As we continue to think about how to find a noble wife (are there really any out there?), let’s start with verse 20 in Proverbs 31. As we saw from the last post, some of the principles are repeated – meaning they are very important – but we also find in the last part of the chapter some of the noblest of traits.
vs. 20 – She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy
This verse breaks away a little bit by focusing on others. This is a woman who has compassion on others in need. And notice this is not helping at a distance (throwing money in a plate, and so forth), she opens her arms and extends her hands. This implies a very up close and personal touch. Opening your arms would mean that you have to reach and embrace those in need and using your hands also implies touching others. This is not a socialite who gives some money occasionally or asks or expects others to help in her stead. This is one who is gets very personal with people in need. Opening up her life to others – which could mean her home, her family, her time, and anything else she can offer. The verse means a woman who is open and giving of herself. This characteristic is easy to spot in a woman, just as its opposite is easy to detect. When you see this trait in a young woman, it will likely have nothing to do with money. Money is a tool and can be impersonal. Arms and hands are very personal. This verse describes a woman whose compassion for those in need drive her to very personal and touching action.
vs. 21 – When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in fine linen and purple
Here we see two things – first we are talking about a woman who takes care of her family. She meets and exceeds the needs of her children and household. The color purple usually represents royalty – in this case we can assume it means the best there is. So she takes care of the household and gives them the best. This is usually not too much of a problem for most women. Most people want the best for their children and families. However, the verse is written in a way to mean much more than this – she has no fear. When the storms of life come, she has no fear. Why is this? She has prepared her house for life’s storms. She is not afraid because she has clothed her family in the clothes of kings/queens. Not literal clothes, but the “clothes” of preparation, discipline, and character. She has “clothed” her family with the teaching of great character to ensure they will not fear when the storms of life do come. Do kings or queens worry when storms come – of course not! For they are “clothed” with the very best of the kingdom.
vs.24 – She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes
By now the working principle is obvious, again she is working to produce a profit. The number of times this principle is mentioned is astonishing, so take note. Working to produce a profit is very high on God’s list. But look, again we have a second part of the verse that goes a step further. Not only is she selling what she has made, she also gives away a portion to the merchants. This is not her tithe to the local church, but provision for others out of her abundance. Now this is not a popular idea, and frankly I did not grow up with this type of giving. While this idea may be rare, it is clearly taught in scripture – I think it is strange to us because we live in a culture where working and giving are tied up in neat little boxes with no hope of ever escaping. But really the New Testament is full of this principle and it is clearly laid out here. Finding this characteristic in a woman may seem hard, but really you are looking for someone who is willing to give of herself for others. Most people do no ever think about giving to others (unless it is a holiday), it is counter-cultural. The principles of working and giving in tandem, a rare combination, are traits a noble wife will possess.
I think it is clear as we progress to the end of the chapter the character traits are gating up to a very high standard. Some will not be comfortable with this. However, I challenge you to think about what a woman is and what a woman will be. We all should be growing and becoming more like Christ. It is important to look down the tunnel of time and think about what a woman will become. Don’t expect the world (after all, take a look at yourself, you are the other half), but also look for those seeds of greatness in a woman.
vs. 25 – She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come
Someone who is clothed with strength and dignity is one who is drenched in these attributes. They are powerful and sure of themselves, holding their head high. When they encounter another, they share their strength, its life is felt everywhere she goes. Picture a queen whose mere presence communicates confidence and grace. In addition, this great lady laughs at the future. While this speaks of grand boldness, it also implies that this is a thinking woman. She considers the days to come and fearlessly laughs. Not all women (or men) consider the future, not to mention laugh at it. Again, we are struck by the great confidence this woman portrays even while considering the unknown. This verse is a picture of a stately woman with great strength of character.
vs. 26 – She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue
Finally, she speaks! Words can be a blessing or a curse. The words of this great lady are full of wisdom and instruction. There is a great absence today of words that are wise and fruitful. Choose carefully men – for whether the words are many or few, the question is, are they full of wisdom. If you find a woman whose words are full of everything but wisdom and faithful instruction, then beware. For you will be living with those words every day. Our words wield great power over our lives – do not take this short verse lightly. The author is careful not to just say “instruction is on her tongue”, but uses the words “faithful instruction”. This would mean the instruction is good and consistent. But let’s take it a step further, the tongue is very closely associated with the heart in scripture – “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Given this, a faithful tongue is directly linked to a faithful heart. Remember, we are talking about a wife here; faithfulness is the golden key to any marriage. Bottom line, you are listening to her words to see if she is full of wisdom and if her tongue is faithful. The characteristics of a woman’s tongue can bring heaven into your life or . . .
vs. 27 – She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness
This is another repeating principle isn’t it? Well, yes and no. The noble wife watching over the affair of her house has been discussed, but the second part of the verse takes a different approach. In general, if you are working hard then you will not eat the bread of idleness. However, I think the author has pointed out an important aspect of life. Isn’t it possible to work hard some of the time and still eat the bread of idleness? Yes it is. You can be idle in some areas of life while working out other parts. Eating the bread would indicate that you are taking it into your body (and soul) and that it works its way through your body (and soul).
Ok, that was a lot of character traits over the two posts. Let’s sum up – Who can find a wife of noble character? No one, only the God of heaven can and will graciously put these beautiful women into our paths. We need to be aware of this and pay attention to what we should be looking for in a mate. A noble wife: instills trust and confidence, brings good, is selfless, works hard, is disciplined, very good with money, determined and strong, has compassion for those in need, “clothes” her family with character, gives out of her abundance, her presence radiates strength, grace, and character, has a wise and faithful tongue, does not eat the bread of idleness.
Wow, that is a lot to take in! I suggest taking a few of the principles and working up from there. Remember, no one is perfect – look for the general principle, not necessarily specific behavior. You should always have the highest standards for yourself first.
A couple of final thoughts, first – verse 30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” I think this sums up what the author is saying, you are looking not for outward charm or beauty, but for a woman who fears the Lord.
And second, looking at verse 23 it talks about the husband – “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” I think it is imperative as men that we are respected by our peers and those in authority. Not a superficial or political positioning of ourselves, but respect that comes from good character. We are to be respected at the city gate (where commerce take place), and have the ability to “sit” among the elders. Before you can expect God to place a woman of noble character in your path, you must be a man of noble character. A noble woman will never look for a husband in a pigpen. It goes against everything in her character. So be wise, if you want a noble wife, you must deliberately work toward being the other half – a great and mighty man of godly strength and courage.