“…let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
When I was young, I remember watching reruns of the old show, The Honeymooners. Even though the show was entertaining and oftentimes very funny, I remember being slightly disturbed, even as a child, at the terribly disrespectful interaction between the lead characters, Ralph and Alice Cramden. If you’ve watched the show, then you’re likely familiar with Ralph’s angry rants and threats as well as Alice’s witty responses. On one occasion, Ralph reminded his wife, “I’m the king, and you’re nothing, Alice!” As usual, Alice remained unruffled as she retorted, “That’s right, Ralph, you’re the king of nothing.”
Things haven’t changed much during the 55 years that have passed since The Honeymooners first began airing. For some reason, it seems that the married couples the American public most enjoys watching are the ones in dysfunctional relationships. Now, more than ever, husbands are regularly portrayed as world-class morons whose skulls were somehow mistakenly filled with oatmeal rather than brain matter. Fortunately, for the men (who remain generally unaware of their tragic plight in life), they are usually accompanied by women who, as the more highly evolved gender, come well-equipped to undo the damage that neanderthalic males perpetually and unintentionally inflict upon themselves and others.
The wife’s role (if we take Hollywood’s word for it) is to tolerate, correct, clean up after, nag, mock, stand up to, humiliate, and ridicule the man with whom she chose to join in marriage. This distorted image of the feminine influence in the home would be troubling enough if it remained safely confined to a TV screen somewhere. Far more disturbing are the occasions when this beastly role is played out in real marriages and families.
In today’s chapter of Proverbs, we see an entirely different picture of the part we should play in our husband’s lives, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” (12:4). The noble or virtuous wife of Proverbs isn’t feistily threatening to crown her husband, she is his crown. In his commentary on Proverbs, biblical scholar Bruce Waltke says, “Is the crown connotes that she is her husband’s most prominent social adornment and symbolizes her empowering him to rule.” This brings to mind the Proverbs 31 woman and the critical role she plays in her husband’s achieving high social standing (31:23). As his wise and worthy helper, she assists him in clearing the path to success instead of creating roadblocks through shameful behavior.
If we could listen in on the speech of the excellent wife in regard to her husband, what do you suppose we would hear? Can you imagine her making jokes about her husband behind his back? Do you suppose she would use her status updates on Facebook to openly complain about him? How often do you imagine she would cut him down not only in private, but also in public? Do you think it’s very likely that she would find opportunities to get back at him by humiliating him in front of his friends?
As women, we’re naturally skilled in the area of communication. Although we would easily be defeated by men in battles of physical strength, we are often well aware of our ability to outmatch them in verbal battles. A shameful wife will make the most of such opportunities by weakening her husband with her critical, disrespectful tongue, much like a decaying disease would weaken his bones. In contrast, the excellent wife will use her words to honor, rather than harm her husband. She will praise, not provoke; revere, rather than revile; and bless instead of blame.
Such wives are rare commodities in today’s culture. We need God’s grace if we desire to be counted among them. Fortunately for us, His grace is never in short supply.
Here’s today’s proverb:
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Photo: Jeff Crump