“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.” – Proverbs 31:10–12
What is your honest first reaction to reading those verses? Do you think of all the ways you’ve failed as a wife? Does your pride make you defensive, recalling a list of ways you’ve succeeded as a wife? The fact that an excellent wife is still hard to find is a sad reality. Yet, if one is found, she is rare and valuable—a jewel.
More precious than jewels
What is your favorite piece of jewelry? A ring, necklace, or bracelet? Do you treasure it? Proverbs gives us the picture of an excellent wife being moreprecious than jewels. Like in our day, jewels were a beautiful and extremely valuable commodity in the Old Testament that were used for personal adornment. They were used for personal adornment, as a show of nobility or wealth, and were an important trade for craftsmen.
How does being an excellent wife relate to this? Just as a gem is shining and radiant, so is an excellent wife as she reflects godliness toward her husband by doing him good. First Peter 3:3-4 defines this as a gentle, quiet spirit that is an imperishable, precious jewel in God’s sight: "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious."
Commenting on these verses, Wayne Grudem says in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “The adjective gentle…only occurs three other times in the New Testament (Matt. 5:5; 11:29; 21:5), twice referring to Christ, but its related noun, translated ‘gentleness’ or ‘meekness’, is more frequent (Gal. 5:23; 6:1; James 3:13; etc.). It means ‘not insistent on one’s own rights’, or ‘not pushy, not selfishly assertive’, ‘not demanding one’s own way.’”
Gentle and quiet
If you have a “loud personality,” what does it mean to have a gentle and quiet spirit? Do you ever get to say anything? A gentle spirit means you pray and listen to what the Holy Spirit wants you to say before you say anything. It means if and when you do speak, you have a respectful tone rather than an accusing or controlling one.
A sinfully loud wife can push her husband to the “corner of the housetop” (Prov. 21:9) or be “like rottenness in his bones” (Prov. 12:4). For example, one woman sadly told me her sin of constant disrespect caused a part of her husband to die, and she made him afraid to lead her. He even avoids talking to her because she just argues, and he doesn’t trust that she loves him anymore. She thought if she took control that he would respect her, but instead she is “doing him harm.” On this point, John Calvin said in his Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, "For we know how outrageous a being is an imperious and a self-willed woman. And further, nothing is more fitted to correct the vanity of which Peter speaks than a placid quietness of spirit."
If you have a “quiet personality,” are you already an excellent wife? Do you get to stay silent and just trust God to do everything for you? A gentle spirit doesn’t give you freedom to sin by never speaking into your husband’s life. God created you to be your husband’s helper (Gen. 2:18) and never speaking up is unhelpful. When you speak, you will need to pray against fear first and then trust God to give you the words and the right time to speak.
A sinfully quiet wife can be an enabler who makes her husband an idol rather than respecting and loving him toward godliness. Another woman, for example, falsely complimented her husband, thinking it would make him be nicer to her. She didn’t want to upset him, and so she outwardly submitted her actions while growing bitter and resentful in her heart toward him.
I began with silent disrespect in my marriage, then moved to fighting back verbally, and now God continually teaches me ways to work toward being an excellent wife by the empowering grace of the Holy Spirit. When I’m respectful and Mark is loving, there is nothing better than the oneness and friendship it creates in our marriage. While this has taken work and pain, it’s been worth it.
Both types of women—those with loud and those with quiet personalities, and those in between—should desire that “the heart of her husband trusts in her,” which is built over time with repentance and by being slow to speak and quick to listen.
As wives, we need to be reading the Bible, praying with and for our husbands, serving them in ways they need (not just what we like to do), and encouraging them. How is that going for you? What would your husband say?
Submission to God first
Our ability to gain our husband’s trust and respect him in our journey toward godliness begins with our submission to God first! Our goal can’t be to fix our husband or make him respectable before we show respect. God is working on all of us, and when we seek how God wants our hearts and motives to change first, it will result in trusting God through our actions. We can wear jewels and adorn outward beauty, but God cares more about what is going on inside our hearts. We can’t fool him by wearing “fake jewelry.” He knows the difference!
Tell your husband that you want to be a crown, that you want his heart to trust you, and that you want to do him good, not harm. Then ask how you have done that well and what you need to work on. Take notes, repent, and be willing to ask God to redeem those sinful habits that keep you from being an excellent wife. As Proverbs 12:4 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.”
And next time you put your jewels on, let it remind you of how precious you are to God and to reflect that back to your husband as his treasured jewel.