We hear a great deal about the Proverbs 31 woman. She’s become iconic in Christian circles to the point that her familiarity has bred–if not contempt–at least a sarcastic welcome to many conversations. Sadly, because of this her full significance is often missed though I, for one, could never tire of studying her. Much has been said of her many virtues, most of us have made lists of them at one time or another. The Global Study Bible Online calls her “an example of full-scale virtue and wisdom toward which the faithful are willing to be molded.” She’s industrious, kind, faithful, wise, diligent, generous, thorough, strong, noble, and creative. Perhaps most significantly, she is all of these things because she “fears the Lord” (Proverbs 31:30).
Is there anything else that enables her to be the woman she is? In all the material I have read about her, in all the sermons I have heard and conversations I have had about her, I have never yet heard anyone mention the Proverbs 31 Man: her husband.
You’ve heard “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Isn’t the reverse also true? Get a pen, find Proverbs 31, and take a few minutes to find the man standing behind this woman.
“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” (v. 11)
He’s confident in who she is and in her abilities. This isn’t lip-service, either–he believes in her from his heart. He’s looking for (and finding) the best that is in her and emphasizing that.
“She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” (v.13)
There’s a lot of service involved in what she does, but she’s happy to do it. She doesn’t mind working for him–even working hard. She gets up early, she’s juggling a lot, she’s willing to do it. Apparently, it does not feel like a thankless job. That may tell us more about him than almost anything else.
“She considers a field and buys it . . . ” (v.16)
We see from this and also from the many areas of industry in which this woman is engaged that the Proverbs 31 man is neither a control-freak nor a micromanager. She has the freedom and authority to govern her realm and he doesn’t need to be an armchair captain. She develops creativity and productivity because she is supported in these pursuits.
“She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.” (v. 20)
If I understand this rightly, she’s giving both financial help and personal service here. I know exactly what that tells us about this husband. When I want to give to or serve someone, when I talk with my husband about it, his first response is always, “Of course! I never want to stand in the way of anything God wants you to do.” Can I just tell you how greatly that attitude encourages me? Even if my idea was just an impulse of the moment, with a husband like that you can be sure I’ll follow through.
“She is not afraid of snow for her household . . . her clothing is fine linen and purple.” (v. 21a, 22b)
Her husband is a good provider. She has what she needs to care for the household. We also see that this woman is cherished. She bothers to dress herself well and tend to her appearance and we can infer that this pursuit is encouraged.
“Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” (v. 23).
One of only three direct statements about this man, showing us his good reputation and the freedom he has to be about his business outside the home. He seems to be active in local government, serving in the community. He is respected and respectable, he is wise.
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.'” (v. 29)
There’s nothing sexist about this man–he notices and affirms the gifts and achievements of women, and most particularly of his own remarkable wife. It is interesting that his praise is directly to her, she is the recipient of his encouragement. In order to know the full extent of her excellence it is clear that he notices, acknowledges, and admires all that she is and does. He’s not even afraid to compare her to other women (May we note that the only comparison he makes is in her favor!).
One could say, “Naturally her husband admires her, who doesn’t, she’s accomplishing so much and is so wonderful in every way”–thus making her excellence the cause of his praise. I say this carefully because clearly the main cause is her fear of the Lord, but I’m just asking–could his praise also be a cause of her excellence?