“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18
The Webster definition of helper is one “to make things easier or better for; aid; assist”. This covers a pretty broad scope of things we can do for our husbands to be the helpers that the Lord intended for us to be. I think that one of the challenges that I have been faced with as a wife is realizing that my calling as a wife does cover a wide scope of items. Being a wife and a mother is not limited to keeping the house clean and having dinner on the table each night. My husband and I are not independent entities fulfilling separate duties. “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” 1 Corinthians 11:11 Our lives must be interlinked in all aspects. Being a helper is not simply being a maid; it is being available and willing to contribute in all areas of your life together.
Let me state from the onset that I firmly believe that a woman’s place is in her home and that her utmost calling in life is her family. Her primary responsibilities are keeping her house clean, caring for her children and seeing to the well being of her husband. Nevertheless, just because we have been called to wash clothes does not mean that we cannot have intellectual discussions about politics; just because we have been ordained to change dirty diapers does not mean that we cannot be the emotional stabilizers in our homes; just because we have been set apart to prepare meals does not mean that the Lord cannot reveal new revelations to us that we can share with our husbands; and just because we have been given our domain as our primary responsibility does not mean that we cannot contribute to the financial well-being of our families. Being a wife and a mother does not nullify the fact that we are also children of God. Having specific daily responsibilities does not void our spiritual gifts and natural talents.
I really struggled with this concept when I was first married. I felt that if I were going to be the godly wife that the Lord desired of me that it somehow meant that I had to lay aside my natural gifts and joys. That is just not true. When we get married, there is an adjustment, a refining of who we are, but not a voiding. God does have to rearrange our priorities and give us a heart for our families and our homes. Usually, there is a time where we have to lay our gifts and desires on His altar and completely let go, so that we can focus on our new roles. However, in my experience, He has proven that if we are faithful to pursue Him and be obedient to His calling as wives and mothers then He will open doors and ministry opportunities that will allow our gifts and desires (those that He placed in us from birth; they are not there by accident!) to flourish without sacrificing our principal ministry. Instead, with the Lord’s leading, it will enhance our ministry to our families.
You may be wondering at this point what on earth all of this has to do with being helpers to our husbands and contributing to our families. Well, I will explain. I fear that one of the lies of the enemy that many God-fearing women accept as truth is that they have nothing significant to offer their husbands, children, and homes except the fulfillment of their daily tasks. Many women begin to seek the Lord and His desire for their lives. When He reveals to them that their homes are their main ministries they accept that and set about their work, but most stop there. Satan comes along at this point and begins to whisper in their ears that cleaning toilets is all they are supposed to do and all they are really good for. They stop offering suggestions for financial savings, they stop offering insight to certain Scriptures during conversations with their husbands because they have accepted the lie that they would somehow be being disobedient and going beyond the boundaries of their God-appointed roles. I wonder how much more joy and peace would envelop husbands in the Church if their wives could understand their true worth, contribute in all areas of the home, and assist with day to day issues.
I would like to take just a glimpse at the Proverbs 31 woman who clearly contradicts this deception and contributes to all matters in her home: her husband’s well-being, her children, finances, intellect, their community, their home, and their spiritual lives. This is not by any means an exhaustive study of this chapter in the Bible. This is just a glimpse to encourage all of us as women to broaden our views of our roles in our homes. I highly recommend Beautiful in God’s Eyes 1 by Elizabeth George for a verse-by-verse study of this chapter of Proverbs. Mrs. George offers a wonderfully practical and encouraging look at the excellent wife described in Proverbs 31 and opened my eyes to some often overlooked facts about this woman.
First, let’s see where the Proverbs 31 woman lays her foundation. Verse 30 tells us, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” In this passage, King Lemuel’s mother has saved the best for last. She describes in detail the kind of woman that her son should search for to be his mate for a lifetime. As she is ending her description, I am sure that her son (like many of us women) is wondering how one woman could ever live up to such expectations. His mother answers with the foundation of this beautiful woman’s life, she is a woman “who fears the Lord”. Her wisdom, her diligence, her patience, her insight, her discipline, every aspect of her noble character breeds out of her relationship with the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” Proverbs 1:7a
Because her husband knew her to be a woman who fears the Lord (verse 28) and because he had “full confidence in her” (verse 11) then he would respect her spiritual contributions to the family. He would listen and appreciate any insight that she had to offer and respect her opinions in regards to spiritual matters. We also know that she is willing to contribute in this manner as she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction.
The excellent wife also contributes to her home by making her husband her number one priority. I do not think that it is mere coincidence that the first specific aspect of this woman’s life that is mentioned is her relationship to her husband. We know that he has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value due to her presence in his life. (verse 11) She does him good and not evil, blessing him in all arenas, and contributing to the respect that he receives from the community. (verses 12 & 23)
This woman of noble character also cares for her children, enough so that they “arise and call her blessed”. She ensures that every member of her household (which back then included husband, children, extended family and servants) has plenty of food to eat (vs.14, 15) and clothing to wear (vs. 13, 21). She cares for her house with diligence and creativity (vs. 17, 22, 27).
She contributes to the atmosphere in her home by offering intellectual insight (vs.26), a strong work ethic (vs.27), a firmness in the faith and a joyous heart (vs.25). She also sees to her physical health (vs.17). Much of the chapter, however, speaks of her financial contributions to her home. She buys a field (which produce crops to provide both food for her family and extra earnings as she sells in the market – vs. 16), plants a vineyard (which will yield wine, the most common drink of the day), and sells garments to the merchants for profit (vs.24). She saves money by growing her own crops and producing her own wine while also contributing to their income by selling garments. I need to point out here that this woman of noble character did not have to leave her home to accomplish any of these tasks. All of the ways she contributed to her home were out of the overflow of the direct ministry that she had to her family. As she honored the Lord by caring for her family, He opened doors of opportunity for her to expand her borders without sacrificing her family.
This incredible woman does not stop there though. She realizes that the Lord wishes to use her to bless others so she keeps her eyes open and her heart attentive to the needs of others and contributes not only to the community (vs.20), but also to the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:40). I wonder if this woman’s husband would hold a position among the elders in his city and if her children would arise and call her blessed as easily if she would have simply performed her daily quota of tasks to maintain her home. I suppose that the praise she earned stemmed from her willingness to use her natural abilities to enrich her calling as a wife and to contribute to the overall welfare of her home.
The Real World…
I know that many women, myself included, get frustrated with the woman from chapter 31 of the book of Proverbs. How do we practically emulate the noble life she portrays? There is not much need in our society to hunt down wool and flax to make our own clothing or to search the markets each day for fresh food for our families. Yet, we can apply the wonderful principals that she offers and adapt them to our lives. What are some ways that we can broaden our calling as a wife and be the helpers to our husbands that the Lord created us to be?
Make your husband your first priority. None of the other ways in which you will contribute to your house matter if your primary ministry is being neglected. Again, the first thing that we read about the excellent wife in Proverbs 31 is that “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not evil, all the days of her life.” (verses 11,12) When the Lord decided to create a helper for Adam he said first “It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:28a God was not looking for a creation to merely serve Adam, but rather someone that could be his companion to serve WITH him.
Care for your children. Mothers are the ones who are with the children the majority of the time. Can your husband safely trust in the way that you are raising his children while he works and fulfills his obligations? Yes, your husband is the spiritual leader of your home, but he needs to be able to trust that you will maintain the standard that he has set for the home, even while he is not in it.
Take care of your family’s basic needs. This means having meals prepared, clothes washed, and the house taken care of. Do not wait for your husband to mention something that needs to done, instead, anticipate his needs and the needs of your children. Look for ways to be ahead of the game and care for your family.
Maintain your home with pride. Do not merely do the dishes and vacuum occasionally. Look for ways to be creative and express your unique personality in the way that you maintain your home. Find ways that will contribute to the atmosphere of joy and peace in your home. Your husband desperately needs a place of refuge to come home to each evening. Light some candles, fluff the pillows, pick some fresh flowers, and use your imagination. I like to keep praise music on in my home. It not only keeps me focused throughout the day, but it also encourages my husband when he comes home from work.
Contribute spiritually. As I stated earlier, your husband is the spiritual leader in your home, but that does not mean that there will not be times that the Lord will give you some interesting insight to a situation or some wisdom in a difficulty. Men and women are different in their perspectives and understandings. There will be times that you have something significant to offer. Do not be afraid to speak up, but always with respect and gentleness. Also, do not be afraid to rebuke your husband if necessary. Who knows your husband better than you? As a sister in Christ and hopefully his best friend it is your duty to speak to your husband when he has gotten off in some way. That does not give us permission to be overly critical or nags, but it means that we can speak out if we see something that is wrong. Rebukes should never be done in a critical, condemning manner. We should always demonstrate the gentleness and love of the Lord. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:23 Share what the Lord is teaching you in your personal times of devotions, share visions and desires that the Lord has placed in your heart, and in general do no be intimidated by your husband’s headship. You are a child of God as much as you are a wife. I think that sometimes our husbands can grow weary under the weight of full spiritual responsibility for our families. Most men would welcome the interaction, encouragement, and insight that their wives could offer in the spiritual field of their homes.
Contribute intellectually. This one can cover any number of things such as shouting out answers to the questions on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to having discussions over political issues during an election year. My husband, Lee, and I both enjoy reading tremendously. We have many great conversations about the books that we are reading and the concepts in them. My husband is an artist with a wonderful talent. We enjoy watching shows on impressionistic painters or perusing through an exhibit at the art museum. I always bombard him with questions on techniques and mediums. I have always loved this aspect of our friendship. How boring would our life together be if the only things that we ever talked about together were the children and the laundry?
Contribute financially. This does not necessarily mean getting a job outside the home to increase income. I firmly feel that women with children should be at home full-time. There are many other ways that a wife can contribute to the financial well being of her family, however. One of the most significant ways is simply by being a good steward of the money her husband earns. Look for bargains, clip coupons, keep splurging to a minimum, and budget your finances. One way that you can honor your husband and help financially is to seek your husband’s approval for every purchase. I ask my husband to look over my grocery list before I go shopping each month. Most of the time he tells me that it is fine, but occasionally he asks me to remove a few items that are not necessities and can be purchased at a later time. This not only demonstrates submissiveness and respect, but it also provides the wife with financial accountability. I never have to worry about how much I spend at the store and whether or not Lee will be angry with me, because he has been a part of the entire process. You can also find projects that will enable you to bring in a salary. For instance, the Proverbs 31 woman expanded her ministry to her family so that she would have a surplus to sell to others. She already needed to raise crops and make clothes for her own family, she simply expanded her boundaries a little and began making a financial contribution to her home. This is where you can take some of those natural talents and joys and turn them into something productive. Elizabeth George discusses this idea in detail in her book Beautiful in God’s Eyes 1 that I highly recommended earlier.
Contribute to the community. Being available to serve your church and your community will not only allow you to exercise your spiritual gifts, but it will also contribute to the respect and honor that is associated with your family. You can contribute to the reputation of your home and your husband by simply looking for ways to bless others around you. However, numerous women tend to either slide to one end of the spectrum or the other on this issue. They either become so involved in their church or their community that their family is being neglected just as much as if Mom held an outside job or they simply live behind the closed doors of their homes. We need to find the balance and realize that we can contribute to our communities and still be faithful to our families.
This is such an exciting concept to me. I love knowing that God has called and ordained for me to be a helpmate to my husband Lee. We are not independent of each other, but we are truly one. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 Through contributions that I can make as a wife I will watch our friendship, our marriage, and our home flourish over the years of our life shared together. I pray that you will find the same joy and vision as you look for occasions to contribute.
I will elaborate on this in later chapters, but I just wanted to caution you that all contributions should made in humility, submission, respect and kindness. This is where the Lord must refine us and show us clearly how to be the helpmates He designed us to be.
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