“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 dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 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. Give her the reward she has earned and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:10-31).
Proverbs has much to say about wicked women in chapters 1–9 and about nagging wives (21:9, 25:24). The book closes, however, with a glorious tribute to the godly woman who brings honor to God and joy to her family. Next to making a decision for Christ, the most important decision a Christian will make in this life is the choice of a mate (Prov. 12:4, 18:22, 19:14; 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14–18). This chapter of Proverbs describes the “wife of noble character” and lists her fine qualities. I am delighted to be married to such a woman!
Her Loyalty (31:10–12)
The opening question in verse 10 implies that the reader ought to find such a wife for himself: “A wife of noble character who can find?” This woman is trustworthy, industrious, intelligent, and kind. She adds dignity to the family and has much foresight and prudence.
The two key words here are heart and trust—love and faith. Marriage is a matter of the heart; there must be true love between husband and wife. A wife has no problem submitting herself in obedience to a husband who loves her and shows it. What kind of love should a man show to his wife? The same kind of love that Christ shows the church (Eph. 5:25-33): sacrificial, patient, suffering, tender, constant. Husbands need to take care that their jobs and household chores do not take them away from their wives and children. The headship of the man does not mean dictatorship; rather it means example and leadership in love. A happy home does not “just happen”; it is the result of hard work, prayer, and real love. When husbands and wives trust the Lord and each other, there will be happiness and blessing. The marriage vows are promises that must be taken seriously. To break these vows is to sin against God and each other.
Her Industry (31:13–22)
This priceless woman is a worker. Whether it be sewing or cooking, taking care of the children, or assisting her husband in family business, she is faithfully doing her share. Note that she works willingly (v. 13); it is not a matter of compulsion but compassion. She loves her husband and therefore seeks to please him. This ideal woman does not spend the morning in bed; she is up early to do her tasks (v. 15) and if necessary, she stays up late at night (v. 18). While there are sometimes situations that require women to work outside the home, it must be remembered that her first responsibility is to her family.
Proverbs has nothing good to say about laziness, whether it involves a man or a woman (6:6-11; 10:4, 26; 13:4; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 24; 20:4, 13; 21:25; 22:13; 24:30–34; 26:13–16). In these days of “labor-saving devices,” there is still no substitute for hard work and diligence.
Her Modesty (31:23–26)
Her husband is known among the elders; she is known for her faithfulness at home. Man and woman both have a place in the economy of God and when either one steps out of place, there is confusion and trouble. This wonderful woman does not depend on fancy clothing to be successful, but wears “strength and honor” on the inner person (v. 25). She is careful in her speech and has a reputation for being wise (v. 26). How wonderful it is when the “law of kindness” rules the tongue.
Her Piety (31:27–31)
“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” This is the secret of her life: she fears God and seeks to obey His Word. Her true beauty is within; though the years might change her body, her beauty in the Lord only grows greater. Her praise comes from God. How does God praise this woman? By blessing her labors and her life. The fruit of her life will praise her. She will certainly reap “life everlasting” because she has sown to the Spirit, not to the flesh (Gal. 6:7–8).
Her husband and children also rise up and praise her. What a need there is today for husbands and children to show constantly their appreciation for what the wife and mother does in the home. One of the greatest weaknesses in many homes today is that family members take each other for granted. Husbands need to set the right example before their children by openly praising the Lord and the wife for the blessings of the home. How often a dedicated wife sacrifices for the happiness of the home and never receives so much as a simple “thanks.” What a sin lack of appreciation is in our homes. This kind of appreciation must not be reserved for Mother’s Day or Christmas; rather, it must be shown sincerely all year long. Gratitude is a wonderful Christian virtue. It needs to be cultivated in every home.
Of course, these same qualities ought to be seen in the man of the house as well. How often we see a godly woman patiently suffering with a carnal, worldly husband. The Bible knows nothing of a “double standard” for husbands and wives. In God’s gracious plan, He has ordered that both husband and wife are needed in the home, and that each one must fulfill certain ministries. One cannot replace the other, although in some emergencies (such as death of one mate) God has given grace for a person to be both “father and mother” in the home.
Husbands and wives must constantly be on guard lest Satan move in and break up the home. They have spiritual, material, and physical responsibilities to each other, and if these are not met, Satan goes to work (1 Cor. 7:1–6; 1 Tim. 5:8; Eph. 5:21–33; 1 Pet. 3:7). It is especially important to be on guard after the children have grown up and left home, for then the true strength of the home is tested. A man and woman can no longer say, “We will stay together for the children’s sake.” May God help us all to choose the right mates in His will and to build the kind of homes that glorify His Name!