Saturday, August 31, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (74)

How can you tell whether a woman fears God? It’s not a trick question, but it does strike me that the fear of God tends to work itself out in different ways depending on the role and responsibilities of the person in whom it is found. It will not always look the same from individual to individual.

For example, a father and husband who fears God prioritizes financial provision for his family. A child may display his fear of God through obedience to his parents. A wife and mother? Well, care for the affairs of her husband and family is certainly one way, but so also is her composure and self-control. Taken together with other character qualities, these things point to a healthy respect for the will and glory of God.

Continuing our look at the character qualities of the proverbial “excellent wife” ...

The Oracle of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:24-27)

An Excellent Wife Uses Her Time and Resources Wisely
“She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.”
Three thousand years ago, making linen garments and selling them was a worthwhile side-business for an enterprising Hebrew housewife. Diligence and productivity are still useful assets today, though they show themselves in very different ways.

An Excellent Wife Does Not Fear the Future
“Strength and dignity are her clothing,
  and she laughs at the time to come.”
We have previously found that the excellent wife is self-controlled. She manages her emotions. Among women, one of the most common of these is fear about things that might go wrong. And indeed they well might, but usually not in ways we can avoid by planning ahead.

Peter says to Christian women, “You are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” The Proverbs 31 wife is a godly woman, though not a Christian, and she has learned much the same thing. She “laughs at the time to come.” She does not fret or worry. She does not waste time contemplating things she cannot control. As the Lord Jesus instructed his followers, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.”

Interestingly, Sarah too laughed at what was to come. Overhearing God’s plans, she laughed to herself saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The answer, ironically, was yes. Hebrews tells us she was not being skeptical or scornful; she was a woman of faith: “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” It was not by Abraham’s faith that Sarah received power to conceive, but by her own. We may well consider Sarah’s outburst of not-so-private laughter to be equivalent to saying something like, “Doesn’t that beat all!”

The excellent wife possesses the same spirit and confidence in God.

We may also notice that the excellent wife is able to celebrate without becoming undignified. She possesses both dignity and a sense of humor. Nice combination.

An Excellent Wife Spreads Excellence
“She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
It is not entirely obvious whether we should understand this to mean that the excellent wife teaches in a kind manner or that she teaches others how to be kind. I think it’s probably the latter, but it hardly matters. In the New Testament, Paul says godly older wives should “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” It is the “teaching of kindness”, if you like, and you teach kindness by modeling it, not just by lecturing about it.

What matters is that the excellent wife spreads excellence. Not only is her life a sterling example, but she can also tell you how she did it if you are inclined to ask. This indeed is wisdom.

An Excellent Wife Does Not Consume What She Has Not Earned
“She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
The expression “bread of idleness” is not found anywhere else in the Old Testament. However, we read about the “bread of tears” (deep sorrow), the “bread of wickedness” (performing wicked acts so reliably that they might as well be your three squares a day), and the “bread of deceit” (the benefits of fraud), all of which are equally figurative expressions.

What is probably being said here is that the excellent wife does not sit back like a lounge lizard and enjoy herself while others are obliged to work on her behalf. She “looks well to the ways of her household.” She is deeply interested in its goings-on, and in ensuring that all that is done there is done decently and in order.

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