Who is God talking to in Proverbs 31?
For the last 3,000 years, the 31st chapter of the Book of Proverbs has been a source of inspiration for women. Each of that chapter’s 22 verses (v. 10 - v. 31) begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in proper sequence and serves as a learning tool for young girls by presenting the image of the perfect wife. As everyone knows, the book of Proverbs was inspired by God to provide wisdom to his people. This culminating chapter of Proverbs describes the skill, talents, and virtuous character of the perfect woman and wife.
There is a temptation to stop at that point and pass this 31st chapter on to all the young girls when they come of age and tell them to read it − perhaps even memorize the most significant passages. That is the way I saw this chapter in Proverbs for many years. Then, a boxing glove sprang out of one of the pages while I was reading it one day and hit me right in the face. It became obvious that this book was not just for my wife and daughters − it was for me – their husband and father− telling me how to act as a man!
As I put on my Crime Scene Investigator badge and picked up a Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass, the godly requirements of a man began to appear behind the scenes in Proverbs 31. A careful study of this chapter excavated the vision of an incredible role model for men today. In the larger context, this chapter serves as a compass for biblical family values.
As an bonus, Proverbs 31 provides a source to assist young men in choosing a wife. It shows the godly characteristics of the woman they should marry. Proverbs 31 helps single men in their search for a woman of quality. It cautions men not to be lured and deceived by superficial trappings and points to the fact that a lasting marriage must be built on a more solid foundation. Our Proverbs 31 woman is a good, noble and excellent woman who trusts the Lord. Too often in this age, a young man’s qualifications for his future bride involve a hard body with a beach tan and the ability to model the briefest of hip-huggers.
The Value of a Woman
One of the reasons rubies are precious is because they are so rare. If you could find rubies on the beach, would they be as valuable? Verse 10 of Chapter 31 doesn't read, "She is worth far more than seashells." It rather says she is worth far more than rubies or jewels. She is to be valued as rare and precious by her husband. The Hebrew word for ruby (paniyn) is used to describe the value of wisdom. Other verses that add to this thought are:
- Proverbs 3:15 - She (wisdom) is more precious than rubies (KJV)
- Proverbs 8:11 - For wisdom is better than rubies (KJV)
- Job 28:18 - The price of wisdom is above rubies (KJV)
Men should view women as the crowning jewel of God's creation. Let’s look at this in a different, but similar fashion. Let’s say that you just heard over the 10 o’clock news that you won the California lottery valued millions of dollars. What are you going to with that piece of paper? Leave it lying around? No, you would guard it with your life until you presented it to the lottery officials. You would thank God with the prayer of your life before you went to sleep and when you arose the next morning. Similarly, Proverbs 31:10 is saying that men should value their wives in the same fashion. They should thank God with the prayer of their life when they go to bed and when they arise. And the single man should spend the same amount of prayer time asking God to give them a woman described in Proverbs 31.
The Pathological Problem of Men
Of the 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, 30 chapters are primarily addressed to men. Broken down even further, there are 22 verses for women and 893 verses for men. What does that tell you? Why do men need 98% of this book of wisdom?
Based on the Bureau of Justice statistics regarding prison and jail inmates at mid-year 1999, there were about 2 million total inmates in Federal and State prisons. Of this group, 90% were men and 81% were unmarried − in various stages of singleness, i.e. without family.
In the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1998, it was stated that there were 31 million crimes. Single men did the overwhelming majority of those crimes. In the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1998, it was stated that there were 113,866 men in federal prisons. Of the total inmates, 92.5% were men and only 9,186 were women. Additionally, it could be assumed that the majority of those women worked together with men at some point. The facts are clear − men are the leading cause of crime. Men gone wrong are the curse of the nation. And the majority of criminal men are unmarried.
Again, according to Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1998, it was stated that in 1994 it cost over $103.4 billion for all the services required to incarcerate inmates in state and federal prisons. That equals at least $94 billion annually just for men.
It doesn’t stop there. Let’s look at the target of men’s crimes. Men rob individuals, families and businesses. Men rob society of financial resources. Men rob society of their potential contribution to the community. And finally, these criminals rob God of their potential contribution to the church.
Let’s look at it another way - how many armies of women do you know who have gone out to pillage and conquer the world? How many mass murderers were women? How many female pirates can you name? The history of men is not good. It is not pretty. Take Adam for instance:
- Genesis 1:3,4 states that God made light. The light was good
- Genesis 1:7-10 states that God made the sky, the water and land and God saw that it was good
- Genesis 1:11,12 states that God made plants and trees. And God saw that it was good
- Genesis 1:14,18 states that God made the sun and moon. And God saw that it was good.
- Genesis 1:20 states that God made living creatures for the seas and birds. And God saw that it was good.
- Genesis 1:24 states that God made land animals. And God saw that it was good
- Genesis 1:31 (NIV) states that God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day. God made Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden. In Gen 2:18a (NIV) the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone."
The first time God said, “It is not good” is when he saw Adam left to himself. So how was God going to fix the problem? God came up with the perfect solution. In Gen 2:18b (NIV) - The Lord God said, "I will make a helper suitable for him."
Who was this helper God created to change Adam from not good to good? A woman! Men need the transforming power of a good wife, mother or sister. In this case, Adam needed a wife to help him rule the earth. Men need good wives.
Men gone astray from God are the greatest social problem that faces America and the greatest drain on our national resources. Men who turn to God are our greatest hope. Men just happen to need a whole lot of extra focus of redemption and training. Single men need help. God’s plan to help Adam included a helper who would become his wife. Single men and women should begin developing a biblical worldview and the noble character that make for a solid life. If you are a single man, let me pass on to your one of the most important pieces of advice you will ever hear in your life – “Single people should not even date someone who is not committed to God's blueprint.”
A Suitable Helper
The Proverbs 31 woman is the ideal wife. She is as rare and precious as rubies. Not all women measure up to her. The reason the Proverbs 31 woman seems so far away from us today and merely a faint goal is because we as a nation have fallen so far short of God's blueprint for family. However, Proverbs 31:29 states that there are "many women who have done excellently." Maybe it is not so far-fetched that a woman should actually measure up to this lofty standard. At home my family and I regularly read Laura Ingalls Wilder's, Little House on the Prairie book series. The TV show was embellished from the true stories that Laura wrote about pioneer life in the late 1800's. We have read these books six or seven times together as a family.
I am personally a Laura Ingalls expert. Here is my favorite quote from Laura's Pa − Charles Ingalls, “What must be done is best done cheerfully.” My family and I made a pilgrimage to De Smet, South Dakota to visit the actual town where Laura lived on the prairie. We visited the twin lakes where Almonzo Wilder courted Laura. We walked the streets that Laura and Almonzo walked. We wept at the graves of Pa and Ma Ingalls.
Laura's mom, Caroline Ingalls, was exactly like the Proverbs 31 woman. She didn't eat the bread of idleness. She was crafty. She was kind and gracious. She was charitable. She was hardworking. She was a woman of faith. Charles Ingalls was also a man of noble character. Laura grew up and married Almonzo Wilder. Almonzo's childhood is recounted in the book Farmer Boy. Almonzo's mother was just like the Proverbs 31 woman in every way. Her husband, James Ingalls, was equal to her. Both men, Charles and James, were hardworking, family centered, honest, fair and gracious. Charles Ingalls and James Wilder were respected men in the community and men of solid faith in Jesus Christ. No doubt we will meet them all in heaven. What I have seen in my many years as a pastor is that when a woman rises to excellence, her husband is usually a man of excellence. Behind every good woman is a good man. Many women are excellent wives because many men are excellent husbands.
The Man of Excellence: The Proverbs 31 Man
The wife described in Proverbs 31 would have a difficult time becoming a woman of such surpassing excellence unless her husband was the man portrayed in the previous 30 chapters of Proverbs. Having said all this, there is also a man in Proverbs chapter 31. Who is the Proverbs 31 man?
Proverbs 31:11 reads "Her husband has full confidence in her...." Who is this husband and what can we learn from him? Proverbs 31:28 states, “Her children rise up….” - We discover that our man is a father. He has children. Proverbs 31:23 reads “He sits among the elders of the land.” - He is a respected community leader.
As we survey Proverbs 31, we learn that our man is a husband (v. 11), he is a father (v. 28), and he is an elder (v. 23). These are the three key areas in which we will examine our man of excellence. This should be a valuable study for all single men, want-to-be husbands, dads, grandpas, widowers − everybody.
The Proverbs 31 Husband
In Proverbs 31:11 we read, "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing in value" (NIV). The RSV translates it, "The heart of her husband trusts in her." We find that our Proverbs 31 man is a husband. He is married to her. Marriage was intended to be a lifelong commitment, not a feeling. He has pledged himself to her in lifelong, monogamous (not monotonous) marriage. Notice, they are not cohabiting. They are not just living together. He is not a roommate or a drop-in boyfriend. He is not one of a long string of guys. He is her husband. They are married. Her ability to act with confidence and to instill confidence reveals mutual trust, not only in her sexual fidelity and integrity but also in his. She is not leading a double life. Do you think he could trust her if she was the promiscuous wife of Proverbs chapter 7? The Proverbs 7 woman was in bed with any man she could find as soon as her husband left town.
The context of chapter 31 is family: husband, wife, and children. Family is God's idea and God has the perfect blueprint for a successful family. The biblical principles for family were taught from childhood. The husband and wife were trained and prepared for family. Their goal in life was to raise a godly family.
Today, we are trained and prepared for pleasure. Our goal in life as Americans is pleasure. As one of our most famous philosophers said: "Go for the Gusto." Marriage then, in our western mind, is perceived as the culmination of pleasure: an "E ticket ride" for those of you who remember E tickets at Disneyland. We think marriage is a trip to Disneyland, Club Med or Fantasy Island. When sacrifice, pain, compromise, mis-understanding, menstruation (aka men’s frustration), financial problems and sinful nature (Greek: sarx) are on the prowl, people bail out of marriage. Why? Because we are taught and believe that marriage should provide romance, intimacy, excitement, and physical gratification. Marriage built on a premise that its primary purpose is sexual satisfaction or pleasure will fail.
Marriage is a responsibility. It is an opportunity to impart God's wisdom to the next generation. You don't get married to be happy. Happiness can be a part of marriage but not the foundation. Marriage is a process of spiritual growth, sacrifice and self-denial. Marriage is the hardest thing you'll ever do. Why, because marriage involves two imperfect people trying to live together (Proverbs 27:17). Martin Luther called marriage "The school of character."
When I read these 22 verses of Proverbs 31, it reminds me of "And they lived happily ever after." However, "happily ever after" seems to work best in fairy tales. “Happily ever after” doesn’t seem to work in America these days. What happens when you can't afford servants and financial difficulties occur? What happens when you don't own a home and your spouse is a crank and you were taught that marriage is all pleasure? Bail out. It's no surprise then that America, which has perfected pleasure-seeking to a science, also has the highest divorce rate in the world (Barna, Family 65; Dobson, Straight Talk 1980 92).
The divorce rate is the same inside the church as in our culture. It is a bad sign when the church is the same as our society. We are in a culture war and the Church is losing the battle. We should be leading our culture. Marriage is a vow. Marriage is a covenant for all our days, for God's purposes. So you single men should marry carefully. Marry for the right reasons. Do not marry for popularity, charm, and beauty. Marry for noble character and devotion to God. Marry for vision and values. If you marry in a hurry, you live with worry.
The reason we are viewing our Proverbs 31 man as a mirror is to see areas in our lives that need improvement. This is not entertainment. This is truth. Truth is a challenge we are to apply in our daily lives! I have a long way to go...so my jewel assures me.
Not many marriages are as trouble free as the one in Proverbs 31. Sinful nature (sarx) will guarantee that you have a sufficient number of disagreements, foolishness, trouble, pain and grief. The Bible describes certain women like stormy weather.
Proverbs 27:15 states, "A continual dripping on a rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. To restrain her is to restrain the wind, or to grasp oil in one’s right hand" (RSV).
Proverbs 19:13 states "A wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain" (RSV).
Some women are like unrestrainable wind and constant drizzle. Moreover, you know what another proverb says, "Into every life a little rain must fall." I'm a sunny kind of guy. I like warm weather. I don't like rain. Yet seasons come and seasons go. The Proverbs 31 man is able to weather the storms of life.
What Kind of Husband Is He?
Proverbs 31:11 states, "she has his full confidence." The Proverbs 31 man trusts his wife. Deep down in the core of his being he can trust her because she trusts the Lord. Proverbs 31:30 reads "a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." His trust allows her to fully express her capabilities and skills to the maximum level. His confidence empowers her to make important day-to-day decisions, even to purchase property. Notice, she has full reign of the house. She is not lonely, bored, caged up, barefoot and fearful.
Look at what she accomplishes in this environment of mutual trust and confidence. As we survey chapter 31 we see she works willingly. She travels to get the best deals. She gets up early and provides food for her household. She has servants to manage and money to invest. She buys land and plants a vineyard. She buys and sells her merchandise in the marketplace. She has time to help the poor. She makes quality clothes for herself and her family. She laughs. She is kind. She teaches with wisdom. She takes good care of her family. Could you imagine this woman with a car, a computer and a cell phone? She is not some whimpering, maltreated, cringing slave waiting anxiously for her husband/master to come home and think for her. He trusts her to make the best use of her opportunities. She is completely free and incredibly active, working in harmony with the vision and values of their home. The Proverbs tell us:
- Proverbs 27:9 - A soul is torn by trouble
- Proverbs 18:14 - A broken spirit who can bear
- Proverbs 15:4 - Perverseness...breaks the spirit
- Proverbs 15:13 - By sorrow of heart the spirit is broken
- Proverbs 17:22 - A downcast spirit dries up the bones
Does our Proverbs 31 woman sound like a broken spirited woman? Does she appear torn, troubled, downcast, broken and sorrowful? NO! Our Proverbs 31 man has been good to her. He is an excellent, loving husband. He cherishes her as "far more precious than jewels." He trusts her. They co-exist in an atmosphere of trust and harmony. This is a functional home. A truly biblical home is a peaceful and productive home.
The Proverbs 31 woman is very active. I am quickly overwhelmed by how hard she works. I’m exhausted just reading about all she does. She works harder than a plumber. Do you think that she was submissive to her husband? Eph. 5:22 says “Wives submit to your husbands.” What does this tell us about submission? Submission doesn’t mean subjection, subordination, subjugation or slavery. Submission doesn't mean that husbands can treat their wives as some trail boss on a cattle drive. Do you remember the old "Rawhide" western with Clint Eastwood? Many men believe that this is what submission means:
- Roll em in
- Roll em out
- Head em up
- Move em out
- Get those doggies rollin, rollin, Rawhide!
- (Crack the whip)
- Move em on
- Head em up
- Head em up
- Move em on
- Move em on
- Head em up
- Don't try to understand em
- Just rope 'n throw 'n brand em
- Soon we’ll be living high and wide
- Tho' they are disapproving keep those doggies moving – Rawhide!
- (Crack the whip)
- Cut em out
- Ride em in
- Ride em in
- Let em out
- Cut em out (crack the whip)
- Ride em in Rawhide!
Some men believe that the word submission means they can treat their wives like cattle. However, women don't work this hard for a creep. The Proverbs 31 woman works with willing hands. She couldn't and wouldn’t thrive in an environment of physical and verbal abuse. The Proverbs 31 man does not stifle his wife. Physical, mental and verbal abuse do not produce trust and confidence and willingness. Her eager productivity tells us that this home is righteous and just. This home is peaceful. The fact that she lives in an environment of confidence and trust gives her the full opportunity to utilize her talents and capabilities. That is respect. He trusts her with all of his heart. Yet, trust is earned. She is worthy of his trust. She is not the promiscuous wife of Proverbs chapter 7. They have a sacred bond of trust that sexual fidelity brings to a marriage.
We find in verses 11 and 12 that, "Her husband...lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life" (NIV). Does that sound like a life of drudgery and misery? Does it sound like she is oppressed or depressed? She works willingly. He lacks nothing of value. She wants to bring him good all the day of her life. Do you think she likes her husband? Do you think the Proverbs 31 man is a likable kind of person? Does it sound like they are working together? Do you suppose they agree on the direction their family and lives are heading?
They are not two people living together with two different agendas: one doing one thing, one doing another thing. She has full confidence in him. He has full confidence in her. She is worthy of his respect and honor. He is worthy of her respect and honor. This doesn't describe two timid people with a file full of prenuptial agreements. Trust is a wonderful thing. She equally shares the values and vision that he lives out in his life. These two are equally yoked. One of the major causes of divorce is disagreement over core values. Yet, these are not two confused people. They are not two people at war with each other. They are not two people in the rowboat fighting over the oars. They are not two people in two different rowboats. They are two people committed to God's way, each pulling their own oar in harmony, in the same direction. They have shared values and vision. Marry for values and vision. What are your core values?
Proverbs 31:12 says "all the days of her life." Does "all the days of her life," sound like, "till death do us part?" This is marriage. The union of one man and one wife was clearly the biblical norm. It doesn't read, "I'll give you the best seven years of my life." Marriage is permanent. It is “all the days of life,” in the context of husband, wife and family. All the days of her life shows that God’s family values are a lifestyle, not a quick fix, not a temporary illusion, not something on trial for a little while, not a feeble attempt but an inner conviction.
Divorce is not an option and it doesn't need to be. There is no problem with marriage. There are no problem marriages. There are only problems with married people. If you do things God's way, divorce does not need to be an option. Have you ever heard of anyone who got a divorce because they were too kind to each other?
“A Gallup poll found three of four women agreeing that if they could turn back the calendar they would not pick the same husband” (Petersen, Alan ed. For Men Only. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1973 70). This means that 75% of married women are unhappy with their husbands. However, the Proverbs 31 woman is not looking for a way out of her marital relationship. Realize that they have been married for a while because they have kids and he is an elder at the city gate. Yet, after all this time, she still is committed to him, with all her heart for all her days. What does that say about him? He is the kind of husband that his wife can promise with her whole heart, to bring good to all the days of her life. She feels happy to be married to such a wonderful man. She would marry him again.
If your wife could do it all over again, would she still marry you? Would you want to be married to you? Are you the kind of guy that she would recommit herself to...today? This can be a painful question. The answer probably depends on which day you ask the question. If there is any hesitation to enthusiastically answer, “Yes,” it is due to hardness of heart, sin, ignorance and disobedience. If the answer is, “No,” we have missed God’s blueprint for marriage. Yet, this woman's husband was worthy of her respect and devotion. She would do it again! The Proverbs 31 woman was able to be so open and giving and to achieve so much because of the noble character of her husband. We know that he who loves his wife, loves himself. Men, we would all do ourselves a favor by becoming this kind of person. The Proverbs 31 man is a gracious and loving husband.
The Proverbs 31 Man as Father
Next, we discover that our Proverbs 31 man is also a father. In verses 15, 21, 27 and 28, we find that he has a family and children. They are his kids as well as hers. Therefore, he is not birthing children illegitimately or without bearing full responsibility for them. What were the typical responsibilities of a biblical father? There are at least seven:
- To provide adequately for his family.
- To assume loving spiritual leadership of the family.
- To diligently teach and train his children biblical values.
- To properly discipline with purpose and love. No discipline, no peace.
- To defend and protect the family.
- To prepare children for productive work.
- To participate in the selection of a spouse.
The father is expected to be the primary teacher of biblical values to his kids. It is not the responsibility of mom, the church or the State (Proverbs 22:6; Deut. 6:7-9). Also, circumcision of baby boys, initiated by the father, was the equivalent of dedicating the baby to God.
Then in Deut. 6:4-7:
- v4 - Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD;
- v5 - and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
- v6 - And these words that I command you this day shall be upon your heart;
- v7 - and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (RSV)
We can assume that the Proverbs 31 man was this kind of man. He fully embraced his biblical job description. He was not some lawless pagan, renegade rebel, rabble rousing, or violent monster. We can extract the description of our fellow from what we know about his wife, common sense and the biblical expectation for men. We can assume that, because of cultural and biblical forces, he was the primary support for his family, his estate, and his household. Knowing, therefore, that he was the primary source of support for his family let us see what we can learn about him.
He was probably a farmer, like most. He owned property. He had servants. He had a well functioning home. His family and household were fed, clothed and cared for. What does this tell us about him? This tells us that our Proverbs 31 man was not squandering his income on gambling, get-rich-quick schemes, drugs, pornography, prostitution, laziness and drunkenness. This means that he was gainfully employed. The fact that this woman could go out and purchase food from afar shows that he gave her a sufficient budget. She can buy and travel for groceries because he provided financial stability.
He is a responsible manager of his finances. He has finances to manage. His wife is not home wringing her hands, worrying that her husband will spend the family income on drugs, gambling, prostitution or expensive recreational toys. The fact that she can work with eager hands, and bring her food from far distances, and buy a field, and plant a vineyard, and make clothes for her family, speaks of a stable home life. The Proverbs 31 father works hard to provide a stable home life. Young men and men in general should be working hard toward financial stability. This is tough today and demands hard work. However, financial stability does not mean working to be rich.
- Proverbs 23:4 - Do not toil to acquire wealth
- Proverbs30:8 - Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food that is needful for me
- Proverbs30:9 - Lest I be full and deny or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God (RSV)
- Paul echoes this same principle in the New Testament in 1 Tim 6:6‑11 (RSV)
- v6 - There is great gain in godliness with contentment;
- v7 - for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world;
- v8 - but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
- v9 - But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
- v10 - For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.
- v11 - But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.
You who are working to be rich cannot be more powerful than the forces that have destroyed lives for over 3,000 years. Do not work for money. Work for God. Do not work to get. Work to give. The long hike up the mountain of materialism will destroy you
The Proverbs 31 Man Is Generous
Proverbs 31:20 reads, "She opens her hand to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." What do we learn about our man from the fact that she is so charitable? Do you think she is sneaking household money to the poor? I know many women who would like to tithe and cheerfully give offerings but their husbands won't allow it. They refuse to permit their wives to contribute to the needs of the church and to help ministries that help other people. If this woman could give to the poor, her husband encouraged it and modeled that compassion and generosity in his own life as a wise man. The Proverbs 31 man inspires her to give to the poor. Her charity is an extension of his generosity. Here is a generous man who understands the power and blessing of helping others (Proverbs19:17; 22:9). He is not like the rich man who wouldn't give a crumb to the poor. He is not like the rich fool who selfishly believed that all his finances and his wealth were for his personal luxury and comfort. Our man is not a miserly old scrooge. He is not a greedy man. A greedy man makes trouble for his own house (Proverbs15:27).
We don't sense any trouble in this house. Proverbs 11:29 states, “He who brings trouble on his family will only inherit the wind.” The Proverbs 31 man is not a troublemaker. This altruistic munificence would not be possible for a mom whose husband is failing his financial responsibilities. The have resources to give away. Proverbs 10:16 reads, "The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin" (RSV). He is an honest man who uses his income to improve the quality of life for the poor. We don't sense the squandering of family finances on wickedness, foolishness and status seeking. Instead, her charity is an extension of his philanthropy. The Proverbs 31 man is generous.
The Proverbs 31 Woman Can Laugh
We discover in Proverbs 31:25 that “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (NIV). The Proverbs 31 woman can laugh. This woman can face the future with confidence. What does this tell us about our Proverbs 31 man? Would she be so bold about her future if her husband were a drunk, wasting the family money on drugs, foolishness, gambling, pornography and prostitutes? Could she laugh at the future if her husband was cruel or mean to the kids? Could she laugh if her husband was selfish, violent, out of control, verbally abusive and oppressive?
She can only laugh at the future because of the noble character of her husband. She can laugh because her Proverbs 31 man is stable and committed to God, morally faithful and hardworking. The incredible difficulties of life become laughable for a woman. Think of how hard life is for a woman. She can laugh. Our man has not caused his wife sorrow and grief. She is not worried sick wondering what hubby will do next. Where he is now? Will he come home? What he will do with the family income? If she is able to laugh at the future, she is standing behind her godly man, laughing. It would be impossible for an abused and unloved woman to laugh about anything. A husband who can give his wife such confidence in the face of life's trials and difficulties is truly a remarkable man. How many wives can laugh at the future? How many wives can laugh about anything? How many women have enough confidence in their husbands to laugh at the future? The Proverbs 31 woman can laugh.
The Proverbs 31 Man at Home
You have heard of books, “Where’s Waldo?” Waldo is camouflaged within intricate settings and is impossible to find. Today, the question is, “Where is dad, the invisible man?” Where is our man? In Proverbs 31:28, 29 we find the Proverbs 31 dad at home. We usually think of the wife as “the little homemaker.” I propose that our man is also a homemaker. He is necessary in the home as a father and a husband. He isn’t some recreational beast coming home late to Hotel Hilton, snapping his fingers for room service. His life is given to God, his wife, his family and his home. A husband and father is as much a part of the homemaking responsibilities as the wife. Parents are two oars on the same boat. Parents are a team to raise godly children. This is seen in Proverbs 31:27‑31 (RSV):
- v27 – She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
- v28 – Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
- v29 – “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
- v30 – Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
- v31 – Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
The children rise up and bless mom. Where do you think the children are when they arise and call her blessed? My six kids are at home when they rise up. Here is a glimpse of the Proverbs 31 man at home. He is at home with his kids. The kids don’t wake up wondering where dad is. The kids have a dad and know their dad. A dad in the home is becoming a novelty. This isn’t mother’s live-in boyfriend. The kids don’t wake up to find another note from dad away on the golf course again. Mom isn’t some single parent with a deadbeat, runaway creep for a father and a husband. This is dad at home. He isn’t the absentee father.
What do the children say about mom? They call her blessed. Blessed means to be level, stable, or happy. The kids confess that mom is great. “Mom, you are happy. Mom, you are awesome.” Proverbs 31:25 reads mom laughs and verse 26 says mom speaks with wisdom and kindness. Proverbs 31:29 reads mom trusts the Lord. She is blessed because she obeys God (Proverbs3:18). Notice, the kids are sitting together with dad discussing what a wonderful mother and wife they have.
Kids will be happiest in a truly Christian home. These parents aren’t extremists, anti-government fundamentalists, right wing fanatics. These are happy people with a solid and substantial home life centered on biblical values. This is a warm and happy house, which tells us that a truly biblical home should be a refuge. Home should be a safe place. The love of the Lord is in this home and where the love of the Lord is, that home is blessed, happy, stable and peaceful. For many of us a home like this only exists in fairy tales. But God’s plan for people is a safe and happy home. God’s will for children is peace and harmony. How much pain could be eliminated in the home and the world if families modeled their lives after God’s values instead of the false values of our culture. God only wants what is best for people.
We also find that our Proverbs 31 man is not a hypocrite. He is not leading a “decent” public life in front of people and a dark, secret, private life of sin and pain at home. He’s not singing in the choir on Sunday, then going home and abusing his wife and kids. We see him at home with the wife and kids. We look through his window into the living room. Home is a good place. His kids are not cowering in fear. They are not cringing in a corner in fear of dad. He is not an angry volcano waiting to erupt, a renegade, rabble-rousing, selfish, violent monster. The kids speak blessing. They express themselves and out of the abundance of their little hearts, their mouths overflow with admiration for mom. Now realize that these are unmarried kids at home. Today there is so much freedom that parents don’t even know where their kids are, let alone what they are doing. This tells us something about the Proverbs 31 dad: His kids haven’t run away from home. They are at home and with dad and mom. They are speaking to one another expressing warmth, encouragement and hospitality. Can you imagine kids talking like this? Our culture has our kids so confused they can’t even put their hats on straight. Where did the kids in Proverbs 31 learn to bless their mom? Who was the model for this remarkable behavior? Did they learn to bless on their own? Every parent is a teacher. Every home is a school. Most of the great lessons of life are learned by example. Well-mannered children do not happen by accident, but through a never-ending labor of love and discipline. It is hard work to raise good kids. The Proverbs 31 man is a great role model at home for his kids.
The Proverbs 31 Man as Brilliant Orator
Now, finally, we get to hear from our man. The Proverbs 31 man is a man of few words. Yet, when he speaks it is profound. His one memorable quote speaks volumes about him, “Her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things but you surpass them all.’“ The word praise (Halal: Strong’s #1984) means to shine, make a show, to boast, to rave. He is appreciative of what she does. He acknowledges her contribution to the family in front of the kids. He knows that what she does is not inferior or trivial. His words are a reflection of the condition of his heart (Matt. 12:34-37). We see his heart from his words, “he praises her.” Does he sound like a grump? Does he sound happy? He validates her and her hard work. He raves about her.
This woman is easy to praise. It would be easy to speak well of such an excellent woman. The problem is not all spouses are Grade ‘A’ good as this. She is as rare as rubies. So, we may have to work at finding praiseworthy things in order to encourage our spouses. We need to look for what is good and acknowledge it. Anybody can find fault. Anybody can criticize. Anybody can belittle. It takes no special gift or skill to be critical and cynical. Take some time to praise the good that people do. Husbands, if this is new to you, you need to start slow or she will get suspicious. You say, “Honey, this meat loaf is the best.” She answers, “What is wrong with it?” If you haven’t appreciated her in awhile, she will wonder what you are up to. However, honest appreciation will do wonders. There is a positive use of words, which produces positive results. You will never regret honest and sincere encouragement. This is a lesson for everyone. Our Proverbs 31 man is a wise man.
This is seen in Proverbs 15:4 (RSV) – “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
What is the opposite of encouragement? Discouragement! Quarreling is a tremendous discouragement in any relationship, especially marriage, as is pointed to in Proverbs17:14 (RSV) – “The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”
We should learn from this verse that we don’t need to quarrel. We don’t have to quarrel. We can stop it. Quarreling is a sin. It is a negative form of communication. Quarreling is hatred. Proverbs 10:12 reads “Hatred stirs up strife.” Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Quarreling stirs up anger and strife. It does not make peace. Nobody wins a quarrel and it only increases sin. Why then do we do quarrel so regularly? There is no valid reason for quarreling. Sinful nature (sarx) is at work again. Quarreling is one of sarx’s favorite tools to destroy relationships. I have learned that I don’t need to win any arguments. I have never won anything by winning a quarrel. You don’t win anything by winning an argument. Nobody wins a fight. You can’t win a quarrel. Men want to win an argument. Women only want to be heard. Jesus said, you win by losing and he who loses, wins (Matt.16:25). Jesus’ ultimate triumph over evil was His surrender to the cross. His surrender to what seemed to be the ultimate failure–the cross–was His greatest triumph as seen below:
- Proverbs18:19 (RSV) – A brother helped is like a strong city, but quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
- Proverbs 20:3 (RSV) – It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife; but every fool will be quarreling.
- Proverbs 22:10 (RSV) – Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.
We need to commit ourselves never to quarrel. Never, never, never quarrel. It is dishonoring. It is damaging. It is destructive. It is wrong and foolish. Stop it. Don’t let it happen. Quit it. Drop it. You will be a much happier person. Instead, encourage, build up, validate, appreciate, and rave about her.
How hard the Proverbs 31 woman works quickly impresses us. If I were to follow her around for one day, I would be exhausted. She works harder than a plumber. Our Proverbs 31 man praised his wife. Men obtain recognition through their careers and position in the community. A wife’s only source of recognition is often her husband. Our man pays attention to her personally.
What if her husband never noticed, never mentioned, never appreciated all she did? What if instead he complained, or nagged, or belittled her? What incentive would she have to put all her heart into homemaking? The homemaking woman is under assault today. Instead, find what is lovely, find what is good and honorable and encourage it. Words are powerful. They bring life or death (Proverbs18:21). Words build up or tear down. Words heal or they destroy. Words discourage. Words encourage. Choose your words carefully. Lie if you have to. Hey, don’t you want her to lie about you?
What would happen in your life if your wife raved about you as if you were the best thing that ever happened? What would that do to you? It would transform you, wouldn’t it–especially if you believed it? You might become a man of God. You might go out and chase devils. You might conquer the world!
A major problem in marriage is that wives make their husbands feel like they can never measure up. This destroys even the attempt or desire to measure up. A wife that says, “If only you were more like Henry Kaney. He is so thoughtful and considerate,” is only working against the possibility of improvement. Am I right? Is there any husband that has ever felt that this form of comparison is effective? How many of you have ever heard or had a conversation like that? Has anyone not had a conversation like that? Only newlyweds. Has comparison ever challenged you to be more like Henry Kaney? No possible way! Faultfinding and discouragement doesn’t work on wives either. Faultfinding never works on anyone. The Proverbs 31 man says, “Honey, out of all of the women in the world, you surpass them all.” I know I am challenged to do more by encouragement than by discouragement and criticism. Discouragement deflates, encouragement elates. So why don’t we encourage one another? Encourage everybody. Encourage your wife, encourage your kids and encourage your pastor. Encourage your friends. Encourage, encourage, encourage. Encouragement is hard to do. If it were easy we would do it more often. If we did just that one thing, the world would be a better place.
Do you think it was kind of him to say, “Honey, you are the best?” Of all the choices he could make for his one memorable quote, he chose encouragement. These are the only words we hear from him in the whole chapter. Our man of few words raves about her in front of his kids and to her personally. The Bible says, “He praises her...You surpass them all.” He doesn’t say, “She surpassed them all.” He looks her in the eyes and says, “You surpass them all,” in front of the kids. He is not insulting her. He is not debasing her. He is building her up and he does it in the hearing of his household. Words are powerful. They bring life or death (Proverbs18:21). Words build up. Words tear down. Words heal or destroy.
Not only does he speak a blessing to his wife, he honors her in front of the kids. Now what does this do for the security and stability in the home? Do you think that dad’s encouragement of mom does anything in the little hearts of the kids? Absolutely. Every kid wants to see mom and dad getting along and having this kind of warm conversation. It is often said, “The best thing a dad can do for his kids is to love their mother.”
The kids learn to bless mom from dad. Our man’s respect for mom is a powerful lesson for young men. Understand, that there is a small window of time during which we can mold and impact the lives of the kids entrusted to us by God. My most important times of teaching and interaction with my kids have occurred in spontaneous, unscheduled moments: walking to the park, roller skating, bike riding, fishing, working around the house, driving in the car, at home over breakfast. This kind of lesson cannot be taught in Sunday school.
Find some way to speak positively about her and to her. Your honest appreciation makes her life and work valuable. What she does is not trivial. Is her work any less important than his? Not only does mom accomplish much, she also is effective in raising sweet children. The biblical model is being passed to another generation. Do you detect any hint that this woman was degraded or treated as inferior by her husband? Do you detect any hint that her husband demeaned or belittled her? He praises her. He raves about her. She surpasses all others. His words reveal a warm and intimate relationship with his wife. She can believe his words because his actions toward her are righteous. The Proverbs 31 man uses his words constructively. This is a wise man.
The Deceitfulness of Beauty
Proverbs 31: 30 reads, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.” There is no indication that the Proverbs 31 woman won a beauty contest. Most women by definition are average. Our man sees his wife for her inner beauty. A truly beautiful woman is a woman who trusts the Lord. She is praised because of her noble character. Noble character gets better with time but skin wrinkles with time. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. Over the course of time, kindness is more important than beauty. Face the facts no one keeps their shape forever. Just look down. The man who does not see the true beauty in the fear of the Lord is a blind man.
The Proverbs 31 man is not demanding that his wife be a high school hard body. He doesn’t measure her value against a Playboy pinup. She is not forced to conform to some narrow, cultural standard of beauty. Never make negative remarks about your wife’s appearance. You damage your relationship with your wife when you ridicule your jewel for lack of physical perfection. Never, never, never compare her to anybody. Use encouragement creatively. This is a powerful principle.
Men, we need to release our wives from expectations based on a cultural definition of beauty. Cheerleaders and pinups do not impress the Proverbs 31 man. Faith, diligence, joy, kindness, loyalty and integrity impress him. Anybody can be beautiful. You can buy it in night cream. There are bottles and bottles of beauty for sale in every store. Yet, it takes the fear of the Lord to have the beauty of noble character. This woman is wise and kind. These are the adornments of true beauty. The world’s standard of beauty is not our standard of beauty.
The Proverbs 31 Man as City Elder
We learn in Proverbs 31: 23 that, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (RSV). The Proverbs 31 man has become a respected elder. Elders were the heads of families. Elder comes from the word for “old age.” An elder in most civilizations represented the authority vested in those who, by age or experience, are thought to be the best qualified to rule. In ancient times, elders were the civil authority. Every city had its own ruling body of elders, whose duties included acting as judges, conducting inquests, settling marriage disputes, and hearing pleas for asylum (New Bible Dictionary “Elder” 356). This local system prevailed throughout the history of Israel (New Bible Manners and Customs “Government” 264-275). The gate was the place where justice was administered and disputes were settled. The city gates were the centers of government and commerce. Royalty and judges sat in the gate to discharge their official duties. The word “gate” consequently became a synonym for power or authority. This is illustrated in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus said about the church, “The gates of hell shall not prevail...” (New Bible Manners and Customs 110-111).
We find our Proverbs 31 man at the gates of the city. To sit at the gate means that our man is a prominent leader in the community. He is known in the gates. This means that he has a good reputation. He is respected. Proverbs 3:3-4 tell us that it is by loyalty and faithfulness that a man gains a good reputation in the sight of God and men. Our man isn’t known in the gates of the city as a derelict or a thief or a womanizer but an elder. He has earned his seat at the gate by his character, not by votes. The gate is a place of honor. One does not become an elder by being a fool. Proverbs 24:7 tells us that, “Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth” (RSV). A fool is not even allowed to speak in the gate. A fool has nothing worth saying.
So what do we know about our man? He is a man of wisdom and integrity. The Proverbs teach us that godly wisdom is learned (Proverbs1:2; 9:9; 30:3). Therefore, growth in God’s wisdom takes time, study and effort. Here is a man devoted to God. He has taken spiritual responsibility for his own life.
He is not waiting for his wife to lead the way or to encourage him spiritually. He has picked himself up by his own bootstraps and put himself into training to understand and apply God’s Word. As a result of that growth in wisdom and experience, he is able to sit in the gate and make a positive contribution to the community. He sits among the elders of the land. He is not sitting in the seat of scorners. He is not walking in the counsel of the ungodly. He is not sitting around being lazy. He is not sitting in front of the TV. He is not sitting at the beach getting a good tan. He is not sitting at the Red Onion Cantina sucking suds with his buds. He is not smoking pot. He is not living for golf, fishing, bowling, video games or basketball. We see him taking care of business and we see him at home with the wife and kids. He isn’t a self-seeking, recreational machine. Now there is a valid place for recreation, granted. I need some. I’m about due for a fishing trip. That is not what we are talking about here. He is making a difference in his world. He is taking his biblical responsibilities seriously. The Proverbs 31 man is involved in influencing the community beyond family and church.
The Men at the Gates and a Woman’s Ability to Shop
Proverbs 31:23 could be titled, “The Men at the Gates and a Woman’s Ability to Shop.” Proverbs 31:14, 16 and 24 show that the streets are safe in the city for women to travel, shop and do business. What would make the streets unsafe for women? Bad men. Who would rob women? Bad men. When men are good, the streets are safe. When men are good, women are safe. She can travel the open road and bring food from afar. She can buy a field and not be ripped off. She can go to town and supply merchants with the products of her home industry. This woman lives and moves freely without fear. She is not worried about drive-by shootings, robbery, rape and rip-offs. This is because righteous men rule at the city gates. When God is removed from the gates the city lives in fear. When God is removed from the home, schools, business and government, people live in fear. We put bars on our doors and windows. We buy alarms, security systems, Lo-jack, the Club, pepper spray and guns. The following verses from Proverbs illustrate this:
- Proverbs11:10 (RSV) – “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.”
- Proverbs11:11 (RSV) – “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.”
- Proverbs 28:28 (RSV) – “When the wicked rise, men hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase.”
- Proverbs 29:2 (RSV) – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
- Proverbs 29:16 (RSV) – “When the wicked are in authority, transgression increases; but the righteous will look upon their downfall.”
The fact that she can travel safely and do business without fear tells us that the elders who sit in the gate are doing a good job. When God’s righteousness prevails in the city and in the nation, people are free, happier, safe, and stable. People can travel without fear. Righteousness promotes commerce. Proverbs 28:2,15,16; and 29:2 show us that society is held together by the quality of men at the gates. The people have confidence in the men at the gate.
Should we legislate righteousness? Yes! All law is legislated morality. Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation.” It is a blessing of God as a result of obedient men that allows women to travel freely and shop in complete peace as shown in Deut 28:1‑3,6 (RSV):
- v1 – “And if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments which I command you this day, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.”
- v2 – “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.”
- v3 – “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.”
- v6 – “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (RSV).”
Additionally, in Leviticus 26:21-22:
- v21 – “If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve.”
- v22 – “I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted. (NIV).”
- And further in Judges 5:6‑7 (RSV):
- v6 – “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Ja'el, caravans ceased and travelers kept to the byways.”
- v7 – “The peasantry ceased in Israel, they ceased until you arose, Deb'orah, arose as a mother in Israel.”
- And in Judges. 20:45-46:
- v45 – “As they turned and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites cut down five thousand men along the roads. They kept pressing after the Benjamites as far as Gidom and struck down two thousand more.”
- v46 – “On that day twenty-five thousand Benjamite swordsmen fell, all of them valiant fighters. (NIV).”
And finally in Num. 21:1 – “When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them (NIV).”
Men who govern righteously make the roads safe and protect the wellbeing of the community. However, when righteous men leave the city gate, it opens the floodgates to wickedness. When righteous men leave their seats at the gate, wicked men will take those seats. When the Proverbs 31 man is not at the gate, the Romans 1:31 man will be seated there presiding. Striving against evil that takes place at the gate (Proverbs 28:2-5, 28 and 29:2,16). It is not an easy job (Proverbs 29:8). The seat in the gate is a dangerous position (Proverbs 29:10, 27). When men are committed to God and family and take biblical values to the city gates, the streets are safe for women and children.
The Final Word
The Proverbs 31 man is known at the gates for his noble character. He is a quality husband, father and civic leader. This man is an ideal role model. Even some of the best-known Bible heroes did not do as good a job as this man. Proverbs 31:31 reads that the Proverbs 31 woman is also known and praised at the gates for her qualities. Isn't this woman of Proverbs 31 fantastic? Wouldn't it be great if all wives were like this? Wouldn't it be great if all wives would make this their life goal...working hard to be like this great woman? Wouldn't life be better and wouldn’t marriage be better if all wives were like her?
What about husbands? Wouldn't it be great if all men were like him? Wouldn’t it be great if every husband would make it their life goal to be the Proverbs 31 man? Wouldn't life be better and wouldn’t marriage be better if all husbands were like him? Shouldn’t men work hard to provide a warm, safe and peaceful home? We may never make it -- but let us die trying.
Let's work hard to be forgiving, encouraging, loving and understanding, wise and kind. Regardless of our stage in life, we should all strive to develop godly character. Keep on trying. Keep on praying. Keep on learning. Never give up. Our Proverbs 31 Man was a quality husband, father and elder.
He was a:
- Uncompromising faith
- Blesses his wife
- Active at the gate
- Necessary for the family and his wife
- Dad to his kids
Now we should ask the question, does our man need to be this way? No. There is no irresistible compulsion to be a biblical man. The Proverbs 31 man has analyzed the options and made a choice to conform to the biblical pattern that is tested and true. The biblical blueprint for family still works today. Our culture says do what you want when you want. It’s all about you. However, our Proverbs 31 man has built his life according to God's blueprint for the family. He is not doing what he wants. He is doing what is best. The reason most men do not match the Proverbs 31 man is because they are doing what they want. Selfishness is always self-destructive.
Our man is doing what God wants...and what God wants is best for everyone. God's blueprint for life hasn't gone out of style. It is a blueprint of choice. It is God's wisdom and it is learned. Biblical wisdom is something that our man has modeled his life after. The Proverbs 31 man is this way because he understands that God's paradigm for family is better than any other family model the experts can construct. One day all the experts will agree with the Bible.
Let us reject the values of our culture and personal interests to produce families who live out the universal principles that construct wholesome, happy homes. Let us learn to be a Proverbs 31 man. Men don’t have many models of a decent dad and husband. Here is a great one. Let us be men and women of God who live out the proven, timeless principles as recorded in the Owner’s manual.