Proverbs 31 contains what is commonly known as the Virtuous Wife passage. One might say it’s about the ideal woman. While the verses are typically thought to instruct wives, there’s plenty of encouragement for husbands too!
The Virtuous Wife’s Treatment of Her Husband
Proverbs 31:11-12—The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
He trusts her in more ways than one. He knows she is hardworking and does not need someone standing over her shoulder ensuring she is making good use of her time or the family’s finances. She is not like women who might spend hours on the phone, the Internet, or in front of the television. He also trusts her faithfulness to him, knowing she is the opposite of the adulterous wife in Proverbs 7:10–23 who entices the foolish young man with the temptation: “For my husband is not at home.” He has “no lack of gain” because as his helper she works hard to “[do] him good.” The rest of the passage elaborates on the ways the Virtuous Wife cares for her family and others.
The Virtuous Wife’s Job Description
Proverbs 31:13-16—She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships bringing her food from afar. Also, she rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants. She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard.
Interestingly, this passage was written at a time when women were not only legal possessions of men but their sphere of influence traditionally did not extend beyond the home and raising children. So what this passage includes as attributes of the “perfect woman” stands out in even starker contrast to what one might consider a stereotype of the biblical wife.
Notice she gathers the materials to take care of her family. She is diligent with her hands and travels to secure the best food for her loved ones. Her hardworking nature is shown in the way she gets up before dawn to have food prepared not just for her family but also for the servants. She is industrious and resourceful as she buys a field and then reinvests the profits to make more money for her family. This is important because it shows that women can also engage in work that provides for their families financially. Men are not the only ones who can make money.
The Virtuous Wife Takes Care of Her Family, the Poor, and Herself
You’d think if God called wives to be helpers (Genesis 2:18), He’d let them know how to help their husbands! But interestingly, there’s no list in Scripture telling wives how to help their husbands. I suspect this is because every man is unique. Since each husband has different strengths and weaknesses, it’s impossible to absolutely say how a wife should help because men will want—and need—help in different ways. Some men:
Love to cook and enjoy taking on that responsibility. For men who struggle just making toast, they’ll find it helpful for their wives to do the cooking.
Couldn’t balance a checkbook if their lives depended on it. For those men, it will be helpful if their wives oversee the finances.
For other couples, turning the finances over to the wife would leave accounts overdrawn in a month. The important issue is for wives to learn what their husbands need and then strive to help in those ways.
One unique way my wife, Katie, is a help to me
Much of my ministry revolves around teaching, and Sunday’s sermon receives particular attention. I go over it twice each week with Katie and, as a result, I have improved as a preacher. A weakness I had when I started pastoring was sharing a lot of technical information but little in the way of application. My wife has helped me in this area by regularly asking, “What does this have to do with our lives? How is this going to challenge us in the different roles we find ourselves?”
Katie has also helped me become clearer, letting me know when something is confusing. I might respond, “This is what I was trying to say,” and she will say, “That’s not how it sounded before. What you just said makes sense.” Because of all this, I often say from behind the pulpit, “When I was going over the sermon with Katie . . .” The congregation knows how much my wife helps me, and I often hear people say, “You two make a great team.” And they are right. My preaching has improved significantly because of the time and effort Katie has committed to going over my sermons with me.
During a Facebook Live video a woman asked: “How can a wife give her husband accountability in the area of sexual purity?” I interpreted this to be a question about pornography, which I see causing terrible problems in the home and the church. It robs men of their dignity, makes them passive, and destroys initiative and motivation. It stops men from being the leaders they should be in the home and the church. When men look at pornography they won’t feel comfortable praying, reading the Word, or leading in their home or church.
As a result of these consequences, I was glad to answer the woman’s question. Although, since I didn’t have time to prepare my response, I wasn’t as thorough as I would’ve liked. Here’s the video containing my answer, and below that is the post that’s more thorough.
1. Pray for his salvation if he’s unsaved
A pattern of unbroken sin is evidence of being unsaved (1 John 3:4-9). There’s a good chance that a husband who habitually looks at pornography isn’t saved. Pray for his salvation. As an unregenerate man there’s little chance he’ll develop victory over his addiction in his own effort. He needs the indwelling Holy Spirit helping him.
2. Communicate how difficult it is to respect him when he looks at pornography
When our children are only a few months old we don’t punish them, because they don’t know better and they lack self-control. Growing up means knowing better and developing self-control. When men look at things they shouldn’t it’s not masculine. Instead, they’re showing they’re like babies who have no self-control. Pornography turns men into boys (or babies). This is why few (if any) things destroy a wife’s respect for her husband faster than pornography. A wife should pray for the opportunity to share with her husband respectfully, but honestly, how difficult his sin makes it for her to respect him. Continue reading How can a wife give her husband accountability?
In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” In six days God created dry land, sun, moon, stars, sea creatures, birds, and animals. At the end of each day, “God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). But for the first time in the creation account He saw something that was not good—man being alone.
God’s statement is even more interesting when we consider that Adam and Eve had not yet disobeyed. We don’t typically think of anything being “not good” until after the fall. Since Adam had not sinned yet, it was not Adam himself who was not good. Neither was it anything he had or had not done that was not good. It was simply Adam’s being alone that was not good. Here are five reasons why it isn’t good for man to be alone:
1. It is not good for man to be alone, because he won’t have the help he needs
Leading and providing for a family is a lot of work, and a wife can help lighten that load. This is why Paul said, “Man was not created for woman, but woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:9). A lot of discouragement can come a husband’s way, and if he does not receive encouragement from his wife, where will he get it? Yes, there are other resources such as Scripture and relying on the Lord, but if that was all God wanted men to have, He would not have said, “I will make him a helper.”
2. It is not good for man to be alone, because he won’t receive the blessing of fulfilling God’s second command
In Genesis 2:18 God said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” Whenever the Bible discusses children they’re always presented very positively. Psalm 127:3-5 says:
Behold, children are a heritage (some translations say “gift”) from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” God could’ve created Eve and given her to Adam. Instead, He had Adam name the animals for two reasons:
Genesis 2:20 records, “So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.” Adam noticed the animals were in pairs, but he was not part of any pair. With Adam longing for a mate, God was ready to create Eve.
A Helper Comparable to Him
The Hebrew word for “helper” is ezer. It means “help” or “one who helps.” The word occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament, including twice in Genesis 2, first in verse 18 and then in verse 20 when Adam named the animals and could not find “a helper comparable to him.”
Some women might find it offensive to be identified as their husbands’ “helpers,” but the title is not a criticism of Eve’s insufficiency. Instead, it is an identification of Adam’s inadequacy! In the Amplified Bible Genesis 2:18 reads: “Now the Lord God said, ‘It is not good [sufficient, satisfactory] that the man should be alone.’” Woman is the helper man needs because he is not sufficient without her! God created woman to remove man’s deficiency. In Holding Hands, Holding Hearts (pp. 26–27) Richard and Sharon Phillips write:
To call a woman a helper is not to emphasize her weakness, but her strength. Not to label her as superfluous but as essential to Adam’s condition and to God’s purpose in the world. Helper is a position of dignity given to the woman by God Himself.
Here are four reasons wives should be encouraged being identified as their husband’s helper!
What is complementarianism? Egalitarianism? Is one biblical? Unbiblical? Read on!
God created Eve because He wanted Adam to have “a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew word for “comparable” is neged. Other translations say:
NASB & NIV—“suitable for him”
ESV—“fit for him”
The literal translation actually means “opposite or contrasting.”Men and women were designed to fit in all ways. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. When a husband and wife become one flesh at their wedding, they perfectly complement each other. Together, they become something stronger and more magnificent than they could be alone. The strengths of each compensate for the weaknesses of the other:
When a husband thinks about his wife, he should see her as God’s suitable companion for him.
When a wife thinks about her husband, she should see herself as God’s perfect fit for him.
We should give thanks to God for His wonderful design and do everything we can to fulfill the roles He has given us as husband and wife. One of the best ways to do this is by embracing the different roles and responsibilities He gave men and women.
What is egalitarianism?
Egalitarianism is the rejection of the different roles and responsibilities. Egalitarians believe God does not have separate and distinct plans for men and women. They see them interchangeably. Homosexual marriage, transgenderism, and bisexuality are simply extreme forms of egalitarianism.
The Scripture most cited by egalitarians is Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We are so familiar with the creation of Eve that it’s easy to miss the importance of some details. If we approach the account as though it’s our first time reading it, a number of significant points arise…
1. Eve wasn’t created “out of the ground”
One recurring theme has been God’s creation of living things from ordinary dirt:
Genesis 2:7—And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
Genesis 2:9—And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow.
Genesis 2:19—Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air.
With this repetition, we would expect to read: “The Lord God formed woman of the dust of the ground, and breathed into her nostrils the breath of life; and woman became a living being.” Instead, Genesis 2:21–23 says:
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
In being fashioned from Adam, Eve has the unique distinction of being the only part of creation not created out of the ground. Since Adam was created in the image and likeness of God, Eve was just as wonderfully created in the image and likeness of God. Also, while God created woman from man, He brought forth every other human being since Eve from woman. 1 Corinthians 11:8–9, 11–12 records:
For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man . . . Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman.
Twice the apostle Paul stated the headship of a husband:
1 Corinthians 11:3—But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Ephesians 5:23—For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Although these verses are found in the New Testament, a husband’s headship didn’t have its beginning under the New Covenant. Neither does male headship have its beginning in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant. It doesn’t even have its beginning at the fall.
Male headship began at creation itself
Understanding this is important, because if we think headship began after the fall, then it becomes part of sin’s curse. If we see headship beginning at creation, we understand it is part of God’s natural, healthy, divine plan for husbands and wives.
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and the rest of Genesis 1 gives an overview of all six days of creation. God created man and woman on the sixth day. Then, in Genesis 2:7–25, God zooms in on the creation of Adam and Eve since mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. It is in this account that God established man’s headship.
1. God established Adam’s headship by creating him first
A common way husbands mistreat their wives is by responding insensitively when they’re hurting. Elkanah’s response to Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 is a good example showing three common mistakes husbands make.
Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing this or read the transcript below…
Elkanah had two wives—Hannah and Peninnah. This was part of the problem! Polygamy in the Old Testament is descriptive, not prescriptive, portraying the reality of the era but it’s not allowed for Christians today. This is why God never condoned polygamy, and whenever it took place in the Old Testament, it always caused problems. No biblical examples of polygamy are characterized by peace and harmony. Instead polygamy is always filled with turmoil and strife. Peninnah and Hannah’s marriage is a perfect example.
Peninnah could have children, but Hannah could not. Making Hannah’s situation even worse was Peninnah’s cruelty toward her. First Samuel 1:6–7 records:
[Hannah’s] rival (Peninnah) provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that [Peninnah] provoked her; therefore [Hannah] wept and did not eat.
Consider Elkanah’s response in 1 Samuel 1:8:
Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’”
Husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves based on Ephesians 5:26–27:
That [Christ] might sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
This is discussing what Christ does with His, Bride, the Church. Since the context is marriage, it’s also explaining what husbands should do with their wives. Christ “sanctifies and cleanses” His bride, so husbands should sanctify and cleanse their brides. This makes a husband at least partially responsible for his wife’s sanctification.
Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…
Just as Christ gets the church He prepares for Himself, so husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves
There is a tremendous truth contained in these words. Christ does what He does in verse 26—sanctifying and cleansing the church—so that He can obtain for Himself the glorious church, or bride, described in verse 27 that “has no spot or wrinkle but is holy and without blemish.” The simplest way to say it is: Christ gets the church He prepares for Himself.Continue reading Husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves