“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” – Proverbs 31:28-31
We have been learning over the last two weeks about the importance of being committed to our marriages for the long way, and some ways God teaches us in His Word to do that. This week we will discuss another key that God provides for us that will open the door to a “long way” marriage. Like the passage last week, it is found in the Bible in what we refer to as wisdom literature.
This week’s central passage comes from Proverbs 31:28-31: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (bold mine).
These are the last words of a proverb that is often entitled “The Noble Wife” or “The Excellent Wife” because of the first words of this section that begin in verse 10. The proverb describes a godly wife. It then concludes with these words that are aimed at husbands. It explains to us how blessed we are to have such a wife and how God expects us to demonstrate that we recognize this by praising her.
Notice that her children are to praise her also–they are to “arise and call her blessed” (v.28). “Her works bring her praise” from outside the family “at the city gate” (v.31). But first and foremost, we men should praise our wives. God says to us in verse 28 that “he [her husband] praises her.”
God is telling us men that if we want the long run, life long, blessed, and joyous marriage He intends and desires for us, we better praise our wives. We need to thank and praise God for blessing us with them. But we also need to praise them directly.
The word translated in this passage as “praise” is the Hebrew word “halal,” in which it was originally written. “Praise” is a good translation for the Hebrew word, but it means so much more. It means “to rave about” and “to boast about.” It describes “making a show about something” and “to celebrate” something. It is being so pleased and excited about something that you “are foolish.”
The reason for this praise comes from being “sincerely and deeply thankful for” the person being praised. Those are beautiful definitions. And that is exactly how we men should feel about God giving us “an excellent wife” (v.10).
We must show that thankfulness by praising our wives. We must do it by telling them how thankful we are for them, and by pointing out specific ways we are thankful.
Paul gives us a great example of doing this. He begins so many of his letters by praising the people he is writing to. He writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:2: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.”
Paul also writes about this in his second letter to the church at Thessalonica. We read in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4: “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.”
Men, how excited do you think your wife would be to hear from you that you pray, thanking God for her? What would it mean to her if she knew you spoke proudly about her to others? And how would this affect your relationship with her? Words are powerful. They can be helpful or harmful. Let’s use our words to help and encourage our wives.
That is exactly how God tells us to use our words. He tells us in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The word translated “unwholesome” here is “sapros” in the original Greek in which it was written. We tend to think of this as filthy or curse words. It certainly can mean that. But it refers to any word meant to harm another. We must be very careful to use our words to build up our wives or husbands, never to tear them down.
We must heed God’s teaching in Proverbs 16:24: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” We also need to take seriously God’s warning in James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
Men, let your wives know how much you appreciate them. Tell them how thankful you are for them, and praise them. I have had many men tell me over the years that they are uncomfortable doing this. They tell me things like: “She knows I love her. I don’t have to say it.” I think it is part of our male DNA and part of our culture not to express ourselves in words so easily.
But our wives need to hear it. It’s part of how God made them. We can overcome our trepidations and concerns for our jobs and when we’re playing sports. Surely we can do it for our wives and marriages.
Remember, too, that we need to show our love and appreciation for and praise our wives with more than words. You know your wife well enough to know what will be an act of appreciation and praise that goes beyond words. Make certain you do things too.
Finally, let me speak to you wives. Much of this teaching has focused on what husbands can do for their wives. Men also need appreciation and praise at times. We get crushed, discouraged, and beat up by life, too. There is nothing that lifts our spirits quicker or higher than loving, kind, and uplifting words and actions from our wives. Others may knock us down, but having a wife who loves and respects us will get us back on our feet faster than anything. It’s one of the reasons God gave us to each other.
What does it take to have a strong, long way, life-long marriage? Praise and appreciation is certainly a big part of it. A successful marriage is one that involves sincere praise with both our words and actions.
Questions for Discussion
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God has taught each of you.
♦ Each of you write down at least three things you appreciate about the other. Once you have your list, share those things with your spouse. This is a great way to begin sincerely praising and encouraging each other.
♦ Proverbs 31 is not to be a checklist for us husbands to use as a grading sheet for our wives or to prod them toward godliness. To do so is to misuse the passage and will hurt our relationship with them. Rather, these verses are a springboard for us to shower praise and encouragement on our wives. For example, when my wife, Sabra, brings me good not harm (v.12), I can encourage and praise her. When she does the hard work of finding good deals on clothes for us, even spending time at thrift stores to do so (v.21), I can shower praise and encouragement on her. When I see her give the bag of food and necessities she always has prepared in our car to a homeless man (v.20), I can respond with praise and gratefulness.
Nor is Proverbs 31 to be used as a list for you wives to condemn yourselves. You should seek to follow the principles laid out in these verses. But don’t be constantly haunted if you aren’t always measuring up to God’s commands. None of us live up to every Word God gives us. Use these words to help you continue to become ever more the way God intends.
♦ Close your time together with prayer thanking God for the things you appreciate about each other. Ask God to help each of you to continue growing in your walk with Him so that you will live your lives obeying His Word in every way.
Next week we will discuss the importance of perspective to a long and healthy marriage.
Until then, may God bless you both in all His wonderful ways,
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