Excellent: Proverbs 31

February 21, 2007 — 5 Comments

Biblical womanhood is a topic that many months ago I attempted to take a look at, and sadly failed. It never made it past “draft” on my website, as my thoughts were disconnected, my theology was somewhat (if not completely) shaky, and the post remained completely unfit for publication. I hope to avoid that in the following look at biblical womanhood aided by the Bible, and our good friend Dr. John MacArthur who has helped us down the road of understanding the relationship of man and woman.

As Christians, we are given the mandate from Paul, or rather a command to have the older women teach the younger women to be “workers at home.” That’s a tough pill to swallow in our day and age. It’s something people do not want to hear, and many times label themselves as the exceptions when they are not. I hope that all will prayerfully evaluate their situation, and do what they can to pursue Paul’s teaching.

Now this is a whole new discussion for another time, and it certainly will be discussed at some point. But I think I’ve summed things up. Paul has commanded women to be taught to be “workers at home.” There are certainly exceptions, and I clearly understand that. But we cannot ignore Scripture in the least.

What I really want to take a look at is what the excellent wife looks like, specifically looking at Proverbs 31.

What is an excellent wife? Well, Dr. MacArthur describes the woman in light of the meaning of the Hebrew for “excellent” which means “force” or “strength.” A proper interpretation of the text would lead one to understand that this is a woman who is “strong spiritually, morally, mentally, and physically. This woman makes a difference in society.”

“Her worth is far above jewels,” says the author of the Proverbs 31, King Lemuel.

“Typically men seek a wife for all the wrong reasons,” says MacArthur, “looks, accomplishments, style, success, money, or education. They ought to look for a woman with virtue, strength of character, spiritual excellence, and internal godliness.” I would have to agree with Dr. MacArthur. Looking at the text, we see six specific qualities that characterize the “excellent wife” that men ought to be looking for: character, devotion, generosity, influence, effectiveness, and excellence.

Character

The character of a wife is the first of six qualities that we will be looking at when understanding fully what the excellent wife looks like. King Lemuel speaks of the excellent wife as such.

“The heart of her husband trusts in her,” says verse 11. In this verse we see clearly that husband knows his wife is trustworthy, and is “confident in her faithfulness, integrity, discretion, and care for all his interests (MacArthur).” The result of this trust will be “no lack of gain” because of her superb stewardship. “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Who cannot wish for a companion who does you good and not evil. A wife who is working in her husbands best interest, strengthening him, supporting him, and never speaking evil of him or harming his character in any way, be it in public or private. This devotion and beautiful character never fades.

The husband continues to reap the benefits as he is “known in the gates, when he sites among the elders of the land.” What exactly does this mean?

“That means he is esteemed and respected by his peers, in part because she created a world for him in which he could be everything God wanted him to be.” She is a selfless servant who loves serving her husband. That is a huge task, and not one that is widely accepted in our society. Instead, all of us are encouraged to be our own boss, to rule our own lives, and to submit to no one. This is certainly not what we as Christians should be living as, but rather we should be living as humble servants — whether we be a husband or a wife. I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when the two are married, they become one, therefore giving themselves over to the other. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and the wife is to live and love as the church lives for and loves Christ. This relationship is to illustrate His love for the church.

“God invented romance and pursuit and the promise of undying love between a man and a woman so that throughout our lives we could catch a faint glimmer of the intense love Christ has for those He died to save,” Josh Harris notes in Stop Dating the Church, “What passion He has for the church!” [2]

A strong “amen” to that. This relationship is astounding, and we must understand the context in light of the Gospel.

Devotion

This woman is a woman of strong devotion to her family. She is one who cares for the needs of her family, be it clothing or food, and does it with care and skill. She does not do it without thought and preparation, but is a skilled planner and manager of her home. Verse 15 also states that she “rises also while it is still night, and gives food to her household, and portions to her maidens.” John MacArthur notes that in those days the family would keep a small lamp burning throughout the night. In order to keep the lamp burning, someone had to wake up in the middle of the night to place more oil in the lamp. The wife would take this responsibility in order to allow her family to sleep. When she was done with that, she didn’t head back to bed, but instead went to preparing the meal for the day. Her sacrifice and devotion are great.

“Feminists and others who claim that the role of a homemaker is demeaning to women never understood Proverbs 31. A homemaker has to combine elements of an economist, administrator, and business manager to analyze available products, exercise wisdom and foresight to make intelligent purchases, and assign tasks to her household labor force. At the same time she has to fulfill her responsibilities as a wife to her husband and provide loving care to all her children,” MacArthur reminds us. Not only this, but she is an entrepreneur (v. 16) and a woman who is strong and has much energy — which seems to be essential to this ultimate job. And in the end, she is satisfied and fulfilled. She is prepared (v. 21) and chooses to be a woman of “graceful simplicity.” (v. 22) She is “grateful for the external beauty with which God has blessed her” so “she dresses in such a way that will show off her beauty to her husband.” Yet she does not overdo it, and remains graceful and simple.

Generosity

Not only does this woman care for the needs of her own family, but is one who “stretches her hands to the needy” by personally reaching out to them in their distress. This is astounding! She cares not only for her own family, but for those she comes in contact with. Such humility and grace are hard to find in our world pervaded by feminism, as well as the general thought pattern that we deserve all we have–and there is no reason to share it with others. If only we all were like this woman — yet sadly, we as human beings continue to fall short.

Influence

This woman is not shut up in her house, unable to affect the world in any way. Her spiritual character is strong, and she maintains a high quality life. She works with her children, raising them in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) and works to manage her home in order that her husband can be a man of God. She “opens her mouth in wisdom” says verse 26. The “teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Her words are gracious, edifying, and mitering to those who hear her. She is shaping and molding the next generation — something so important, we cannot give enough gratitude for their work.

Effectiveness

“She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” She overcomes the temptations of laziness and understands that “true fulfillment” as MacArthur reminds us “can only come from a supreme effort.” When her children grow older, the fruits of her labor will be reaped as she is blessed in her old age. Not only that, but her husband will tell her that she is the best of all women — her ultimate reward.

Excellence

“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised,” says King Lemuel, “Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

“When a man fears and loves God, he’s in the best circumstances,” says Dr. MacArthur. “And if he thinks she is beautiful at first, she’ll become more beautiful to him with every passing year.” She is an excellent wife. What more can I say except that this does not stop here? The husband must do his part of the job, or Proverbs 31 is only a nice Hebrew proverb. The excellent husband must support his excellent wife. Let us all strive to be excellent in all we do.


[1] “Onward Women” Dec. 4, 1989, 85.
[2] Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris pg. 30.

Tim Sweetman

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Tim Sweetman is a 22-year-old writer, blogger, and student who lives near our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. He has been much more widely known by his “code-name,” Agent Tim. This name also served as the name of his popular blog, which received over 750,000 visits between 2005 to 2007. In 2005, he quickly rose to become a leading teenage spokesperson and cultural critic within the booming blogosphere, taking on issues such as MySpace, alcohol, homeschooling, pride, racism, tolerance, and other topics relating to our culture today. His blog has come to the attention of people such as Albert Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Alex and Brett Harris, and La Shawn Barber. Tim’s written work has appeared in Lifeway’s Living With Teenagers (February 2012), Lookout Magazine, FUSION Magazine, The Brink Online, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Virtue Magazine, Regenerate Our Culture Online Magazine, and on many other blogs and websites across the internet like Marry Well and the Lies Young Women Believe Blog. He has also been featured in WORLD Magazine, The Towers Magazine, and Maryland Newsline. He is scheduled to have an article appear in Veritas Magazine this December. Most recently, his work can be found on Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine. His personal interests include writing (surprise!) and sports, both watching and playing. He is a die-hard Washington Redskins fan.

5 responses to Excellent: Proverbs 31

  1. I liked your post Tim. It’s good to see guys that really value the Proverbs 31 woman. Especially in the midst of all the feminist ideas floating around – it’s really sad that she doesn’t seem to be valued very much anymore.

  2. Wow. Excellent post, Tim! I truly appreciate it.

  3. Well Agent Tim, my parents would never confine me to “the home,” because they recognize that talent, interests and ability are not defined by gender.

    And the following is off-topic, but I am on a strict Saturday night time limit, and must make it short and encompassing.

    I “am” another girl who can “actually write,” but my folks do not believe it is appropriate for me to have my own “blog” at my age.

    They do believe that is critical that their daughters reach for their dreams and fulfill their potential. I have two sisters in pre-med, and I am going to be a vet. My younger sisters are also critter-crazy.

    Not all homeschooling parents think that the wider world should be closed to their daughters.

    And in terms of the marital relationship, my Dad says that “obedience” is for children and pets, not wives. My Mom just smiles knowingly.

    I thought you should know that the homeschooling movement is made up of people from all walks of Christian life, and that the impression that homeschoolers are, among other issues, all about enforcing specific gender roles… harms the cause.

    The homeschooling movement will always be mistrusted by the wider world if the plan is to limit us girls.

    Just thought you should know.

    Molly

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