The Proverbs 31 Husband
I’ve always been fascinated with the woman described in Proverbs 31. I mean, she is amazing and, at the same time, the most guilt-inducing person in Scripture. Women’s groups use her as an example and try and draw lessons from her. Indeed there are whole ministries named after her. This up-before-dawn, work-into-the-night, field-buying, super woman makes me tired just reading about her.
But frankly she seems too good to be true. I can’t help but think that she is a figment of King Lemuel’s imagination; she is just an ideal that might be good to think about but that no woman on earth could actually be without flaming out.
If I am right, efforts to take this Old Testament super woman as a model across the ages and the cultures into 21st century America are pretty much doomed. I’ve seen some interesting adaptations of how to be like her in our times. My favorite was a woman who told me that “she considers a field and buys it” tells us that God wants the women in the home to do the grocery shopping. Huh? I suppose that this task falls to women more often than not but, unsaid in her application, was her conviction that a woman who lets her husband go to the store is somehow failing in her role as wife and mother.
My advice to women who read about this amazing lady is to not take her too seriously. Any attempt to read out of her life principles to apply to yours will, more often than not, result in reading into the text things God never intended.
But it is the Proverbs 31 husband that interests me. Frankly, if there is anyone in Scripture that comes across as a total jerk, it is him. I mean while his wife slaves away at her 16-hour day what is he doing? It seems he is hanging out at the city gate talking to the other men who, one supposes, have super wives of their own.
Yes, I know this is a place of judging in the OT. Yes, I know, this designates him as a distinguished city elder. But what are his qualifications for being an elder? It seems to be his ability to get his wife to do all the work. He comes home from is tough day of sitting at the gate and finds dinner ready, the kids in bed, his clothes washed and ready (Actually made from scratch, washed and ready.) He then bids his wife goodnight as he heads off to bed and she goes back to work for a few more hours.
But I think he too is a figment of imagination. What we see of him is no more an exact model for men today than his wife is for women. Yet some people try to make this couple the ideal. Here is an exact quote from an advice book to Christian women with the bold face of some text from me.
“A sober wife is one who faces the fact that she is no longer a freewheeling individual, with time to do as she pleases. She knows that marriage is joyous, but also a grave responsibility. She cannot be flighty and frivolous. She makes a commitment to be the best wife, mother, and manager of the home that anyone could be. She becomes the acting CEO of a great enterprise of which her husband is the owner….Her most basic responsibility is to make her husband’s home run smoothly….Always keep in mind that [her] job is to do a good job serving him….”
Amazing. I think while it is OK to talk in, and aspire to, ideals our lives will never be ideals and that we shouldn’t worry about it. Just do the best you can. As for the Proverbs 31 husband, I’ve decided to give him a break. I’m going to assume he is just as diligent and caring in his duties as his wife but that Lemuel, for whatever reason, left that out.
Giving him a break also tells me something else. I need to give others around me the same break. It’s easy to look across the fence at others, not knowing anything except what it appears to be, and form conclusions and make judgments. Grace requires me to be caring and kind even when someone, like this Biblical husband, comes across as a jerk. It requires me to take time to understand.