"Jerry, tell my wife how the 'Proverbs 31 Woman' wakes up before everyone else and provides food for her family. I want her to make breakfast for me in the mornings!" That was something I read in an email from a good friend of mine years ago.
Of course, he meant this as a joke, and it was clear that he had already lost this discussion (or won it depending on how you look at it), but I immediately thought how horrifying it would have been if he were serious.
First of all, I would not even say anything like this to my own wife, let alone another man's wife. My friend's email made me think, because I wanted to carefully craft a response to his e-mail. How I responded would have a deep impact on how his own wife would view the mentoring her husband received from me.
The Proverbs 31 Woman is a topic that I have heard covered in numerous Bible studies for Christian women written by Christian women...mostly. This intense focus on using the Proverbs 31 Woman as an example of submission in marriage, may have an negative impact on the men married to Christian women. After all, where are the studies about the Proverbs 31 Man?
There are men who expect their wives to be the Woman of Noble Character described in Proverbs 31, but rarely do men think about what is required of them as well in the story of the Proverbs 31 Woman. If there is a "Wife of Noble Character", shouldn't there be a "Husband of Noble Character" as well? Wouldn't it make sense if that husband were described in or near the same scriptures that describe the wife? He's there. Many of us just don't notice him.
We are so consumed with qualities like how she gets up early in the morning and prepares breakfast for everyone before they get up. What man doesn't like bacon when he wakes up in the morning, right? She manages the house servants, owns lands that produce multiple sources of income and resources for the family. Her investments are in the form of merchant ships that are sailing and making money for her family even while she is sleeping. In a lot of ways, this woman is like a lioness who does all the lion work while the male lion sleeps under the shade of a tree. At least, that is what it seems at first glance of this story. In fact, the more I read about the woman the more I realize that she doesn't really need the man at all! What?
When the Bible mentions a wife, there is typically a husband in the passage as well, and vice versa. The story of the Proverbs 31 Woman also includes a Proverbs 31 Man who is just as important as the woman. In fact, I believe he is an integral part of the whole story.
The Proverbs 31 Man is mentioned 3 times during the story of the Woman of Noble Character.
In Verse 11, "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value." (NIV)
|Proverbs 31:11 (NIV)|
Notice that it does not say that he is jealous of her every move, and condescending every chance he gets.
He has full confidence in his wife and sees great value in her. This is counter to the belief that women are not smart, that they cannot think for themselves, or that they should completely defer all decision-making to their husbands. This verse describes the internal mindset that her husband possesses. This is a glimpse into the heart of a husband of noble character. If we are to lead like Christ led the Church then we must realize that this is also the same view Christ has of us. Christ has full confidence in us.
When we consider the context of our wives as gifts from God to complete us, provide strengths in our weaknesses, and help us become the the man God wants us to be, then there is no other perspective to have of our wives than to have full confidence in her because we have full confidence in God for providing us with the perfect mate.
We can also have full confidence in our wives because we have loved them the way Christ loved the church. Our wives should be sanctified, made pure, and lifted up as holy. In that process, our mindsets of our wives are also lifted up, and it becomes very easy to have confidence in her. (See also Ephesians 5:25-27.)
Verse 23, "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land."
|Proverbs 31:23 (NIV)|
He is someone who can be respected. As a result, he brings honor to her, and makes it easy for her to feel good about being married to him.
In Biblical times, the city gates were a place where prominent businessmen and leaders came together to discuss the day's business. The character of men would be well known, and reputation would precede them. Our reputations are built from our interactions with others. How we treat our wives also shows in how they interact with others. When we live our lives in a way that is honoring to God and to our wives, our wives are able to hang their heads high, have good dealings with the people they interact, and not have to hide in embarrassment because of what their husbands do. They don't have to come up with excuses for us.
Keeping in mind that Ephesians 5:22-33 gives us a clear idea on how we should love our wives and identifies husbands as the head of the marriage, 1 Timothy provides a list of qualities that we must strive to achieve to lead our wives the way Christ led the church.
Verse 28, "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her..."
|Proverbs 31:28 (NIV)|
Our children learn a lot about relationships from watching their parents interact. Sadly, when children grow up in abusive homes, they are four times more likely to be involved in bullying in school either as a bully or as a victim, or both (Centers for Disease Control, 2011.) They are also three times more likely to be in abusive relationships as adults according to the Journal of Epidemiology in 2009. Likewise, our children have a good chance at having a healthy marriage when they see it modeled by their own parents.
So, when a husband showers his wife with praises, takes the time to serve her needs, or fill her shoes to give her a break, he is teaching his sons how to do the same for their wives, how to serve her needs as a servant leader.
There is nothing wrong with taking care of your wife's needs. Let other men think you are whipped when it comes to your wife. Who would you rather impress, your wife or a bunch of dudes?
When the time comes for us to pass away, it would be the companionship of our loved ones that we will want more than anything. Impressing the guys is most likely the least important thing to us at the end of our lives, but it is a shame that we give more credibility or consideration to those whose opinions should not matter while ignoring the thoughts and ideas of our spouses.
Let's show our children what it looks like to praise our wives for all the good things they do. Let's challenge ourselves to become the Proverbs 31 Man for our wives.
What are some ways you have intentionally been the Proverbs 31 Man for your wife? Comment below.