A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown,
but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.
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Depending on the version you read, the first woman is described as excellent, virtuous, worthy, helpful, good, capable, valiant, diligent or noble. How’s that for narrowing down the meaning?
The God’s Word Translation words it this way: “A wife with strength of character is the crown of her husband, but the wife who disgraces him is like bone cancer.” To me, that is the best explanation or translation of the Hebrew word used here, which is חַ֭יִל, pronounced ḥa·yil. In the Hebrew, that is a masculine noun meaning “A force, an army, wealth, virtue, valor, strength.”
I like that. Because in this culture, it takes great strength of character not to jump on the husband-bashing bandwagon. I wish I could say that was only outside the church, but I’ve seen plenty of that in Christian circles as well.
I remember many years ago when I’d been invited to attend a MOPS group with a friend. As we sat in a circle waiting to begin, the leader of our small group started in on her husband. He’d irritated her in some way, and she thought we all should know. And that started a chain reaction. Soon, three or four of the woman were sharing stories of the horrible ways their husbands were currently disappointing them.
“He comes home, and all he wants to do is sit,” one young woman said. “I’ve been home all day and maybe I want to sit and put my feet up too. Do you think he ever offers to make dinner or do the dishes? No. I’m lucky if he takes out the garbage.”
“But … “ I started trepidatiously, “If you stay home and he works outside the home, isn’t making dinner part of your job?”
“Yes,” she said, “But I get tired of it. He should take turns with me.”
I tried a few more times to interject here and there, but there’s no stopping a train dashing down a hill.
After about ten minutes of this, the leader—a woman I knew through my friend—wrapped it up by saying, “Well, what are you going to do? Men are clueless. At least my husband is.” And then she said, “Let’s pray.”
I hardly heard a word of her prayer, because all I could think was, “Can both bitter water and sweet flow from the same stream?” (James 3:11)
The leader and her husband divorced not too many years later.
That scene made such an impact on me that when we founded our church, and all these young families started trickling in, I made a point to tell the women every chance I got that they needed to praise their husbands to others loudly, proudly, often, and preferably with their husbands in earshot.
So much of life is a “this or that” choice. You can be this, or you can be that. I mentioned in a previous devotional that I liked to challenge my kids when they were growing up that they could either be someone others delighted to see walk in a room, or delighted to see walk out. You can’t be both.
And here again, we need to choose who we want to be.
- Do you want to be a woman who speaks life to her husband, or a woman who speaks death?
- Do you want to build him up, or tear him down?
- Do you want to dwell on all his best attributes, or focus on his weaknesses?
- Do you want to bring honor to him, or disgrace?
- Do you want to be the best thing that ever happened to him (next to Jesus), or cancer in his bones?
Right about now, it might be tempting to think, “Well, what about him? Shouldn’t he have his own such list?”
To that, I would answer the way I did when my children needed discipline and they always wanted to make sure the other was also getting disciplined. “You worry about you, and I’ll worry about him (or her).”
That would be God’s answer, I’ll bet. “You worry about you, and I’ll deal with him.”
But if that list looks too hard or too long, remember this: we’re called to respect our husbands. Their calling? The one God is working in them even as He’s working in you? “Married men, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up to death for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Respect suddenly doesn’t seem so hard, does it?