Gleanings from the Proverbs: The Two Women: Madam Folly and Dame Wisdom

Proverbs 14:1: Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Have you ever seen a woman tearing doors and windows from her house? No, and you never will. Solomon used a metaphor, a figure of speech where one thing represents another, to contrast women either improving or destroying their family and status.

The word “house” in Proverbs and the rest of Scripture is often much more than the building we live in. It is broader than that. It describes a family and/or status. Consider:

House. The persons living in one dwelling; the inmates of a house collectively; a household, family. A family including ancestors and descendants; a lineage, a race: esp. one having continuity of residence, of exalted rank, or high renown.

Consider the Spirit’s use of “house” elsewhere (Gen 7:1; Deut 25:9; Ruth 4:11; I Sam 2:30,35; II Sam 7:11) and in Proverbs (Pr 11:29; 12:7; 14:11; 15:25,27; 24:3-4). Of course, taking care of the building is also her job, but it is not the emphasis (Eccl 10:18). The house you must build is your marriage, family, and husband’s estate (Pr 24:3-4; Tit 2:3-5).

A wise woman can greatly improve a marriage, family, home, and status, even into future generations; and a foolish woman can ruin the potential of her family and destroy it.

A woman is either a crown to her husband or rottenness in his bones (Pr 12:4). And this difference cannot be hid from the observations of others, for his shame comes from others knowing his curse (Pr 27:15-16). A husband’s flattery is of little value when others can easily witness the neglect of him, the children, the house, or the estate (Pr 24:30-34).

The virtuous woman had great influence over her family and husband’s estate. She directed the care of the children and household and engaged in commercial real estate development and manufacturing and sales. Her husband’s importance in the city was greatly due to her superb management of these matters. Read it carefully (Pr 31:10-31).

Houses were built up by Hannah, Lois, Eunice, and Bathsheba; all of whom invested in their children and grandchildren to the glory of God. Houses were torn down by Michael, Jezebel, and other odious and lazy women. The only widows to be supported by the church are those who build up houses well (I Tim 5:3-10). Others will be rejected.

How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her children. They reflect the mother very much, which is why the Bible says that a neglected child will shame his mother (Pr 29:15). Mothers spend much more time with their children than fathers, and from early ages they are greatly influenced by their mothers. Children of the wise woman will be exceptional in character, conduct, and reputation. Samuel, Solomon, and Timothy speak volumes about their wise and noble mothers (I Sam 1:27-28; Prov 4:3; Phil 2:20; II Tim 3:15).

For children to be successful in relating to others, they must be taught. To be diligent and successful workers, they must be taught. To be truly spiritually minded, they must be taught. To be organized, neat, and orderly, they must be taught. To be gracious, noble, virtuous, and zealous, they must be taught. And wise women know that their example is at least as important to this training as the frequent and careful instruction they give.

How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her husband. He will be successful in his vocation, for she will have relieved him of most or all the household duties (Pr 31:13-27). He will be confident, happy, and content, for she will have been a great lover and companion (Pr 5:19; 19:13; 31:11-12). He will apply himself well to the larger matters of family and estate, for his wise wife will have taken care of the lesser ones herself.

How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her house. It will be clean, orderly, organized, comfortable, and bright. It will reflect on the outside and inside the care of ownership (Pr 24:3-4,30-34; 31:13-27; Eccl 10:18). No part of it will show long-term neglect. Hospitality shown in it will be generous, warm, comfortable, and gracious.

Wise women are not satisfied with cooking, laundry, and dusting. A trained twelve-year old girl can do all these things. And she is not satisfied helping with homework. These are childish things women of the world do with little lasting affect on their houses.

A wise woman is a holy example of great godliness and loving femininity at all times. Her children can easily observe her submission, service, and affection to her husband. They see a consistent standard of purity, temperance, diligence, and graciousness every day. The law of kindness is in her tongue, and she rules her spirit without fail.

A wise woman teaches and enforces the virtues of Christian character. She instills in her children an ambition for holiness, love of truth, service to others, and gracious conduct. She crushes sibling rivalry, foolish talking and jesting, sarcasm, backbiting, disrespect of authority, and ungodly attitudes. She requires virtuous deportment at all times.

A wise woman works harder than her husband and uses her body and mind to be as productive as possible. She does not waste time away from home at low-paying jobs for self-fulfillment. She manages the household, repairs the house, makes the money go as far as possible, and earns as much money as possible. She is not busy: she is diligent! She does not try to save a penny while wasting a pound! She rises early and stays up late.

She is a keeper at home, rather than being a busybody, conversationalist, inefficient shopper, social butterfly, and wasteful errand runner (Tit 2:5; I Tim 5:13-14).

This proverb is as true as gravity. If a woman compromises duties at home, her family and estate will amount to little (Pr 11:29); but if she applies herself wisely and diligently, there will be a lasting influence for generations to come (Pr 24:3-4; Ruth 4:11-12).

Dear woman, when did you last pray with each child? When did you last tell each child verbally and tenderly you loved them? When did you last surprise each child with a favourite gift and soberly express your spiritual ambition for their souls? When did you last pray fervently for each of them?

What are the curses of the foolish woman? Laziness due to society influences and religious training; wasted time due to misguided priorities; distraction due to an unfocused mind; pleasure in an entertainment oriented generation; not going beyond mere maid duties; trusting academic education to make successful children; lost time due to lack of urgency; being a bad example of an affectionate lover; lack of strict discipline; discouraging her house by being overbearing, critical, or negative; being prudishly out of touch with reality; and selfishness in forcing her own interests on the family.

A godly woman will be had in reputation, for true character and performance results in growing in favor with God and men. If you are not highly esteemed by others, you cannot excuse yourself with arrogant thoughts of self-righteousness, for you are failing in various areas of your life, and your family will suffer for it. Prepare for the shame of it!

Rather than only address one of the parties, we should modify an American expression to read, “Behind every great man there are two great women.” For it is by a great mother and a great wife that men are great. Wise women see both of these opportunities for building their houses and apply themselves with holy zeal to promote both husband and children. The woman who loves her children over her husband will lose them both, for the husband will suffer directly and the children will despise the defrauding taking place.

And young man, establish your house and future carefully. The marriage choice is one of great importance. You will see much of your abilities, efforts, and blessings disappear by a foolish wife; you will live out your days in pain and loneliness by a bad woman. Marry, but only marry well; for your life, unborn generations, and future estate is at risk.

The English have had a proverb, “A fortune in a wife is better than a fortune with a wife.”

As the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, let both men and women be more ambitious in the building up of His house, the church. We can tear it down as well by neglect and fighting (Gal 5:15), but we have been called to build it up by our endeavours (Eph 4:3,16).

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