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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Proverbs 31 Woman: An Excellent Wife {2}

You can read the first post on my Proverbs 31 series by clicking on this link:

The Proverbs 31 Woman: Unattainable Standard {1}

Last week's bible study, to sum it up, was about how Proverbs 31 is not about being perfect, but about living a life that is focused on the One who is.  We can be a Proverbs 31 woman but not apart from God.  God does not set up standards that are impossible to attain.  But apart from Him, we will surely fail. It is extremely important that we remember that as we break Proverbs 31 down over the next few weeks.

This week we are breaking down Proverbs 31:10

"An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels."

An excellent wife who can find?

Before we can even define what it means to be an "excellent wife", I think that it is important to first point out that men and women ARE different.  Therefore, the roles of the husband and wife ARE different.  Before you tune me out and call me June Cleaver, give me a chance to explain.  We are in the middle of a gender revolution.  And I think we all need to wake up and realize this one thing:

Equal but Different!

I am currently reading Men and Women: Equal Yet Different by Alexander Strauch.  In the book, Strauch mentions that God is profoundly concerned that gender differences not be minimized or blurred.  I absolutely love this quote from the book:

"In our zeal to right the horrible wrongs that have been committed against women, we must be careful not to violate the truth of God's Word and God's design for the sexes." (page 10)

and this one....

"...although sinful men and women have misunderstood and abused the doctrine of headship and submission, the doctrine itself is rooted in God's wisdom and love.  When it is applied in love, it reflects God's design for the sexes." (page 11)

My purpose in all these quotes is this:  As Christians, we should believe in role distinctions because the Bible teaches them.  God is the one who has defined what those roles should be.  This secular world that we live in should not define these roles for us.

But before we get into the roles of a woman, look at how Strauch explains the "equal" part:

"God stamped His divine image and likeness on both the individual man and the individual woman.  Both sexes are image bearers of the one, true God.  Nobility, dignity and eternity mark their faces...The fact that both sexes individually bear God's image demonstrates that they are equal in dignity and being.  Both are equally necessary and important to God's design for the human race."

To sum it all up, God created man and woman as equals.  However, there are different roles that define male and female.  When we step outside of His natural design for us, sin and chaos flourish.  Things do not function as they that applies to marriage especially.

How does "equal but different" relate to marriage?

Now that we have established that men and women are "equal but different", we need to explore God's Word and see how that relates to marriage.  There are so many different ways to explain this but lets start by going all the way back to Genesis.

Woman as Helper:

"Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18)

Strauch says this of Genesis 2:18:

 "The noun "helper" means "help", "support", "aid". It is the key word used to describe the woman's role. God is frequently described as a "help" to His people.  To be a helper means that a woman has the necessary ability, fitness, resources, and strength to be a help."

Wow.  Did you catch that? Whereas our culture and society tells us that being a helper to a man is "weak" and "disdainful", scripture tells us that being a  helper requires much strength.  It is an honorable position!

An "excellent wife" is a helper to her husband! She is strong and capable!

Woman under submission:

Not only is an "excellent wife" a helper to her husband, she is also submissive to her husband.

Let's take a look at 1 Peter 3:1-4:

"In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external-braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or 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."

Submission....that word that so many women hate to hear and some preachers and Sunday school teachers shy away from using.  Many people view submission as a man locking a woman in a house and throwing a broom at her. That is not submission.  That is abuse.  And some see submission as a woman not having a voice of her own, etc.

Strauch says it best:

"The word submission can hardly be used in our culture without misunderstanding and strong disdain.  It is loaded with negative, provocative connotations, yet submission is a biblical word and a Christian virtue.  We cannot avoid it."

Take a look at 1 Peter 3:1-4 again.  The beauty that God admires in a wife is a "gentle and quiet spirit" and "being submissive" to one's husband.

But having these two virtues does not mean that the wife is inferior, passive, defenseless, hopelessly dependent, oppressed, abused, etc. etc.  It's also important to point out that the wife does not have to do everything the husband demands or that she is an enabler of his sin and irresponsibility.  

"Biblical submission doesn't eliminate the biblical principles of justice, fairness, love, kindness and compassion that every Christian- female as well as male- should practice in every aspect of life and marriage....It is also important to remember that no husband has absolute authority, only Christ does.  It should go without saying that a wife doesn't submit to a husband's evil demands or sinful schemes (Acts 5:1-10). A wife has a biblical duty to confront her husband's sin (Matthew 18:5) and to admonish him (Colossians 3:16).  She can't be his God-given helper if she doesn't correct him, but her attitude in confronting and admonishing is that of a loving submissive partner.  Under certain heartbreaking circumstances, a Christian wife may even have to divorce or live apart from a wicked husband (Matthew 19:9)" (Strauch pg. 47)

Is submission a curse on women?

That question can be answered by simply taking a look at Ephesians 5:25-31:

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

I don't know about you, but when I think about it like that, submission is absolutely beautiful.  Who wouldn't want to submit and be a helper to a man who loves you as Christ loved the church?

Now obviously, that is not always the case.  Some men don't seem to have a clue about how to treat a woman.  They are insensitive to their wife's needs and feelings.  They can't understand their wife's frustrations and hurts.  They are deceived about themselves.  They think only of their own careers and self-fulfillment.  They exhibit incredible selfishness and callousness.  Some are only capable of making women suffer.  These men need to repent, seek counsel, and study God's word on Christian husbanding.

"A Christian husband gladly honors his wife.  He knows that she truly deserves a special place of honor.  So he speaks well of her and to her.  He tells her she is loved and needed and that he is blessed to be her husband.  He prizes her counsel and seeks her correction.  He reminds her that she is an indispensable part of his life, a special gift from the Lord,  and has a worth that is "far above jewels." (Strauch pg 49)

Group Reflection:

1. So now that we have established that an "excellent wife" is a helper to her husband and submissive to him, in what ways can we fulfill the role as "helper"? 

     a. Love your Husband:  A wife's core role is to help her husband (Genesis 2:18) and loving him is essential to that role....even when it's not easy.  This is the kind of love that Christ shows us.

     b. Love your Children.  "For a Christian mother, another core responsibility is to care for her children.  Children are to be a priority in her life.  In many developed countries of the world today, an anti-birth, anti-child mentality permeates society.  Bible-believing Christians, however, must affirm the paramount value of children and motherhood....Mothers need to be encouraged and counseled to love their children, give them full attention, value them above material possessions and personal career, and teach them God's Holy Word for salvation. " (Strauch pg 67)

c. Be a diligent homemaker.  Even if a woman has a career outside the home, it is still her responsibility to "look well to the ways of her household." (Proverbs 31:27) (We will be breaking down this verse in the coming weeks). Wives have the special privilege of being managers of the home.  We care for its daily needs, beauty, creativity, and comfort.  "It is a career that is indispensable to the health and education of the whole human race." (Strauch pg 68)

What are some other ways in which you can be a helper to your husband?

Self Reflection:

2. Do you realize now that being "submissive" is actually a wonderful thing? Are there areas within your marriage that you need to work on being submissive? Perhaps, your husband hasn't done a good job of "loving you as Christ loved the church." If that's the case, commit to bathing your marriage in prayer and be faithful to loving him and serving him joyfully. He will notice a change in you and hopefully that will spur him to repentance.  (if you or your children are being abused, seek help!)

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