videos are available in abundance, not to mention the how-to section at your local library or bookstore. If you’re still overwhelmed, ask someone you know who is handy. He learned it from someone else; you can do the same. Family members or friends will likely be happy to show you how to do it. You might take a course at your local technical college. If you have to hire someone, be there when he is doing it, and ask if he would be willing to show you what he is doing.
Learning to become a maintenance man involves more than one project. It is a mindset that will benefit you for the rest of your life, physically and spiritually. So even if you feel intimidated at first, go for it anyway: Embrace your manly duty, and become a maintenance man.