godiz - I've been chosen to paint the walls at "Doggy Day Care/Center" where I work part/time. It hasn't been done in ages. They think I'm the most creative one of the bunch and most fitted for this lol And of course I don't mind :-) I think It's fun! Though I'm about to fall asleep, been painting walls for 7h today :-( Finishing up for the day. ZZZZZZzzzzz... To be continued... Later Skater!
godiz - I'm not a fan of Gordon Ramsey's, not really my cup of tea as the British people say, though my sister has a crush' on him (don't ask me why)? I've always liked sweet Jamie Oliver's better. While being bored and flipping through channels, I landed on one of GR's shows called "Kitchen Nightmares" (harsh title as usual) lol The UK'ers seem to be popular with them "mean" TV shows. Anyhow so, I started tearing up as always, hearing Johns story. Me being sensitive to peoples feelings and emotions, but this time a little more. John really made me cry along with him lol thanks John! From all the episodes I've seen (not many) I really felt with this man. Though I get teary eyed just seeing a couple holding hands or a child hugging his mother aaaww... haaa!
Many of the marriages in the Bible are less than ideal. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, has always struck me as being cranky and bossy. Job’s wife offered little comfort in the midst of his trials. In fact, it might have been considered a blessing for her to have been taken in one of the disasters that wiped out his children and his flocks.
One of the most pathetic marriages in the Old Testament is that of Abigail and her husband Nabal, described in 1 Samuel 25. She was wise and beautiful, while he was harsh and evil (1 Sam. 25:3). As his name indicated, he was a fool (25:25). I doubt that Abigail had much to say in the choice of this man as her husband. The tragedy of this marriage is turned around in the account recorded in 1 Samuel 25, however, for the Lord takes the life of Nabal and Abigail becomes David’s wife.
For the one unfortunate enough to have married a fool, Proverbs offers no promises of an easy life or a quick cure. The assumption throughout the book is that a person must live with his or her mistake in marriage. Divorce is never mentioned as the solution for a foolish decision concerning a mate. The picture painted of such a marriage is deliberately bleak.
One might think that the authors of Proverbs were somewhat cynical about marriage, having much more to say about its dangers than its delights. We must remember, however, that this book was written primarily to young men (“my son,” cf. 1:8; 2:1; 3:1) who had not yet married. One purpose of Proverbs is to urge young men to consider their life’s mate carefully, since the consequences of a wrong choice are both painful and permanent.
Marriage is the norm so far as Proverbs is concerned. The single life is nowhere presented as an alternative (such as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 7). Marriage is viewed as a divine institution, and it is God who gives a man a virtuous wife.
House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the Lord (19:14).
A man’s choice of a life’s mate can be his making or his breaking. be either a delight or a disaster.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord (18:22).
It is better to live in a desert land, Than with a contentious and vexing woman (21:19).
A constant dripping on a day of steady rain And a contentious woman are alike; He who would restrain her restrains the wind, And grasps oil with his right hand (27:15-16).
The potential of a wife for good or evil is summed up in the words of this proverb:
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones (12:4).
One purpose for dealing with the dangers of marriage is to warn those who would enter into marriage casually, without serious consideration of the consequences of their decision. When one enters into a marriage, he makes a vow, a vow which he is obligated to keep.
It is a snare for a man to say rashly, “It Is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry (20:25).32
Most of us have already entered into the commitment of marriage. I would gladly marry my wife again, if I had it to do over. Many are not so fortunate. For those of us who are married, what does Proverbs have to teach us, since we have already made our choice? While we cannot retrace our steps, we can certainly strive to become the kind of mate which Proverbs holds before us as the biblical ideal.
Women may initially be distressed by the fact that Proverbs seems to emphasize the need for a young man to give thought to his choice of a wife, but gives no counsel to the woman about her choice of a godly husband. But this is to be expected of a king who is teaching his sons about the decisions they must make in the next few years of their life. We shall also see that Proverbs has much to teach young women about the kind of man they should marry. After all, if Proverbs is a book intended to teach young men how to become godly leaders, it has the fringe benefit of instructing young women about the kind of man to marry--a man who will become the godly leader of their home.
This study is intended to encourage those who have not yet married to make their choice carefully and on the basis of character. For those who are already married, we should not focus our attention on those areas in which our mate fails to measure up, but rather seek to better understand and apply what Proverbs teaches us about how to be a godly husband or wife.
The approach of this study will be to consider the various lines of evidence which give us a composite picture of the character of the godly mate. There are verses which deal directly with the husband and the wife. Some of them present positive character traits, while others are presented in contrast (e.g., the “contentious wife”).We also have indirect instruction to consider. For example, Proverbs has much to say about the characteristics of a good friend, as well as warning us concerning those with whom we should not associate. It is my intention to consider these in order, that we might better understand those qualities which we should seek in a mate (if we are not yet married) and as a mate (if we are already married). It must be remembered as we consider the character traits of a godly mate that godliness can only be found in a maturing believer. Although an unbeliever and an immature
Christian may exhibit some of these characteristics, in the final analysis he cannot be a godly individual and therefore the single person must avoid him or her as a life partner. May God guide us in this crucial study.
The Importance of Character Traits
In the Book of Genesis there is an interesting contrast between the selection of Rebekah as Isaac’s wife (chap. 24) and Jacob’s choice of Rachel, rather than Leah (chap. 29). Abraham sent his oldest and most trusted servant to select a wife for Isaac, within the guidelines he laid down (24:2-4). The test which the servant wisely devised (24:13-14) was one which revealed the character of the young woman--she would be a servant at heart, willing to give water to the stranger and his camels.
Jacob, on the other hand, chose a wife for himself. He was unwilling to marry Leah, the older daughter, even though that was the accepted custom in those days (29:26). Jacob favored Rachel over Leah, not because of her character, but because of her looks and her personality (29:17). Later developments seem to establish the fact that Leah was God’s preference while Rachel was Jacob’s. Leah outlived her younger sister, for example. Leah and her handmaid bore twice as many children as Rachel and her maiden. Leah bore Judah, the one through whom Messiah would come, and Levi, the leader of the priestly tribe. It was Leah who was buried in the cave of Machpelah, beside Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah (49:31), while Rachel was buried along the way to Bethlehem (35:19).
What Genesis teaches us in practice, Proverbs teaches us in principle--a man who would marry well will choose his life’s mate on the basis of her character, not on the basis of her looks or her personality.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised (31:30).
We shall now seek to discover the character traits of a godly mate.
The Character Traits of a Godly Wife
Proverbs is most specific with regard to the qualities of the godly wife. These are highlighted by contrasting the moral flaws of a woman who is far from virtuous.
1. A GODLY WIFE IS GODLY. Godliness begins with a proper relationship to God. A godly wife is, first and foremost, a woman who fears God.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised (31:30).
In contrast, the woman to avoid is the one who does not know or fear God. She is sometimes referred to as a “strange woman,” that is a foreigner, one who has no knowledge of the God of Israel (cf. 2:25; 5:3,20; 7:5). She is actively evil and has no grasp of the way of the Lord.
She does not ponder the path of life; Her ways are unstable, she does not know it (5:6).
To keep you from the evil woman, From the smooth tongue of the adulteress (6:24).
While perhaps not synonymous with a fear of God, the godly wife is referred to as virtuous or excellent (12:4; 31:10). This seems to describe the moral excellence of the godly wife, a result of her godliness.
2. A GODLY WIFE IS WISE. You will recall that wisdom is personified as a woman in the Book of Proverbs (cf. 1:20-33; 8:1-36; 9:1-6). So also the ideal wife is characterized as a woman of wisdom.
The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands (14:1).
She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue (31:26).
The opposite of the godly woman is the woman of folly.
The woman of folly is boisterous, She is naive, and knows nothing (9:13).
As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion (11:22).
3. A GODLY WIFE HONORS HER HUSBAND. A man who has married a godly wife has a wife who will bring honor to him. She is truly a helper to her husband.
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones (12:4).
The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack, of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life (31:11-12).
An ungodly wife humiliates and harasses her husband. She is not a helper but a hindrance to her mate. She is “as rottenness in his bones” (12:4). By her haranguing, she makes him miserable:
A foolish son is destruction to his father, And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping (19:13).
4. A GODLY WIFE IS GRACIOUS. One reason honor is given the godly woman is that she is known for her graciousness.
A gracious woman attains honor, And violent men attain riches (11:16).
The ungodly woman is spoken of in very unbecoming terms. She is vexing, due to her contentious nature:
It is better to live in a corner of a roof, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman (21:9; cf. 25:24).
It is better to live in a desert land, Than with a contentious and vexing woman (21:19).
5. A GODLY WIFE IS FAITHFUL TO HER HUSBAND. This is most clearly shown by contrast with the woman of folly who is an adulteress.
To deliver you from the strange woman, From the adulteress who flatters with her words; That leaves the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God (2:16-17).
To keep you from the evil woman, From the smooth tongue of the adulteress (6:24).
“Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with caresses For the man is not at home. . . ” (7:18-19).
While it is not stated explicitly, it is implied and assumed that a godly wife is one who maintains sexual purity. She is a woman who is virtuous or excellent (31:10), in whom her husband has complete trust (31:11). She does her husband only good and not evil (31:12).She teaches her son the virtues of sexual purity (31:3). Certainly she is a woman of sexual purity.
The Character Traits of a Good Friend
Some may not realize that the traits of a good friend relate to the character of one’s mate, but a little reflection shows why this must be so. The breaking of the marriage covenant is a sin against a companion, a close and intimate friend.
That leaves the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God (2:17).
The term rendered “companion” here is used elsewhere (cf. 16:28; 17:9; Ps. 55:13) for the closest of friends.33 If my mate is not a friend, what is she? And yet some have foolishly chosen to marry one who fails to qualify even as a friend. We will briefly summarize the qualities of a good friend, considering also the characteristics of those with whom we should avoid associating.
1. A GOOD FRIEND IS FAITHFUL. Fair weather friends are numerous, and Proverbs mentions these (cf. 14:20; 19:4,6,7). But a true friend is a person who is still there even when the going gets tough.
A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity (17:17).
A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (18:24).
Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, And do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away (27:10).
2. A GOOD FRIEND REBUKES US WHEN NECESSARY. There are things which may need to be said to a friend that are not easy to say. I am disappointed by the sentimentalism that pervades our friendships so that we flatter our friends when we need to frankly rebuke them. A true friend is the one who is honest enough to tell us what we need to hear, rather than to flatter us.
A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps (29:5).
Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (27:5-6).
Why is it, then, that we seem to think that a wife should never criticize her husband? Is it not better to be corrected by our closest friend than by an enemy? Sometimes the kindest thing a wife can do for her husband is to tell him that his idea is absolutely ridiculous--in a gracious way, of course.
3. A GOOD FRIEND IS THOUGHTFUL AND TACTFUL. A good friend is sensitive to our needs and speaks in such a way that we are encouraged and enriched. His sensitivity is demonstrated in his understanding that gaiety and goodwill is not always appropriate nor appreciated. “It matters not only ‘what’ we say, but ‘how,’ ‘when’ and ‘why’ we say it.”34
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart (25:20).
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him (27:14).
4. A GOOD FRIEND SHARPENS US. Not only do we need to be criticized when necessary, but sometimes we need to be probed or stretched in our thinking. A good friend does not allow us to become intellectually stagnant, but prods us on to higher and greater thoughts.
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another (27:17).
A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out (20:5).
Isn’t this true to life? Don’t you seek to develop friendships with those who will challenge your thinking and present you with new avenues of thought? Why should one of these friends not be your mate?
5. A GOOD FRIEND OFFERS US WISE COUNSEL. Those whom we choose as friends should be marked by wisdom and thus have godly counsel to offer.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend (27:9).
Think back for a moment to the account of David, Nabal, and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. David was angered because of the ungracious words of Nabal to his young men. He was determined to wipe out every male in the house of Nabal (25:13,34).Abigail quickly formulated a plan to appease David’s anger and then spoke words of wise counsel, pointing out how detrimental David’s actions would be to his future rule as king (25:28-31). David’s reply indicates his appreciation of the wisdom of her words:
Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed, and from avenging myself by my own hand” (1 Sam. 25:32-33).
I would simply point out that David was indeed wise to marry a woman who could offer such wise counsel. And we would do well to marry one who offers wise counsel as well. Why is it, then, that husbands seem to think that the biblical instruction concerning the submission of the wife to her husband precludes her offering him wise counsel, if offered tactfully and in a submissive spirit? Let us learn from David and Abigail.
While we should seek those with the above-mentioned qualities to be our friends, we must also shun those who have characteristics which would hinder our walk in wisdom. If we are not to associate with the following kinds of people, certainly we ought not to marry them either. Here are some character traits which would seem to disqualify a person as a partner in marriage:
1. WE OUGHT NOT ASSOCIATE WITH A FOOL.
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm (13:20).
Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge (14:7).
2. WE OUGHT NOT ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO HAVE AN UNCONTROLLABLE TEMPER.
Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself (22:24-25).
3. WE SHOULD NOT ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO ARE EVIL:
Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; For their minds devise violence, And their lips talk of trouble (24:1-2).
He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He hears the oath but tells nothing (29:24).
4. WE SHOULD NOT ASSOCIATE WITH ONE WHO IS A REVOLUTIONARY.
My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change; For their calamity will rise suddenly, And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them? (24:21-22)
There are some who are always out to change things--society, government, other people. It is not wrong to try to improve things, but the revolutionary is more bent on removing than improving. The revolutionary wants change for the sake of change, not change for the sake of improvement. Incidentally, some seem bent on finding a mate who needs improving--a sort of life-long project. Proverbs does not recommend it.
5. WE SHOULD NOT ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THEIR APPETITES.
He who keeps the law is a discerning son, But he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father (28:7).
The Character Traits of a Godly Child
Some time ago I was arrested by the words of the Centurion in the Gospel of Matthew:
“For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, “Go” and he goes, and to another, “Come” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this” and he does it” (Matt. 8:9, emphasis mine).
Up until this time I had always understood the Centurion to say that he was a man of authority, not a manunder it. Perhaps this is some kind of euphemism. But I believe that it is a biblical principle (and one that is evident in life) that no man is fit for authority who has not learned to be subject to it. After all, even our Lord learned obedience (Heb. 5:8).
I believe that Proverbs teaches us that we can tell much about the character of a person by observing his relationship to his parents. Note these passages:
A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke (13:1).
A fool rejects his father’s discipline, But he who regards reproof is prudent (15:5).
A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish man despises his mother (15:20).
A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him (17:25).
He who assaults his father and drives his mother away Is a shameful and disgraceful son (19:26).
Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old (23:22).
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you (23:24-25).
There is a kind of man who curses his father, And does not bless his mother (30:11).
All of these passages point to the fact that a good son is a godly man, and a godly man makes a good husband. Any man who is not a good son will not be a good husband.
There is one more proverb which has to do with parents. Frankly, I find it troublesome, but it informs us that we must seek to learn something of the home life of our mate before we marry him--or her:
Under three things the earth quakes, And under four, it cannot bear up: Under a slave when he becomes king, And a fool when he is satisfied with food, Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, And a maidservant when she supplants her mistress (30:21-23).
There is a common thread which runs through each of these four unbearable situations--one gets something which he is unaccustomed to and which he will find difficult to handle once he has it. A slave has only known authority over him, yet when he becomes king his authority is absolute. His temptation will be to abuse his newly acquired authority. A fool would normally know only poverty and deprivation. With a full stomach he will hardly know how to behave. Certainly much of his incentive will be lost. A maidservant who now has authority over her mistress will be inclined to get even by making life miserable for her former mistress. She who once felt abused and oppressed will give her mistress a taste of oppression. So too with an unloved woman. Since she has never known genuine love, she may very well presume upon it and by trying to drink this new cup to the full make her husband regret the day he vowed to be faithful in his love toward her.
I realize that some of you have come from homes in which there was little or no love. You may wonder if this proverb condemns you to a life of loneliness. I think not. Certainly God’s grace is sufficient for every need. But it should warn us that those who have not known love in their childhood years will have a tendency to abuse it in marriage. A mate who has not been loved by parents should not take this out on the marriage partner. And the one who marries a mate who has been unloved should be sensitive to the kind of problems such a childhood produces. The sins of the fathers (and mothers) are passed along, to later generations (Ex. 20:5).
Throughout the Book of Proverbs we have seen the teaching of the father and the mother, instructing and warning the child. Unfortunately, that is not the way every home operates. I am sure most of us are not entirely happy with the way we are raising our children. This means that we may learn a great deal about our mate by giving thought to the home environment in which he or she was raised. Proverbs implies that the influence of the home has a great deal to do with a child’s success in life as a partner in marriage. Here is a factor we cannot afford to overlook.
The Qualities of a Godly Husband
Initially it seemed that Proverbs had little to say to the woman who sought to discern the qualities of a godly husband. I have come to see that this is not at all the case. In general, we can say that a woman should seek a man who is wise. Since we have already studied the characteristics of the wise, we will only summarize them here. These seem especially applicable to marriage:
1. A wise husband is kind and compassionate (12:10).
2. A wise husband is honest (29:24).
3. A wise husband is hard-working (12:11; 27:23-27).
4. A wise husband is truthful (12:17,19).
5. A wise husband exercises self-control (12:15; 16:32).
6. A wise husband has a gentle tongue (12:18; 15:1-2,4).
7. A wise husband is generous (14:21; 28:27).
8. A wise husband is willing to be corrected (even by his wife) and listens to counsel (12:15; 15:12,31-32; 28:13; 29:1).
9. A wise husband is a man of integrity (19:1; 20:7).
10. A wise husband is faithful and reliable (17:17; 29:3; contrast 25:19; 31:3).
11. A wise husband is forgiving (19:11).
12. A wise husband is willing to admit he is wrong (28:13).
13. A wise husband is humble (15:25,33; 16:18-19; 18:12; 29:23).
14. A wise husband is not contentious, but a peacemaker (17:1; 18:1,19).
15. A wise husband has control of his temper (14:29; 16:32; 17:27; 29:11).
16. A wise husband is a man who avoids excesses (20:1; 23:20-21, 29-35; 31:3-9).
17. A wise husband has a concern for others, especially the poor and the oppressed (29:7).
18. A wise husband can keep a confidence (17:9; 26:20).
19. A wise husband fears God and is obedient to His Word (13:13; 14:26; 16:20; 28:25; 31:30).
20. A wise husband is not a jealous man (27:4).
21. A The wise husband has a positive outlook on life (15:15; 17:22; 18:14).
As I look at these characteristics of the wise I am reminded of the qualifications laid down by the apostle Paul for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3.I find a great similarity between the qualifications for church leaders and the characteristics of the wise in Proverbs. But should this come as a surprise? After all, isn’t Proverbs written to young men who will be leaders, instructing them about wisdom? In this sense 1 Timothy 3 only summarizes what Proverbs has taught in greater detail.
For prospective mates the implications of this message should be obvious. Your choice of a life’s partner should be made on the basis of character, not charm or outward beauty. In general, your mate should manifest the characteristics of one who is wise. More specifically, a godly husband or wife will not be the kind of person with whom Proverbs warns us not to associate, but will evidence the qualities of a good friend. Anyone who chooses to disregard the teaching of Proverbs on marriage will live to regret it.
I find it distressing to admit that much of the force of the warnings of Proverbs concerning marriage has been nullified by a fact of 20th century Christian life--divorce has become an acceptable alternative to an unhappy marriage, even among Christians. Even Christians do not tend to heed the warnings about a contentious mate because they believe that if their marriage does not work out they can simply walk away from their commitment and try again. That, to me, is a very sad commentary on contemporary Christianity.
Why is it that our teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage differs so greatly from that of our Lord? If you will recall, it was the Pharisees who asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce for any cause at all (Matt. 19:3). Our Lord’s answer to this question was to emphasize the rule, not the exception, and therefore the stress was on the permanence of the marriage union (19:4-9). The response of the disciples of our Lord is significant: “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry” (19:10). Our Lord did not correct this conception, but confirmed it (19:11-12), and in so doing demonstrated His agreement with the teaching of the Book of Proverbs. Let us be careful to seek to preserve the purpose of God for marriage and not to promote the exceptions. In preserving the permanence of marriage we will once again be able to urge men and women to choose their mates carefully, and then to live in such a way as to keep their marriage vows.
There is also a lesson for us to learn from Proverbs about the matter of personality. I believe many Christians are more concerned about their personality than their character. Worse yet, I fear that some have tended to confuse or equate the two. Some women tend to think that the ideal husband and spiritual leader is the one with the “salesman-type” personality--he is outgoing, aggressive, and assertive. Some women who are married to men who have a less aggressive nature are tempted to look down on their husbands because they are not domineering enough.(They should talk to some of the women who have the assertive husbands.) Some men think that the ideal “submissive” wife is the woman who is shy and passive. In both cases, personality has been confused with character. God is not nearly as concerned with our personality as He is with our character. Aggressive men are not necessarily better leaders, and certainly they may not be more godly leaders, nor are passive women necessarily more submissive.
Let us learn that our character is far more important than our outward beauty or our personality. Is this not what Peter was teaching the women, who are often more sensitive to outward appearance?
And let not your adornment be external only--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, and putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:3-4).
In Proverbs we are told that charm (personality?) is deceitful and that beauty is vain (the NIV says “fleeting”).Our personality may be deceptive, for we may be both charming and spiritually carnal. And beauty is temporary, but character is eternal. Let us seek to be godly.
As parents, we need to teach our children to seek godly character, for themselves, and in those with whom they would associate. We must teach them, by word and deed, the permanence of the marriage commitment and the delights of marriage when both partners seek to honor God in their marriage. We need not look far for the many examples of failures in marriage and the disastrous consequences for all.
There are those reading this message who, for one reason or another, may never marry. There are reasons for this, some of which are commendable (cf. 1 Cor. 7). Let me simply say that the qualities of a good mate are also the qualities of a godly man or woman. Just as not all men will be a elders or deacons in the church, yet every Christian should strive to meet the qualifications which are laid down for those who would hold such offices (1 Tim. 3); so godly character is befitting every Christian. Let us seek it for ourselves, and encourage other believers to seek it also. And let us demonstrate to the lost that godliness and wisdom are worth the cost, and are available only to those who fear the Lord.
There is a book in circulation entitled What Men Know About Women. Its pages are all blank! We have often heard some frustrated male sigh, “I’ll never be able to understand women.” Yet the Apostle Peter said, “Ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge.”78 This is a most amazing paradox. God tells men to dwell with their wives according to knowledge—an understanding of their basic nature and needs—but most men know very little about the makeup and mechanism of the female of the species. Could this be one of the reasons why so many marriages are floundering?
If God says that men are to live with their wives according to knowledge, then obviously they can know something about them, popular opinion notwithstanding! The first thing they need to know is stated in the very verse we have just quoted: “Giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel.” The woman is the weaker vessel. That doesn’t mean she is mentally, morally, or spiritually inferior, but simply that she is physically weaker. She may be less susceptible to disease and may even have a longer life span than the man, but the fact remains that she is not as large or as strong physically. God made her that way with the intent that the weaker would depend on the stronger.
Because the wife is physically weaker, she depends on her husband for provision and protection. His task is to provide food, clothing, shelter, and defense, while she is especially adapted by God to bear children and to provide them with the warm affection and tender care which they need. However, the very equipment which God gave her to assume that role is likewise the cause of a second area of weakness—her emotions. A woman must sometimes struggle with sudden and unexplainable changes in mood. These are chemically precipitated by hormones which form part of her reproductive capacity. This emotional vulnerability makes her especially dependent on the man God gives her. It seems to be the underlying idea in God’s words to Eve: “You shall welcome your husband’s affections.”79 She looks to him with an inner yearning to meet her basic needs. She was made for him, and so her life centers in him. God wants us husbands to “dwell with them according to knowledge,” then and act on the basis of that knowledge, “giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel.” The God who created these tremendous emotional needs in women intends that husbands should meet them.
Some of you are asking, “What about women who have no husbands? Who will meet their needs?” God will bestow the gift of celibacy on those women whom he intends to remain single. Furthermore, a woman’s needs can be met by the Lord himself. In fact, every Christian woman, married or single, needs to maintain a close personal relationship with Christ. However, this does not excuse a husband from his responsibilities to his wife. God’s normal way of supplying a married woman with the security and satisfaction for which she yearns is through her husband.
How does the husband do it? How can any man satisfy a woman’s basic needs? This may sound like a gross oversimplification, but one little four-letter word is actually the complete answer to this entire complex problem. The husband’s primary responsibility in a Christian marriage is to love his wife. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.”80 “Husbands should [love] their wives … as part of themselves.”81 “A man must love his wife as a part of himself.”82 “You husbands must be loving and kind to your wives, and not bitter against them.”83 All of these verses require agape, that highest level of love that keeps on giving even when it gets nothing in return and seeks only good for the one loved regardless of the personal cost or sacrifice.
This gives an entirely new meaning to the misunderstood doctrine of male headship. Headship is not some masculine doctrine cleverly designed to bolster the husband’s sagging ego. Headship involves the husband’s solemn obligation to establish an atmosphere of love in which the basic needs of his wife are fulfilled—an environment in which she is free to grow and develop into all that God wants her to be. Her submission will then be the voluntary response to his loving leadership.
The key word here is response. The woman is a responder. This is the obvious role of someone who depends on another person. Flowers depend on sunshine and rain; when they get it, they respond by blossoming into gorgeous beauty. This is how God made a woman too. She responds to what she receives. If she receives irritability, criticism, disapproval, unkindness, indifference, lack of appreciation, or lack of affection, she will respond with a defense mechanism, such as bitterness, coolness, defiance, or nagging. Some women turn to drinking or submerge themselves in social activities.
But if the woman receives love she will respond with love, and will blossom into the most beautiful creature under God’s heaven. When a man claims that his wife doesn’t love him anymore he is unwittingly admitting that he hasn’t loved her as he should have. If he had, she would most likely have responded with love in return. A man gets from his wife what he invests in her. He cannot force her to love him, but he can show love to her and enjoy her loving response. Thus the responsibility for a successful marriage rests initially with the husband. He makes the first move—that of loving his wife with the totally unselfish love of Jesus Christ.
“If she’d only quit nagging, I could love her more.” If that’s what you’ve been telling yourself, then you have it backwards! The husband must take the initiative. Love is a mental attitude which is received by an act of the human will from the source of all love, God Himself. It does not depend on the worth or the actions of its object, but simply on the ceaseless love of a changeless Lord. A wife may be sweet or sour; the house may be clean or cluttered; supper may be tasty or terrible; but none of these should affect a husband’s love. He is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church.” We know all too well that Christ’s love for the church wasn’t prompted by anything wonderful He saw in us, but instead by his own intrinsic nature of love. Now He makes this same love available to every Christian husband who wants to make his marriage work.
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Calvary, where Christ scarifically gave Himself, was the greatest demonstration of love in all of human history. Sacrificial self-giving is the very essence of love. Now God asks of every Christian husband the same self-giving love. That’s important to remember—love gives. It will involve giving the material things a wife needs as finances permit, and perhaps even a little gift now and then that says, “I really care. I think about you when we’re apart.” It doesn’t have to cost much money, but it does reassure a wife of her husband’s love.
Love will also involve helping. Sometimes a husband develops the strange notion that his home is a castle and he is the king. His wife’s task is to provide for his comfort and to protect him from all unpleasant circumstances. He rises majestically from dinner, sinks gloriously into his overstuffed chair, and entertains himself with the newspaper and television while his wife cleans up the kitchen, straightens up the house, helps the children with their homework, and puts them to bed. Any encroachment on his lordship’s time is met with howls of protest. Most wives work hard, maybe even harder than their husbands, and no husband ought to be above helping with the housework and the children. If the wife is really the weaker vessel, then wiping the dishes, sweeping the floor, supervising the children, cleaning the windows, or dozens of other little helpful acts are just other ways of saying, “I love you.”
Self-sacrificing love will involve the giving of time. Some husbands are too busy to run an errand, fix a gadget, or devote an evening to their wives alone. They are saying in subtle little ways, “You’re really not worth very much personal sacrifice,” and this is like spraying weed killer on a beautiful flower. But when the wife begins to wilt and reflect the same attitude toward her husband, he is usually quick to complain about it. Problems like this will be solved when the husband begins to show the love of Christ.
Love may involve giving up things. Often a husband has interests or hobbies in which his wife finds no pleasure. Usually compromises can be made: she may develop special interests of her own, he may restrict his activities somewhat, or they may plan other special activities together. But if all reasonable attempts to solve the conflict fail, then God intends for the wife to know that she holds the most important place in her husband’s life, that next to the Lord Himself she is above everything and everyone. That does not give a wife the right to demand that her husband give up something to “prove his love,” but it does lay upon every Christian husband the need for assuring his wife that he loves her above all else.
Christ-like love will involve reassurance and encouragement. Some men refuse to tell their wives that they love them. “I told her that when I married her, and she knows it’s true.” Yes, but a woman requires reassurance. Her whole life is wrapped up in the security of her husband’s love, and the Lord wants her to be assured of it in every possible way. She needs to know that he cares—that he appreciates the things she does to please him, like maintaining his home and cooking his meals. She needs to know that he comes home because she is there—not just for meals and a bed! One of the most prevalent complaints of wives is that their husbands take them for granted, treating them as if they were maids. Here is what one woman said she needed most from her husband: “I need to feel needed, that what I am doing for him and for our children is important to him. Then, I want to be appreciated for the things I do.” Most wives try hard to please, and they need to know that their husbands approve of their efforts and appreciate them.
Of all the things God wants a husband to give his wife, none is more important than what Christ gave—His own personal being. “Oh, I’d die to protect my wife,” some would protest. Giving ourselves may not demand dying for our wives, but it certainly demands living for them, and that is the very thing many husbands are unwilling to do. They exclude their wives from their lives. They think working hard and providing an abundance of material things will make their wives happy. And while they are at work getting rich, their wives are at home with aching hearts, yearning to share their husbands’ lives as God intended them to do, yearning for the appreciation, approval, attention, and affection which God intended them to have, yearning for the sympathetic understanding their God-given natures demand.
One woman wrote, “My husband needs to let me know that he is aware of my problems and understands them. I need to feel that we are working together toward a common goal.” The one word that occurs most frequently when wives are discussing what they need from their husbands is understanding. No amount of material things can take the place of a husband who listens to his wife with undivided attention when she unfolds her heart, who tries to understand even her most complicated moods, and who lets her know that he loves her even during her most illogical and unreasonable moments.
That costs something; in fact, it costs everything. It demands total self-sacrifice. That is exactly what it cost Christ when His love led him to Calvary. If you are not willing to pay that cost, then you made a dreadful mistake when you promised a woman you would love her until death. God says she is part of you. You are one flesh.84 She needs to be treated with the same loving care and concern with which you treat your own body. “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”85 The word nourish means to supply the food and clothing which the body needs. The word cherish literally means to keep warm, but also includes the idea of tender, loving care, the kind of care a trained nurse would give to her own children.86 Some men are like little boys; they want their wives to feed them when they are hungry and soothe them when they are hurt, just as their mothers did. Biblically, that comes closer to the role of the husband toward his wife than the role of the wife toward her husband.
Most men take pretty good care of their own bodies. They get plenty of food, proper rest, adequate clothing, a break from the monotonous routine, some enjoyable relaxation, some time to themselves, and a certain amount of personal satisfaction in life. But are they as interested in seeing that their wives get the same? They should be, according to the Word of God, because their wives are part of them. A man’s care for his wife is, in effect, care for himself too, since both their lives are one.
That is exactly what Peter said in the verse with which we started this chapter: “You husbands must be careful of your wives, being thoughtful of their needs and honoring them as the weaker sex. Remember that you and your wife are partners in receiving God’s blessings, and if you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not get ready answers.”87 When a man takes a woman to be his wife he makes her part of himself; he cannot afford to shut her out of his life. When he refuses to obey God’s Word in this regard, a spirit of bitterness and resentment creeps into the marriage, spiritual power vanishes and an effective prayer life is hindered. Much of the spiritual impotence of believers can be traced to this very matter. It’s time for us to obey God’s Word again!
On one occasion a Christian husband told me some of his wife’s problems—a general discontentment, a proneness to pick and gripe at little things, and a constant irritability and unreasonableness. He had tried to improve himself in some areas in order to make her happy, but it was never enough. One day he blurted out, “That woman will find something wrong with heaven!”
We discussed her immaturity and insecurity, much of which seemed to stem from her family background. But one day I suggested that all of her problems might not be traceable to her parents. Maybe some of them grew out of her God-given need to be reassured of his love. I asked him to do everything he could to make her feel more secure in his love. He accepted my challenge and with God’s help began to make some changes.
He started to show his wife more affection, taking her in his arms as they passed in the house and telling her he loved her, even though it was not his natural inclination to be that demonstrative. He spent time with her away from the children, listening to her talk and making sympathetic comments. (He found that the best time to talk was while she was cleaning up the kitchen—the kids were nowhere to be found at that particular time!) He pitched in and helped while they talked. When she had had a bad day and got upset about some silly little thing that didn’t please her, he asked God to keep him calm and help him assure her of his love at that very moment, instead of angrily defending himself and sulking, as he once had done. The transformation that gradually came over her was amazing. Their marriage isn’t perfect as of this writing, but a woman who missed something very important in her childhood years is beginning to find in her husband the love that God intended her to have, and in that atmosphere of love she is growing into the beautiful person God planned for her to be.Let me add just a brief word to wives. Let the indwelling Spirit of God motivate your husband in these matters. Don’t try to do God’s work for him. If you try to remake your husband yourself, the results will be far less than you hope for. It is not even your place to remind him of his responsibility. Instead, commit him to the Lord, pray for him, and be what God wants you to be.
WHAT EVERY WIFE NEEDS TO KNOW
The primary responsibility of the husband in a Christian home is to love his wife. This is mentioned a number of times in the Bible. In one passage of Scripture, however, wives are commanded to love their husbands.88 While this one reference indicates that they are expected to help create an atmosphere of love in the home, their primary responsibility is introduced in the next verse, where they are exhorted to be obedient to their own husbands.89 Obedience involves subjection and subordination. The word is used of the wife’s responsibility to her husband no less than six times in the New Testament.90
We have discussed the subject of headship and God’s order of authority in the home previously, but now we want to apply it specifically to the wife, for submission is her principal obligation. “You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord.”91 Ladies, submission to your husband is really submission to the Lord, because the Lord commands you to do it! If you cannot find it in you to submit to your husband for his sake, do it for the Lord’s sake. The Lord loves you with a perfect love. Respond to His love with subjection to your husband.
“You wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the church obeys Christ.”92 Those two words “in everything” are rather broad, aren’t they? Obedience is not to be practiced only when you feel like it, or when you wholeheartedly agree with your husband, or when he is treating you with Christ-like love, but in everything! The Bible does not condition your subjection on his love, even as it did not condition his love on your subjection. You must answer to God for your own actions, and no excuse for disobeying His Word will be accepted.
“But my husband never considers my feelings. I’ve got to stand up for my rights.” Aren’t you disputing the Word and wisdom of your omniscient God? Do you think for a moment that He did not know about your circumstances when He wrote His Word? He says that you are to be in submission to your husband in everything. He must have known that this would be best for you, or He would never have asked it of you. Give your will to Him; tell Him that you are willing to be the submissive partner. Obedience to this command glorifies God richly.
“But my husband is a jellyfish. He makes Charlie Brown look like the Rock of Gibraltar. How can I submit to him and lean on him?” Try it! Try submitting to him as unto the, Lord, in everything. Just obey the Word and entrust the consequences to the Lord! Defer to your husband’s judgment when he really ought to make the decision. Express some confidence in his abilities instead of running him down, ridiculing him, belittling him, or comparing him with other men. Tell him that you think he’s the greatest, and that you thank God for having him to lean on. Watch God use your attitude to make a man out of him, the man God wants him to be.
Just as God planned for a husband’s love to meet his wife’s needs, so he planned for the wife’s submission to meet her husband’s needs. While a woman’s God-given nature is to be dependent, a man senses an inner urge to take charge. No matter what he says or how he acts, he deeply resents any tactic his wife may use to dominate or manipulate him. Furthermore, a leader must have respect and recognition, and that is exactly what God wants the wife to provide. “The wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband.”93 God made the husband to lead; the wife must let him lead, treating him as a leader should be treated.
Making a living is not easy in our competitive world. The husband often faces frustrations, discouragements, and setbacks. Some people take advantage of him, cheat him, and deceive him. Others criticize or censure him. He needs someone to encourage him, to appreciate him, to believe in him, and to respect him—and that is why God gave him a wife! He will be able to bear a great deal more hardship in the workaday world if he knows that he has a wife at home who admires him, trusts him, and stands by him, whatever happens. If he gets the same sort of treatment at home that he gets in the working world, he will be tempted to try some form of escape which will lead to unhappiness for all concerned. But the thought of a smile coupled with a little admiration and encouragement will draw him to his home like a magnet.
Some may be thinking, “This submission business is all right if your husband is a Christian, but mine isn’t.” The central passage of Scripture on this subject is First Peter 3. It was written for all wives, but there is a special instruction to those with unsaved husbands: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.”94 All Christian wives are to be in subjection, but read on: “… that, if any obey not the word (that is, if any have unbelieving husbands), they also may without a word be won by the behavior of the wives.” The second occurrence of the term “word” in the verse has no definite article preceding it in the Greek text. It refers not to the Word of ‘God, as the first occurrence, but to any word, like a nagging sermon! This is a most amazing disclosure. God says that the subjection of the wife is the key to winning an unbelieving husband to Christ. She doesn’t have to harp about attending church. She doesn’t have to preach at her husband. She doesn’t have to read the Bible to him. She is simply asked to submit to him—graciously, gladly, lovingly, and tenderly. God uses this attitude, this behavior, to win her husband to Jesus Christ.
After I shared this concept with a morning Bible class I had been teaching, I noticed that one of the faithful ladies was missing for several succeeding weeks. Upon inquiring, I learned that her husband had been upset over her multiplied Christian activities, preferring that she stay home and tend to her household duties. After hearing what the Scriptures taught about this, she had decided to submit to him even though it involved the sacrifice of a beneficial spiritual activity which she thoroughly enjoyed. It was not long until her husband, who had previously shown little interest in the things of the Lord, trusted Christ as his Savior and began attending church with his wife to hear the Word of God for himself. He also permitted her to return to the Bible class. The consequences of conforming to God’s will are always to our advantage!
“But what if my husband asks me to do something contrary to the Word of God?” This is the only exception I can find to the “everything” of Ephesians 5:24. It was Peter who commanded Christian wives to submit to their unsaved husbands. Peter also told us to obey every law of government.95 Yet when Peter himself was rebuked by the high priest for preaching Christ, he answered, “We must obey God rather than men!”96
This same idea is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”97 The basic intent here seems to be that wives are to subject themselves to their husbands because this is proper for a woman who knows the Lord. But the wording may also imply that this subjection applies only to those areas which the Lord considers proper or fitting. If subjection to the husband is really subjection to the Lord, as Ephesians 5:22 states, then it is obviously governed by the higher authority of the Lord’s Word. For example, if a husband asks his Christian wife to participate in a wife-swapping party, she would have to refuse, since this activity would clearly contradict God’s revealed will. Subjection in dishonorable matters eventually causes an unsaved husband to despise his Christian wife, thus driving him even farther from Christ.
How about church attendance? The Bible commands believers to assemble together,98 but it does not say how often. A Christian wife may properly desire to be at church whenever the doors are open, but because she is in subjection to her husband she will go only when he allows her to go, graciously submitting to him when he denies her that privilege. She will let him know that she is genuinely pleased to do what makes him happy. Then she will find the strength to sustain this gracious attitude through her own personal fellowship with Christ. He in turn will reward her with additional wisdom for every new situation that arises.99
Viewed in the light of God’s Word, subjection is not a forced slavery to which a wife must make herself conform. It is not a loss of individuality or personality. True biblical subjection is a woman’s creative and challenging pleasure of discovering how she can show her husband that she respects him, admires him, and depends on him. That requires the death of all pride and the destruction of all selfish motives. It means that the wife will become more interested in the husband’s needs than in her own. It means that she will stop asking, “How far must I go in my subjection to my husband?” and will instead begin to ask, “How far can I go without disobeying my Lord?” This may require a complete change of the wife’s attitude toward her husband, but God will help her if she asks Him. Her new prayer will be, “Lord, give me a simple and unselfish desire to be led by my husband as I am led by You, and thereby bring glory to Your name.”
Now let’s look at a few other things which God wants every Christian wife to know, whether her husband is a believer or not. “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on jewelry, or beautiful clothes, or hair arrangement. Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit which is so precious to God.”100 From the Greek word translated “outward beauty” we get our English word “cosmetic,” denoting a beautifying agent. The Word of God tells Christian women how to be beautiful. If they will take this advice they will save themselves considerable expense! Peter says that beauty is not primarily a matter of external things, such as hair style, jewelry, and clothing, but instead originates in the heart. He is not saying that a Christian woman ought to be slovenly or careless about her appearance, but that real beauty is something deeper than either her skin or the threads that cover her skin!
Women need to learn this. Some seem to think that God gives them husbands to buy them everything their hearts desire. They drive their husbands to make more money so they can buy more clothing and jewelry and have their hair done more often, thereby impressing people with their beauty and social status! They use their husbands to satisfy their own pride of appearance and lust for material things. A woman like this usually destroys her husband or drives him to someone who loves him for himself.
Something that never wears out or goes out of style is “… a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” “Meek” means gentle, considerate, willing to surrender one’s personal rights. “Quiet” means peaceful, restful, undisturbed. A meek and quiet spirit is a precious and beautiful thing in God’s eyes, a thing of supreme value. But if my conversations with Christian husbands reflect the prevailing state of affairs, this trait is glaringly absent among women generally—even Christian women.
We often find instead moodiness, irritability, nagging, grumbling, and complaining—hardly commendable traits in a Christian woman! “But,” some will protest, “you said in the preceding chapter that it is our physical makeup that causes us to be emotionally weak and moody.” True, but not all moodiness can be attributed to body chemistry. In fact, much of it may stem from a refusal to get down off the throne of one’s life and let Jesus Christ take control. This kind of refusal is sin. Irritability is one of the most common complaints of husbands and wives against each other, and it usually results from one partner interfering with the pleasure, comfort, convenience, or well-being of the other partner. Irritability is really nothing more than our sin nature having its own way. That sin nature needs to be dethroned and defeated!
This fact does not give a husband the right to be unloving or unkind when his wife is in a bad mood. She still needs words of sympathy and understanding rather than angry retorts like “Snap out of it” or “Stop acting so childishly.” But neither can a wife blame her bad disposition on her husband. She must accept the responsibility for it personally before the Lord. She must call it what it is—sin. Then she must confess it to God and claim his power and grace to overcome it. The Lord Jesus Christ will then produce in her His own graciousness and sweetness.
Admittedly, a woman’s life can be difficult. The burden of keeping up a home and caring for the children can easily become a monotonous routine. She goes through the motions, but feels as though she is not contributing anything significant to life. The constant confinement of four walls and the incessant backdrop of childish chatter threaten to drive her to distraction. But if she allows that attitude to linger it will cast a dismal gloom over the whole household, and everyone in it will suffer. A cheerful atmosphere in the home depends largely on the wife. If she accepts her responsibility to create a congenial atmosphere and yields herself to the indwelling Spirit of God, He will produce in her His fruit of joy; life will become an exciting challenge rather than an exasperating chore. Sometimes women get involved in so many outside activities they lose sight of the biblical priorities. Their first responsibility is to make their husbands and their homes happy—and this takes serious thought, careful planning, and selfless attention. The dividends are rich, however, and the personal satisfactions and rewards are well worth the effort.
King Lemuel describes an amazing woman in the last chapter of Proverbs. It would profit every Christian wife to read this chapter often. She is a talented woman. In fact, she even helps with the income.101 It is not wrong for a wife to pursue a career if it does not interfere with her domestic responsibilities. Judging from all that she does for her family, the ideal woman of Proverbs 31 is an industrious, self-disciplined woman who schedules her time carefully. Nothing is too much trouble for her. She even rises before daybreak to prepare breakfast for her family.102 One word is probably more important than any other in the passage. It is the word that describes her sustaining attitude: “She worketh willingly with her hands.”103 The literal meaning is “with pleasure.” Her deepest joy and satisfaction is found in making her family happy. You see, the Lord is interested not only in what we do, but also in how we do it. Our attitude matters to Him. When a Christian wife is yielded to Christ she will be able to accept her God-given role joyfully, and her husband’s heart will cry “Amen” when he reads the words, “The man who finds a wife finds a good thing; she is a blessing to him from the Lord!”104
A word of caution must be given to the husbands, too. It is so easy to talk about the faults of our mates instead of seeking God’s grace to improve our own shortcomings. This chapter was not written for husbands to hold over their wives. It was written so that the Holy Spirit can enlighten Christian wives about their biblical duties. Let each of us examine our own lives in the light of the Word; the Holy Spirit will perform His work in your mate in His own divine way!
For more reading: http://www.bible.ca/f-husbands-responsibility.htm
godiz - I'm not married yet! but if, it's always good to prepare yourself in God's way for your future mate :-) How beautiful is it that you can find everything that matters the most in The Bible.