Many men and women have a mental list describing their ideal partner.
“She’s got to be a good cook, enjoy watching sports, and not be a nag.”
“He’s got to have a steady job, a nice car, and a mother who lives far away.”
Some even invoke a Biblical basis for this sort of wish list.
“Proverbs says, ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing’ (Pro. 18:22). I’ve got to find a good wife. It’s in the Bible!”
Okay. But what makes a good wife? Is the ideal wife a soul mate or a servant? A partner or a parlor maid?
A woman will say she’s searching for the right man and a man will say he’s searching for the right woman, but who is the right man or woman? What are they like? How would you recognize them?
“Easy question,” says the Christian man. “The perfect wife is the woman of Proverbs 31.”
For many men, the woman described at the end of the book of Proverbs represents the ideal partner. It’s not hard to see why.
This woman is wise, strong, industrious, entrepreneurial, and—this is the good part—she earns her own money.
This excellent woman is not just a homemaker; she is a merchant and a property developer. Yet somehow she finds time to make her own clothes and care for the poor.
How does she manage her busy life? She starts working before sunrise and doesn’t quit until after sundown. Then she spends her evening feeding and caring for her household.
Phew. I’m worn out just thinking about her.
The capable lady of Proverbs 31 is often held up as a role model for young women. “Be like her and you’ll make some man very happy.”
But this is a terrible message to give to our daughters.
There are a couple of good reasons why we might not want to compare ourselves or our spouses with the woman of Proverbs 31.
For starters, she is unlike any woman alive and thus presents a picture of womanhood as unrealistic as Barbie.
Then there’s her marriage which represents the sort of servile arrangement that is at the heart of patriarchal society. While this woman is working hard in the fields, her husband is sitting in the city gate jawing with his mates (Pro. 31:23).
Sure, he’s an elder, with an important ministry. But let’s face it. She’s doing the heavy lifting in this relationship.
Aristotle the sexist philosopher would have loved this marriage. The husband is governing like a king, while his poor wife is working her fingers to the bone raising the kids and running the farm.
Can you imagine Adam and Eve living like this? Can you picture Eve toiling from sun-up to sun-down while Adam basked in the sun? Eve never would have stood for it.
“Adam, I know I’m your helper, but how about giving me a hand?”
“Sorry honey, but I was born to rule. God said.”
“But you’re not doing anything. You’re just talking to yourself.”
“It’s called praying. Now be a good wife and fix me a fruit sandwich.”
If Adam had been like that, Cain might not have been the first murderer.
But it’s a foolish man indeed who prefers a servant to a soulmate and who measures his wife by the lofty standards of Proverbs 31.
Extracted and adapted from Paul’s new book The Silent Queen: Why the Church Needs Women to Find their Voice.