The last two lessons have been looking at the relationship between parents and children. Parents are commanded to start their children down the right path. Children are commanded to honor and obey their parents. Today I want to look at the characteristics of a good woman and wife. Next week, Lord willing, I want to look at the characteristics of a good man and husband. But we will start with the women because Solomon spends more time talking to his son in the Proverbs about what he is to look for in a woman. Most of us are aware of the section in Proverbs commonly called “the worthy woman.” However, those are not the words of Solomon, but another wise writer. Therefore, we will not look at those teachings today. But Solomon spends time talking about other characteristics for his son to consider when meeting women. Let’s begin with looking at the positive.
The Excellent Wife/Woman
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” (Proverbs 12:4).
The word “excellent” is the same word translated “worthy” in the description of the worthy woman in Proverbs 31. This proverb states what most women realize but may forget: a woman makes or breaks a man. We have the saying that behind every good man is a good woman. Notice that this is the idea that Solomon is teaching his son. The worthy, excellent woman will be the crown of her husband. By contrast, the woman who causes shame will be destructive to the man.
One important that must be made from this proverb is that an excellent woman will take joy in seeing her husband succeed. The excellent woman wants to see her husband do well and will help him do well. She will not sabotage her husband but will be a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18).
Another important concept Solomon teaches is that the actions of the wife reflect upon the husband. We made note of this in regards to children toward their parents. So also in a marriage. If the woman has moral excellence and virtue in her decision-making, she will be something that her husband can honor and appreciate. However, if she causes shame because of her decisions and actions, she will be a thorn in his side and dishonorable.
“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (14:1).
Solomon gives a similar teaching in Proverbs 14:1. Rather than describing the woman’s effect on her husband, Solomon points out that she has a dramatic impact on the state of her household. The house is not speaking about the physical bricks and wood. Rather, the house describes the tone and atmosphere of the home. She is the cog in the wheel that will cause a household to be happy and joyful. She will be the cause if the house is sullen and sorrowful. Her own actions determine whether the house is built up or torn down. We need to see that the household not only includes the husband but also the children. The woman sets the tone of what that house will be like. The woman is also part of that household. Her decisions will either build herself up or tear herself down. The woman controls the atmosphere of the home. She determines the degree of hospitality in the home.
Woman must think about their role in the home. What are you doing to build up the house? Are you taking an active role making things for the inhabitants of the house better or worse?
“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion” (11:22). This proverb brings out a humorous image. There are some initial reactions that come to mind when we read about a gold ring in the snout of a pig. The first thought is “what a waste!” You have a beautiful, expensive gold ring and it was placed on the snout of a dirty pig. As beautiful as the ring might be, you cannot get past the disgusting image of the snout of the pig. No one wants the ring that has been in the pig’s snout! The gold ring is wasted. It does not beautify the pig, but makes the ring ugly.
Now apply all of those thoughts to a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. Like the gold ring, here is a woman who has physical beauty. But the beauty is overlooked because there is something disgusting in her life: a lack of discretion. The beauty is wasted like the gold ring because of her lack of discretion. Allow me to state it another way, especially to our younger women: no one will find you beautiful if you spend your life making bad, foolish decisions. Your beauty is wasted because you inner character is lacking. This is why Peter taught:
“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; instead, it should consist of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Ladies, the beauty of the inside makes you beautiful on the outside. If there is no inner beauty, then it does not matter how beautiful you are physically, it will be nothing more than a gold ring in the snout of a pig. Work on make yourself beautiful on the inside and you will be more beautiful inside and out.
The Annoying Wife/Woman
The contrast to the excellent woman may be rather surprising. I suppose we would expect Solomon to spend a significant amount of time speaking to women about not making bad decisions. Solomon certainly teaches women to have discretion and wisdom. But there are some other areas that Solomon focuses upon that may make us uncomfortable.
“A foolish son is his father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping. Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:13-14). Last week we looked at the role of children and noted how a child’s decisions can bring great joy or great pain to their parents. Solomon begins this proverb with that principle. But the rest of the proverb may be surprising. “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.” The sound of dripping water is one of the more annoying things to listen to. You may have had times where the faucet was dripping or had a leak under the sink. When you find a constant dripping of water, you do everything you can to make it stop because it is so annoying. Notice that Solomon says that a woman who stirs up strife and fights is the same as that constant dripping of water.
It is also important to see that the woman who starts fights is contrasted with the prudent wife that is from the Lord. Prudence is to act wisely and to make good decisions. A quarrelsome wife is not acting wise because she will drive people away. Three separate proverbs make this very point.
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (21:9). Remember that Solomon is giving instructions to his son. You are better off living on a small corner on the top of the roof than you are to be in the house with a quarrelsome woman. In fact, Solomon is so emphatic about this proverb that he says it again to his son later. “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (25:24). I have seen this truth in action at many times in many places. In Arkansas, traveling the road between our house and my father’s house would take us through a subdivision of houses. There was a man who would be sitting at the edge of his garage every time that we drove by. He must have been retired because we would drive by that house in the morning and he would be sitting in chair in the driveway. Drive back by in the afternoon and he would still be in the garage. Drive by in the evening, and that poor fellow was still sitting there. He will sit outside in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Every time I passed by I could not help but wonder how bad it must have been inside to stay outside regardless of the weather. But Solomon said this as well:
“Better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome and angry woman” (21:19). That retired man would rather endure the heat of summer outside than be inside with his wife. Solomon said the exact same thing. Now, Solomon IS NOT telling his son to never make a woman mad because she will make your life miserable. Solomon’s point to his son is to not spend time with such women. Do not marry such a woman. Do not make friends with such a woman. Also, women if your man seems disconnected and distant, this may be the reason why. Solomon says that eventually a man will find it better to be away from you than with you. Let’s look at one more proverb:
“A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand” (27:15-16). Can you restrain the wind? Hardly. It is a futile effort to go outside and try to make the wind stop blowing. Similarly, try picking up oil. Go home and pour out your vegetable oil in a large bowl. Then reach into the bowl and try to hold oil. The oil will slide out of your hand. In the same way, you cannot stop the drippings of a quarrelsome wife. The point of the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm is that the dripping will not stop. The dripping will not stop on its own as long as it is raining. The only way for the dripping to stop is for the rain to stop. There is only one person who can stop the quarrelsome wife: herself. We often blame one another. We would not nag or have a fight if the other person had done something. But Solomon says that we are lying to ourselves. There is nothing that can be done to stop the quarrelsome wife because that is who she is. She is the only one who can stop the quarrelling.
Conclusion – The Characteristics of a Worthy, Excellent Woman:
1. Build up the household, do not tear it down. The woman controls the tone and atmosphere of the house. Make the people in your home flourish.
2. Your inner beauty is what matters most. Your outward beauty is wasted if you lack discretion.
3. Do not be quarrelsome because you will drive people away, including husband and children. A prudent woman does not cause strife and keeps herself from quarrels.