What man wouldn't want a fantastic wife like the Proverbs 31 woman? But what kind of man deserves such a woman?
Almost every man has dreamed of being married to the Proverbs 31 woman that near-super heroine who seems to be able to do it all. She is totally capable, yet submissive to her husband. She is highly intelligent, yet clothed with humility. Many men have read this chapter of the Bible and longingly wondered if such a woman has ever lived. But few men have ever stopped to ponder what kind of man deserves such a woman. They may fantasize about how wonderful it would be to be married to this vision of true womanhood, but they have probably never analyzed whether they would be worthy of her. Do you think the proverbial "macho," domineering, male-chauvinist type really deserves the woman depicted in Proverbs 31? Or how about the lily-livered, weak-kneed mouse? Could such an introvert ever achieve happiness and properly lead the capable woman of Proverbs 31? Men, it's high time to stop worrying about where this wonderful wife is and become far more concerned about becoming a Proverbs 31 husband. In fact, if there were more Proverbs 31 husbands, there would be more Proverbs 31 wives. What kind of husband would it take to lead, love, provide for and protect this outstanding woman we read about in Proverbs? At first you might think of a dominant, prominent, self-confident man whose wife trails five paces behind him - meek, quiet, seen but seldom heard. But that's not how this woman is depicted. The Proverbs 31 woman is capable. Confident. Heard as well as seen. Respected. Known. Any man married to a woman this intelligent, proficient and loving does not hide her in a tent. He shouts her praises for all to hear - he wants the world to know that the epitome of femininity, grace and talent is personified in his wonderful wife. Let's take a fresh look at Proverbs 31, this time to see what kind of man leads and provides for the Proverbs 31 woman.
A successful man
Certainly, whoever the Proverbs 31 woman was, she has provided the finest example for every woman to emulate. But Solomon, the author of most of the Proverbs, probably did not have a wife like this. Among his 300 wives and 700 concubines, it is doubtful that there was a woman of this kind of love and wisdom. Solomon probably didn't even know anyone of his wives well enough to write such a complimentary chapter. The Proverbs 31 woman – and the Proverbs 31 husband – remain buried in anonymity. We just don't know who they were. But this woman does seem practically perfect. And the man? Well, we may not have given much attention to him. But he himself must have been a person of great ability, outgoing concern and wisdom. Hidden between the lines of the verses in Proverbs 31 we see a man who must have provided a far-better than - average living for his family. Read verse 23: "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land." The husband of Proverbs 31 was respected in the community. He sat with the wise of the city and possessed wisdom and ability. He earned the respect of his peers as well as that of his wife and family. In addition, he achieved a measure of financial success. Notice verse 15: "She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens." The woman described in this verse is full of diligence and zeal, rising before the rest of her family to help prepare them for the day. But have you ever noticed that this household has, to put it in modern paraphrase, full-time hired help? Read it again: " ... and a portion to her maidens." This family's success has made it possible for help to be provided, which, in turn, makes it possible for the wife to achieve her maximum potential. The Proverbs 31 wife is not constantly "barefoot and pregnant" - she is not a poverty-laden scrubwoman eking out a bare existence in a ramshackled hut on the wrong side of town. The Proverbs 31 husband has provided an environment in which his wife can reach her full capabilities.
A person of service
I have known of more than one man who has browbeat his wife with Proverbs 31:15. "Get up woman," he slurs sleepily. "Why can't you rise up like that Proverbs 31 woman?" Certainly, Proverbs 31 shows a diligent wife responding to the needs of her household. She does rise early and she does have everything ready to make the beginning of the day enjoyable for everyone, including the live in help her husband has provided. It seems many men feel the woman should be up early in the morning getting all the chores done in addition to providing the nourishing breakfast the family needs for a proper start. Monetary wealth did not go to this woman's head. She had not become lazy merely because maidens had been provided. In fact, she felt a responsibility to everyone in the household, including the hired help. But part of her responsibilities must have included outlining duties and projects for her maidens throughout the day. She was responsible for the household organization and operations. There is yet another hint of the family's financial stability in verse 21: "She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet." Garments of substantial quality are here depicted. The children were not in torn and tattered rags. This family had no fear of the bitter colds of winter. The Proverbs 31 woman purchased quality garments or made them with her own hands. Throughout this inspiring chapter we find that this superwoman is constantly a person of service. Notice verse 20: "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy." She is a woman of accomplishment. Her family is provided with the finest quality clothing and food. She has maidservants. She also has time available, and she uses her time to the best possible advantage - not lying by the pool on a sunny afternoon, whiling away countless hours, or sitting glued to a television screen keeping up with the latest intrigue and drama of soap operas. And she spends much of her time in service. You see, she and her husband have both developed their potentials to help and serve in addition to taking care of their own family's needs.
Mutual trust and respect
One of the most vital elements in a successful marriage is trust and respect. The Proverbs 31 husband please note it - totally trusts his wife. How many women today have received the respect and trust they deserve? Greed, jealousy, mistrust and a host of wrong emotions dominate many marriages. How does the Proverbs 31 husband regard his wife in this area? Read it in verses 11 and 12: "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." Trust and respect are a two-way street. The wife's conduct certainly must be worthy of respect. But it is the husband who must give the trust. And how about a word of praise now and then? One of the Proverbs states, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Prov. 25:11). How is this for a word fitly spoken? "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." How about it, husbands? When was the last time you said, "Honey, that was a super job"? When was the last time you complimented your wife on a well-cooked meal? Or a clean and neat house? Or the extra time she spent helping a sick neighbor? Unfortunately, most of the time, the good deeds and hard work go unnoticed - certainly uncomplimented. You men would like a Proverbs 31 wife? Then, first, you be a Proverbs 31 husband! Trust, respect and praise for your wife - these are important qualities of the Proverbs 31 husband.
She has ability
Until late in this century, many societies have presumed that men were superior to women in every way. In The Good News we have been publishing a series of articles, largely directed to women (but, it is hoped, read by all members of God's Church), in which we have emphasized that God did not make superior and inferior when He made male and female. He did make woman "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23). And He made male and female "heirs together of the grace of life" (I Pet. 3:7). God did make male and female different. Man was not complete as male alone (Gen. 2:18). Different, yes. But one better than the other? By no means. However, God created man male and female, each with separate responsibilities to perform. Each was to achieve the fullest potential possible. There is not superior and inferior. This has never been understood in the history of mankind. Don't get the idea we have leaped over to the side of the "liberated woman." The Bible offers a great deal of instruction relevant to husbands and wives. There is male and female. There is breadwinner and homemaker. In past articles in The Good News, we showed how God designed a way in which each of us, male or female, can develop our ultimate potential. We showed that the calling of the "average, everyday housewife" is just as great as that of a corporate president. By emphasizing the capabilities of a Proverbs 31 woman, we do not want to swing like the proverbial pendulum far to the left of the God-inspired and created purpose for male and female - husband and wife. But you just cannot relegate the Proverbs 31 woman to the backseat. She is not an ignorant, uneducated, unmotivated, unsophisticated wench. Rather, she is an intelligent, capable, cultured, industrious woman who compliments her husband's successes. She cares for her children personally. She works hard. She has developed a sense of personal confidence that has made her individually successful as a person, a wife, a mother and a home manager and in appropriate personal business affairs. If there are any male chauvinists reading this article, I imagine they have not read this far. If they have, these statements might be the final straw that breaks the camel's back. "Do you mean to say," the male chauvinist may ask, "a woman can have personal business dealings? A woman?" Yes, a woman can be successful in appropriate personal business dealings - that's what it says in the Bible. Look at the principle in Proverbs 31. First, verse 24, "She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant." In addition, notice verse 16: "She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard." Many, many women have good business heads. They have the ability to turn their time into profits and to be of service to their families and others. That does not mean this Proverbs 31 woman went off to become a major corporate executive. She did not leave her children in a day-care center from the time they were 6 weeks old forward. She did not travel far and abroad leaving her family behind in some sort of role reversal, with her as breadwinner and her husband a "househusband." The Proverbs 31 woman, obviously, first and foremost has an allegiance and sense of responsibility to her husband and family and maidens. But can you see what kind of family this is? The husband's education, prestige and success have afforded many opportunities for the family. The wife has been able to fulfill her duties as a wife and mother and at the same time develop her personal skills. How many men today have achieved a sense of personal strength and worth such that they do not feel intimidated when their wives develop skills? How many husbands have confidence in their wives' ability to "consider a field and buy it"? The Proverbs 31 husband has encouraged his wife's personal development and has demonstrated confidence in her abilities. He is proud of her accomplishments.
A negative example
Sometime back a lady in God's Church came to me for counsel and advice. Her marriage to a member of the Church had ended tragically in despair, heartache and, ultimately, divorce. She wanted me to help her husband and other men in God's Church see that there is more to the woman's function in marriage than mop handles and dirty diapers. In this sad case, the lady involved had tremendous talent in art. She had the ability to paint and the personality and skill to market her paintings and profit from her talent. But her husband forbade her to paint and ordered her to do nothing more than cook the meals, clean the house, have babies and work in the yard. This was his mistaken impression of what God wanted a woman to be. He not only refused to let his wife sell her paintings, but he even commanded her not to paint at all. In the course of time, the husband's inability to see his wife's need to use her talents brought only heartache and misery. The marriage ended in divorce. This lady did not want to become a big art tycoon - she did want to express herself in her paintings and to be able to sell a few now and then. But her husband just wouldn't let her. He was not a Proverbs 31 husband. He didn't praise her abilities and skills. He did not permit development of those talents as he provided the proper direction and framework for the family.
See both sides
Perhaps while you have been reading this article you have opened your Bible to Proverbs 31 and read verses in it. I would like to ask you to stop reading the article right now and read through the entire section of Proverbs 31:10-31. If you have a modern translation of the Bible, such as the Revised Standard Version or the New International Version, use it. You now might see this chapter in a totally new light. Not only will you find a truly phenomenal wife, but you also find a rare and wonderful husband. You ladies reading this article: Read Proverbs 31:10-31 and see how you measure up against this wife. Would your husband describe you as a jewel worth far more than rubies? And you men reading the article: See if you can honestly say, "I am man enough to deserve, lead and love this kind of woman." Set yourself to capture the spirit and intent of what it means to be a Proverbs 31 wife or a Proverbs 31 husband, whichever you happen to be. Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong declared 1981 the "year of the family." 1981 is now history and we are into 1982. But that does not mean that we in God's Church should no longer emphasize improving family life. During 1982 we should even go beyond what we accomplished in 1981 in focusing attention on the importance of the family.
Physical marriage a type
The Bible instructs husbands and wives to typify, as much as is possible in the flesh, the coming marriage of Christ to His Church. The husband is to be a type of Christ, the wife a type of the Church. That marriage is to take place very soon now. When Christ returns, one of the first joyful events of His Kingdom will be the wedding of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9). What kind of bride will Christ take? Do you think this bride (the Church) is depicted by some dumb, "blonde bombshell" type - an empty- headed, scatterbrained sex symbol? Hardly! Here's what the Bible says: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7). Paul explained in Ephesians 5:21-33 the great mystery that the physical marital state between a husband and a wife is a type of the marriage between Christ and His Church. This mystery is revealed as each partner in the marriage fulfills important responsibilities. A Christian wife must develop to her full capacity, must be properly submissive to her husband - he is the head of the family, just as Christ is the Head of the Church. There has to be authority in the home. God designed the family to depict this spiritual type. Christ is the Head of the Church. He will always be the Head of the Church (the bride) and the eternal marriage that will take place at His return. Husbands, likewise, are to learn to love their wives as Christ loved the Church - He even gave Himself for it. He died for her. Through that supreme act of sacrifice, forgiveness of sin became possible. The bride of Christ is to be clean and pure and holy. And, we might add, intelligent, diligent and industrious in addition to being loving, kind and submissive. You see, Christ has been allowing the Church to develop the skills and abilities that will help her faithfully serve Him for all eternity. Christ is not going to marry some ignorant, wishy-washy, spineless introvert. On the other hand, Christ is not going to marry some brazen, smart mouthed, self-centered hussy decked out like Jezebel. In ancient times, Christ was married to Israel – He has already had one wife who played the harlot and had to be put away. Through His death, however, forgiveness of all sins can take place, and New Testament Israel, the Church, is in the process of being made holy and pure - preparing herself for the marriage.
Develop your potential
In God's Kingdom, Christ is going to give a lot of responsibility to His wife. But she will always be under His authority and care. Then how about today? Shouldn't you men be developing every possible attribute you can to rule and serve in God's Kingdom? And shouldn't you wives be developing all the possible skills you can to be part of that bride, too? And the next logical question - shouldn't husbands be permitting their wives to develop those full capabilities? In fact, shouldn't they be encouraging their wives to develop those skills and abilities that help them reach their ultimate potential in this life as homemakers, wives, mothers and future parts of the bride of Jesus Christ? The Bible reveals some shocking truths. Preconceived and false ideas have dominated whole societies for most of the 6,000 years of human history. Time-honored beliefs sometimes have to be thrown away. The Bible just doesn't say what many people seem to think. In our articles on the family, we have been trying to show how important it is to achieve your maximum potential. Those born male have a responsibility to develop their ultimate potential and, in marriage, become loving, caring, providing husbands who are heads of households and inspirational leaders to their families. Those born female have an equal responsibility to develop, within the framework of the functions God has created for them, the ultimate potentials as a wife, mother, homemaker and future eternal spirit being in the Kingdom of God. It is entirely possible for a wife to be submissive to her husband and at the same time be a tremendous homemaker and mother to her children, and to develop her skills in the home and family and outside of the family as time and abilities permit. It is possible for a husband to be the wise, respected, successful and loving leader of his family. It is possible for a man to be married to a woman who is intelligent and respected for her own accomplishments and abilities and wisdom. With God's help, each of you wives and mothers reading this article can become more and more like the ultimate wife depicted in Proverbs 31. Make it your goal to do just that. And all you husbands, who may have never thought of it before, have a responsibility to become the ultimate Proverbs 31 husband. It takes a whole lot of man to do so - not many have. But armed with true knowledge, with God's Spirit and God's help, you can!