A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. Proverbs 12:4 NIV
or a more literal translation:
A virtuous [strong, worthy, capable] woman is the crown of her husband [owner], but a veritable decay in the bones is she that causes shame. Proverbs 12:4 Rotherham
Virtuous, noble, worthy — all deep and descriptive words of someone who has incredible character. Character is something built decision by decision, choice by choice. With a laser focus on something other than oneself.
Being male or female, husband or wife, owner or property is irrelevant. They are roles I am given. Yet the person I become is the differentiator. There are deep biases and differences that society, culture, and history has projected over gender roles, and this Proverb understandably reflects that. Yet, without going into the whys, if I am willing to work with Solomon’s frame of reference, there is something incredible to be understood in this proverb.
A husband and wife have become one. A unit. A team. One heart, mind, and flesh. With mutual respect that runs deep and honor that punctuates every interaction, the success of one is the success of the other. It takes two to succeed. Yet if the man is a failure, the woman is a failure. If he succeeds, she succeeds. They are together. Interwoven. Reflective of each other. If I desire to reflect only myself, my energy and motivation fall off very quickly. But if I determine to help another represent well, my motivation isn’t about me, it’s about serving another.
No matter how high up the food chain of power and authority I go, the higher I am, the more responsibility I have to serve. For reasons I know, and many I don’t, God has placed man as the lead in a husband and wife team. Positioning a woman underneath the leadership of her husband simply means that he has the weightier responsibility of self-sacrificing service to his family — if a distinction must be made. Of all leaders who have walked the earth, who has had more authority and power than Jesus? Yet, it is He that washed his disciples feet and modeled what it means to become a servant of all in his house.
I laugh and am completely taken with the way my God works. He is hidden and plays hide and seek with us often. For those who stop their frantic pace long enough to play along with him, he hides in things and places that we often would not look nor pay much attention. Man looks at the big, strong and powerful. Yet God may often be found in the small, frail and weak. The places we’d miss. Overlooked. Out of sight. Women will often take a position like this and at times don’t mind doing so. Let the man take the stage because the strength integral to him is his wife. And for those whose wife is a leader… vice versa. We’re talking about one who may be overlooked, dismissed, in the shadows — and yet is not offended by it.
So what’s the take-away?
Service, excellence, and virtue — these are traits that every one of God’s people may choose to excel within. They reflect the very blessing and benefit that He has heaped upon me. My wife, her empathy and thoughtfulness for others, her desire for my success, her meekness and littleness, her industriousness, her authenticity and transparency are everything that I want to embody toward my savior. She is my example. And somehow when I look at her, I see Jesus in the flesh. He is staring back at me. Jesus in my wife is daily a reminder to me of his faithfulness, intimacy, is desire is toward me. He blesses and loves me constantly. In response, I can hardly imagine anything better than to return to her selfless love — something I have a long ways to go before I’m there. But I will try.
There is not much need to discuss the woman who causes shame… I believe we all have plenty of examples of this. It’s easy to be self serving. Self-focused. Wanting to promote myself. A person who behaves badly toward her own flesh (her husband, employer, children, family) is doing so from a foundational position of shame, unworthiness, and ironically — feeling entitled. When she hurts her husband, she hurts herself. Solomon calls it “decay in his bones.” A disease from within. But show me how to help another succeed and this is where life is.
Proverbs 31 is coming where there are many verses that dives deeper on what it means to be a virtuous woman. But for now, this woman is the crown — the means of ruling, and the cause of honor to the one to whom she is joined.