Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Proverbs 31

A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. Pro 31:10 (RSV)

I am not a wife, but I recognize that (hopefully) one day I will be and so I've been interested in the topic of what wives are supposed to be doing. I figure it is better to research now than later, after I'm married. I have read Created to be his Help Meet, which I recommend. The same author is going to be publishing Preparing to be his Help Meet, which I am looking forward to reading. I've read loads of other articles on the subject, and I still have a hard time getting a handle on the concept.

Originally I just thought wives being submissive to their husbands A) was made up by men (it wasn't in the Bible), B) included being submissive to all men, and C) was definitely a bad thing. After reading the Bible, I now know they did not make it up. It is in there several times, by different authors. I don't buy the line that it was part of the custom at the time - the New Testament authors were being put to death because what they were saying was so out of the norm; one more "out of the norm" thing wasn't going to be a problem.

It does not say anything about being submissive to all men, though as Christians we're called to be submissive to others and to be submissive to our preachers/priests. In this context though, it is just the husband.

It is not a bad thing. I realized this when a friend explained it like a chain of command. Businesses and the military have a chain of command. To have two people with equal authority over the same tasks is a precursor to chaos. No one on the chain of command is less important or less of a person, but they have different roles. That's what this is about. Women have a different role. This is perhaps most obvious in our ability to have children, which men do not have. We are clearly not the same in some of the tasks we are meant to accomplish. God is simply identifying an order for us to follow so we have a pattern that is efficient and limits the amount of conflict. All the married people I know who believe this still have discussions and the woman still has a lot of power, but if no agreement can be had then, well, he's in charge.

I also discovered the man is called upon to live the wife like Christ loves His Church. And He loves His Church so much he dragged a heavy cross to his own execution site after being nearly whipped to death all so he could die a horrible death. That's a pretty high bar, in my mind. Probably a bit higher than just going along with what the husband wants if we can't decide.

And here's the thing - even if I didn't like it, it is still true. Maybe I don't like that the sky is blue. But it still is blue, and no amount of me not liking it will change it.

So I'm on board with this idea, but sometimes struggle with what it looks like. Fortunately, Proverbs 31 talks about the ideal wife for us. I'd read it before and she does sound pretty spiffy. She is not the "sit around and look pretty doing nothing until your husband comes home so you can smile at him" woman I had always thought of when I envisioned a submissive wife. She's managing the household, buying fields, making money on the things she does, and taking care of her family while reaching out to the poor. She is no slacker.
  1. A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
  2. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
  3. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
  4. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
  5. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from afar.
  6. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens.
  7. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
  8. She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong.
  9. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
  10. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
  11. She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.
  12. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
  13. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
  14. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
  15. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant.
  16. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
  17. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
  18. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
  19. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
  20. "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all."
  21. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
  22. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Prov 31:10-31

A few weeks ago in the Esther study, we looked at Prov 31:10. Instead of "good," the NASB translates it as "excellent." The KJV translates it as "virtuous." The DRB uses "valiant." I'm not sure any of those words do it justice, when we look at where else this word is found. The KJV translates it as ARMY 51 times, host 28 times (not as in hosting a party, but a host of soldiers going forth to battle), valiant 20 times, forces (again, as in army) 14 times, strength 12 times, riches 11 times, wealth 10 times, power 9 times, substance 7 times, might 6 times, strong 5 times, and on going... When the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, the "mighty men of VALOR" were prepared for battle. The woman in this verse is no weak woman!

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