“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:10-12, 28-30.
What can we say about the woman various translations describe as an excellent wife (ESV), a capable wife (NRSV), a good wife (RSV), a wife of noble character (NIV), a virtuous woman (KJV)?
First, the Christian wife and mother provides the setting for family life. Her husband trusts in her – a word which means confidence and pride as well as a lack of suspicion. The rest of Prov. 31 describes her as actively involved in the world – business, buying and selling, community service, providing clothing for her family, and teaching. The Christian wife and mother is available to her children. So much of a child’s sense of worth and security comes from being able to share with someone important – often Mom, the triumphs and defeats, the joys and pains of the day. The “excellent wife” is also available to her husband. I suppose there might be some debate about how many husbands would think first of sexuality, but hopefully there’s no debate about the importance of the wife being available to talk to her husband about the various needs and challenges that life throws our way in families.
Second, the Christian wife and mother is sensitive to relationships. The husband described in Prov. 31 is strong. He is known as he sits with the elders at the city gates. But she is the linchpin of the home. She holds it together despite the hectic pace that led one mother to observe, “Having children is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain.” With her love and encouragement, she is supportive of her husband so he can fulfill his duties. She is supportive of her children – not to the point of being what today is called “a helicopter parent,” hovering over her children and running interference in every possible conflict with friends, teachers, and even employers, but by providing a foundation of love, care, and understanding.
Third, the Christian wife and mother – along with her husband – is a mediator of God’s wisdom. She and her husband lead by example. An old saying reminds us that “a child can’t be what he or she hasn’t seen.” As parents share God’s wisdom, they need to show the way. Children learn what they see in their parents. They learn to respect and honor others, they learn to speak and to live with integrity when they see those virtues demonstrated at home.
Martin Luther wrote, “Let the wife make her husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”