Gravitas isn’t a word often used in today’s vocabulary, which truly is a shame. The word carries, well, a sense of gravity—a weightiness and heaviness. It is defined today as, “dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner.” Gravitas brings depth and weight. More importantly, gravitas is a biblical concept.
The Hebrew word that holds the same linguistic character as gravitas is Kabed (כָּבֵד). This word means “to be heavy; honored.” It is where we get the word “glory.” Kabed can be used to describe the weight of sin, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave” (כָּבֵד). The word is also used to describe Pharaoh’s hardening of his heart, God glorified, Jacob honored, honoring our father and mother, and the glory of the LORD. Kabed is a very expressive and versatile word.
Someone who lacks gravitas is whimsical to a fault, makes everything a joke, and fails to see the weight behind life and faith. Another word for this is frivolity. Or, as Solomon wrote, everything is vanity. If you swing the pendulum to the other side you find one who holds a false gravitas, that is, a harsh, joyless demeanor which condescends to anyone who doesn’t behave the same. The first cannot see the danger in sin, the other is unable to see the damage of legalism.
Today’s men struggle with striking a balance between frivolity and harshness, and as a result, often fall into frivolity. This can be easily proven. Turn on any sit-com and describe the father. Most often he is, well, a “dud” to put it mildly. This is especially true in children’s cartoons and movies. There is a warning here: the things we laugh with will become the things we love. The world loves men who lack gravitas. But, the church needs men who have gravitas, because the Word has gravitas; because God’s image-bearers are to be like their heavenly Father, who demands gravitas:
“Remove your sandals, for the ground on which you stand is holy ground” ( Ex. 3:5). “Let the LORD be glorified” (Is. 66:5).
“Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD” (Hag. 1:8).
Gravitas is expected.
We need men leading their families with gravitas.
We need Christians who understand the weight of sin (כָּבֵד) and thus treat sin with Kabed.
The church fails to be faithful when it considers sin to be light and weightless. This is the mindset of frivolity.
Friends, reclaim gravitas in Word, worship, and life.