Proverbs 31 describes a godly woman and mentions various attributes, attitudes, and accomplishments of this woman. It is exceedingly popular today, in Christian circles, to encourage women to be a Proverbs 31 Wife. The text gives us a few insights, however, about her husband as well. Proverbs 31 gives us a picture of an empowering husband.
Proverbs 31 is often described as an Epilogue on the Wife of Noble Character. The text describes this woman from a number of vantage points:
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (NIV)
The text describes her productivity, her sense of responsibility, her care for her family, her business savvy, her generosity to the poor, her preparedness, her wisdom, and her fear of the Lord. But let’s explore what all these noble characteristics reveal about her husband too.
The first phrase we see that gives us insight about her husband is a direct reference to him: her husband has full confidence in her (v. 11). The ESV phrases it saying that the “heart of her husband trusts in her.” I think they word “heart” is important here. The Hebrew word that we translate as “heart” can refer to emotions, intellect, or will. It’s a robust word that communicates just how deep is his confidence and trust. The verse adds that this man “lacks nothing of value,” meaning he is not afraid of what will happen. He’s not worried about what she will do, or where she will go, or what consequences will come to him from her activities. He has full intellectual and emotional confidence in her. Now, this speaks to her “noble character,” but it also speaks to his trust in that character. He doesn’t need to micromanage her, monitor her activity, critique or evaluate her decisions. He trusts her. He is willing to let her exercise her noble character apart from his involvement. This is the way it should be.
It talks about her productivity and her management of her home. She works hard, rises early, provides food. We don’t need to overemphasize the specifics. The Bible isn’t prescribing “rising early” for all women. Yet the principle of managing her household well is important. What’s interesting for us to consider is that elsewhere the Bible encourages men to manage their households (1 Tim. 3:4). Yet in this instance the Proverbs 31 woman is given the freedom to lead as she thinks is best. She is able to use her skills, her wisdom, and her awareness to care for her family. Her husband trusts her to do this and gives her the latitude to make decisions. She gets “wool and flax” she buys a field, she plants a vineyard. There’s no hint in the text that she must ask his permission, get his approval, or wait on him to make decisions. She is assertive and intelligent. The emphasis of the passage is on her capability. A Proverbs 31 husband supports his wife’s decision making abilities and her competence to assess situations. The fact that this woman buys a field and plants a vineyard is not a small thing. She demonstrates some real business acumen. She evaluates a field and determines its worth and buys it. She “considers her merchandise profitable,” says verse 18. She is not merely doing the duties of a domestic life as we determine them in modern life. She is doing business. She is assessing, buying, and evaluating her profit. Her Proverbs 31 husband doesn’t limit her activities to specific domestic tasks, he honors the broadness of her interests, intellect, and skill.
Her husband is again mentioned in verse 23. He is known at the city gate among the elders, we are told. This reflects that he is a man of status and influence. Yet he doesn’t throw around his importance or authority to manage his wife or overrule her in the family dynamic. He trusts her completely. He is not afraid of being embarrassed. He is not insecure enough that he needs to be involved in all her tasks and choices. He has confidence that she will be able to fulfill her roles and represent their family well in so doing. Her competence is not a threat to his status. No, in verses 28-29 he praises her. A Proverbs 31 husband respects, honors, and affirms his wife’s value and work.
Are you a Proverbs 31 husband? Can it be said of you that you trust your wife with full confidence, both intellectually and emotionally? Do you support her work, affirm and honor her value? Do you give her latitude to make choices and manage her household and her life well? Do you recognize her worth beyond the domestic duties of a wife and mother? A Proverbs 31 husband does these things and it is wroth evaluating your life to see if you fit that same mold. Are you empowering your spouse?
The fact that he trusts her not only speaks to her character, but also to his. He is not self-centered and immature or he would not be able to freely trust her. Trusting another human also means that we must be grown up on our insides too. He must be emotionally mature (not expecting her to provide for his emotional needs or he would be clingy), intellectually mature (allowing her to make decisions means that he is wise and can see her wisdom and maturity). He is also mature in his spiritual area of life because he is not criticizing her for working “outside the home” suggests that he is chipping in and not demanding that everything be to his liking. His unselfishness would be required, because no one is perfect and there are mistakes that will be made. So his maturity in allowing others to have things their way is evident.
In many ways a man’s internal character and maturity (ie. dealing with his issues from his past) are the foundation that empower his wife to be all God created her to become. Those men who suggest that he should “rule over her” (Gen 3:16) is the way life should be are missing out on God’s gift. In the same way we pull out weeds (weeds are a consequence of sin) if a man is wise, he will also work against his ‘ruling over his wife’. Both weeds and ‘ruling over’ are consequences of sin and ought to be rooted out of a Godly man’s life.
I appreciate this author’s addressing what is often overlooked; how a man treats his wife greatly influences who she becomes and how (or if) she has the freedom to bless him as a Proverbs 31 wife!