Who Said It First?
“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
It’s a pretty well-known idiom. It’s been credited to everyone from John Steinbeck to John Wayne. But who said it first? I have no idea. I’ve searched the internet – which is the fountain of all knowledge, correct? – and have found plenty of opinions, but no definitive answers.
What I do know for a fact is that my own father used to say, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do when a man’s gotta do it.” That’s where I first heard it. My dad was my source.
But you’ve gotta admit, it sounds like something John Wayne would say.
From the Pulpit
I think the reason the “A man’s gotta..” phrase sounds so much like John Wayne is that it’s a statement only a real man would make. It’s the kind of thing a tough man, a rugged man, the kind of man that takes responsibility for his actions would say.
It’s also the thing a preacher might say. Not the milk-toast, yellow-spined, liberal, crowd-pleasing hireling of a preacher or pastor; he wouldn’t dare ruffle a feather. No, it’s the thing a John Wayne, Sam Elliot, Jack Bauer, of a preacher would say. It’s the thing my dad would and did say. It’s what I’m saying.
And if you’re a preacher worth you’re salt, you’d better say it, too…or a least a variation of the theme.
“A man’s gotta preach what a man’s gotta preach when a man’s gotta preach it.”
Real men do what they have to do. Real men do what’s necessary, even when it’s not pleasant. Real men look a challenge in the eye, grit their teeth, and plow forward. Real men do things others are not willing to do, even when it hurts – because it’s gotta get done.
The Prophet Malachi was a man who had to preach what needed to be preached, even though no one wanted to hear it. It was the “burden of the word of the LORD” that he had to deliver to a people who’s worship was tainted, second-rate, and offensive to God. But it wasn’t pleasant; it wasn’t nice; it was the least seeker-friendly thing a man could say.
“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.” – Malachi 1:10 NLT
What??? What did he say??? Yes, he said it. With true grit the prophet essentially proclaimed, “It would be better that we close the church doors and go home than continue with the worthless stuff we’ve been doing – God ain’t happy!”
Preaching the tough stuff isn’t for wimps. People may get mad at you. They may even try to shoot you – no joke. But if there was ever a John Wayne-like preacher, it was the Apostle Paul.
Imagine old Paul, dusty from a long cattle run, sitting on the ground and leaning back on his saddle, cleaning his Colt six-shooter. It’s late in the evening, the fire is crackling, beans are simmering, and Paul clears his throat.
“Timothy…” he begins, then after a pause, “Boy, let me give you some advice: ‘Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine‘” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Timothy tilts his hat back a little to expose his forehead, then leans in and asks, “What will people think? It could get tough doing that all the time.”
“Yeah,” replies the old Apostle with a nod and a painful, grimaced look that came from years of experience, “But sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”