"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)
A godly man prepares himself to be ready for when a godly woman comes into his life. He seeks God through prayer. He practices discipline and self-control in all areas of his life, especially in his dating relationships. He may date many women before he finally decides on one to be his wife, but in each of those relationships he practices sexual restraint. He is saving his romantic and sexual energy for the woman he marries.
Yet even with all of his preparation and self-control a godly man knows he cannot boast of himself for "finding" a good woman to marry him. God says, "No, I’ll take credit for her."
What Does it Mean to "Find" a Wife?
"Finding" a wife almost sounds trite, but it is not. "Find" means to "pursue diligently." (Waltke 2:95). It means to give our all to the task. We can see what is involved in "finding" something of value when we look at the pursuit of wisdom.
Fools look for wisdom but do not find it. "They will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me." (Prov. 1:28) Why will fools be disappointed in their search for wisdom? "They hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord." (1:29). They do not find wisdom because they do not have the heart for it. Likely, they will not find a good wife, either.
There is an intensity to the search of a good man to find what is good.
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
Notice the verbs that characterize the search for wisdom: turn (your ear), apply (your heart), call out, cry aloud, look for, search. Every body part is on this quest for wisdom: ear, heart, voice, eyes, hands. I think a paraphrase of this verse could read, "If you pursue wisdom, integrity and righteousness with every ounce of energy you can muster in your body, heart, mind and soul, God will not disappoint you. He will bless you with a relationship with him."
Remember, the word for "finding" wisdom is the same for "finding" a wife. So let’s apply the above paraphrase to the search for a wife. I think we could say, "If you pursue a good wife with every ounce of energy you can muster in your body, heart, mind and soul, God will not disappoint you. He will bless you with a relationship with her."
This intense search to find wisdom is implied in the effort to find a wife. It is not by chance that a good woman comes into our lives and will be our wife and helpmeet. It is by diligent preparation in character building, by patience and self-control, and by the grace of God that we receive a good woman as our wife.
Let’s look at the word "good" for a moment, too. The assumption of this Proverb 18:22 is that God is good and he rewards good men with good things. Notice a few other proverbs on this theme:
"A good man obtains favor from the Lord ..." (12:2)
"Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." (8:34,35)
The good man receives blessing from God. God blesses the good man with wisdom, with live, and with a good wife.
Remember Genesis 2:18? "The Lord said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’" Proverbs 18:22 states the positive side of Genesis 2:18 - it is good for a man to have a good wife.
Proverbs 19:14 drives this idea home:
"Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord."
Think of all the ways your parents bless you. It might not be with houses today, but in ancient Israel, property was passed on from generation to generation. You might actually receive the very house your parents lived in, the orchards they harvested fruit from, and the fields they ploughed. Circumstances have changed. Today, families are far more mobile. Parents often do not have the same house for more than ten years. Children move away and wouldn’t want to inherit the plot of ground their parents spent their last few years on. So, the house may be sold and the proceeds divided among the kids. But this proverb still rings true even today: "... wealth (is) inherited from parents." Our parents pass on to us their accumulated wealth to their offspring.
But the same can not be said of a wife. Even if a father is involved in the process of finding a wife for his son (as Abraham was with Isaac, Genesis 24), God still claims credit for the blessing of a good wife in a man’s life. "A prudent (wise) wife is from the Lord." God is the one who blesses us with a helpmeet.
A Quarrelsome Wife
Of course, it is possible for a wife to not be a blessing. Like a man, a woman can be godly or worldly. She can develop godly qualities of kindness, patience, joy, compassion and faithfulness, or she can choose to live by the worldly attributes of selfishness, meanness, conniving and vengefulness. Such a wife is not good helpmeet, as Proverbs acknowledges.
"Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." Proverbs 21:9 (cf. 17:1)
Living on a roof is not an exciting prospect for how to spend an evening! Yet, it is more enjoyable than living in a house with someone who is disruptive.
What exactly is the problem of the quarrelsome wife? A quarrelsome spirit is disruptive and unnerving. "As charcoal is to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife." (Prov. 26:21). A quarrelsome spirit is wicked. Wickedness is the opposite of righteousness and justice. Whereas righteousness and justice seeks to build relationships with people wickedness destroys relationships.
Proverbs 21 is describing a wicked lifestyle. Verses 4 through 8 says a wicked man is arrogant, proud, greedy, a liar, and violent. The wicked person is selfish, totally unconcerned about other people. He uses others for his personal profit, financially, socially and emotionally. Verse 10 says the wicked man craves evil. He doesn’t just stumble into it, he craves it! The passion of the wicked man is to do more evil. No one in his life, not even those close to him, like a neighbor, receive mercy or considerate attention (v.10b). He thinks only of himself. What kind of community can the wicked man build? He doesn’t. He destroys community.
Set in this discussion of the wicked man who is violently selfish we have this statement about the quarrelsome wife. She is a wicked woman. She does not build community, not even in her own family. She is selfish, argumentative and contentious. There is no peace in her home.
Contrast this woman with the wife of Proverbs 17:1: "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." The man of this house probably doesn’t make much money. He can’t buy his wife a lot of nice things or take her to the finer restaurants. But, he has this tremendous blessing: his wife loves him. She uses the few ingredients she has to make bread to feed her family. All they have for supper is bread! But this is a happy home. Why? Because this man is blessed to have a sweet, devoted wife. She is not complaining about what she doesn’t have, but makes the most of what she does have, with joy.
I am married to a woman like that. I proposed to Cheryl when I was in graduate school. A lady at the church where I was the youth minister owned a jewelry shop. She let me buy a ring on time. I picked out one of the less expensive rings. I put $30 down and set up payments. Three months later we were married. Guess who helped me pay off that inexpensive ring? Cheryl did. She never a complained about the price of the ring or even about helping me pay for it! Her spirit has brought joy to our home. She is a good wife.
Have you found your good wife yet? Keep searching for her. Search for her through prayer, Bible study and character development. Look for her in good places, such as worship or a Christian group. A good man will look in good places.
I remember a man, almost forty years old, who was in recovery from years of abusive drinking. He was telling me how lonely he was. "I want to get married and have children," he said. "But nothing seems to work out for me. I find a woman, spend a few weekends with her, and then the relationship seems to just fizzle out."
The dating pattern of this man was to spend his weekends in bars drinking and looking for a woman he could spend the weekend with. If it went well with her, he would arrange to see her again the next weekend. A really promising prospect was to spend several weekends in a row with the same woman. But then the disappointing pattern would repeat itself: "It seems like every time I find a woman I really like, in a short time we get tired of each other."
What this man liked about the woman he spent repeat weekends with was not her wisdom or character, his sexual relationship with her. When that went well, he would then explore other aspect of a relationship with her: dreams, goals, personality and character. It was at this stage of the relationship that it always fell apart. "Why?" he asked me.
"You are putting the cart before the horse," I told him. "What kind of character did you have when you were drinking heavily, blowing your money in bars, and picking up women?"
"It was terrible," he answered.
"What do you think was the character of the women who spent the weekend with you? You meet on a Friday night, buy her dinner and a few drinks, and she spends two nights with you. How discerning is she? How moral is she? No more than you were. If the physical relationship is exciting to you, you decide you like her and want to develop something deeper. But when you start digging, you find there isn’t anything deeper in either one of you. You must start to develop your character and moral convictions so you have something to offer a woman of character and moral conviction. Then, don’t pursue a woman’s sexual favors. Instead, pursue her heart, mind and character. If she has the convictions you are trying to develop, you have the chance of developing a wonderful friendship, then a romance. After that, you can marry and the physical part of the relationship will follow. If you keep putting sex first, you will continue to be lonely and frustrated."
Did he understand what I was trying to explain? I think so. Through tears he said to me, "Why, at age thirty-eight, am I hearing this for the first time in my life?"
It is the man who pursues diligently the good things of God who is blessed with these good things, whether that be with wisdom or a wife. For my friend to find a good wife he had to work at being a good mind. He had to give up his weekend pursuit of intense physical pleasure through alcohol and sex and begin to develop his character. He needed to grow in honesty, discipline, respect for women, and control of his mind and body. Until he did, he would continue to dissipate his wealth and health on foolish, deadly activities that were leaving him very lonely and sad. God wants better for us than that.
Look for your wife among the people of God. Remember how frustrated Samson’s parents were because he insisted on looking for a wife among what must have been the exciting women of Philistia? "I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife" Samson told his parents (Judges 14:2). What basis did Samson have for deciding this woman was the right one? "I have seen" her Samson said. She must have been good looking!! Later Samson "went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her" (v.7). Up to this point it doesn’t seem like Samson has much invested in this woman! He saw, decided she was the one, then talked to her. Only then did he know that he even liked her! Samson’s parents pleaded with him to use better judgment and wisdom in his selection of a mate. "Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?" (V.3). Samson’s mom and dad knew a prudent young woman would come from among their own people, the Israelites, the people of God. A young woman from among the Philistines might be beautiful, and might even have a sweet disposition, but does she have a heart for God? Has her character been molded from the Word of God? No. Philistia is not a place to look for a wife. Nor is a bar. Look for your wife among the people of God.
Have you already found your good wife? Good! Can you just rest now and be lazy? No! Continue to pursue her! Love can tire. Love can wear out. It can be bruised, hurt and disappointed. We can kill love with harsh and abusive treatment. Willard F. Harley, Jr. identifies five harmful behaviors that husbands and wives can practice on each other that will kill love. The five "love busters" are angry outbursts, disrespectful judgments, annoying behavior, selfish demands, and dishonesty (See Love Busters: Overcoming Habits That Destroy Romantic Love by Willard F. Harley, Jr.).
How Does a Godly Man Treat This Blessing of God in His Life?
One, he is grateful to her. He trusts her. Proverbs 31:11 says, "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value." This is a high compliment to a wife, since only Gd is to be trusted. The Bible warns against trusting anything else (Psalm 118:8,9). Why does he place so much confidence his wife? Because she is a noble woman (v.10) who fears the Lord (v.30). She is a faithful follower of God.
"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, buy you surpass them all.’" (31:28-29). Even among noble women a husband is drawn to the noble service of his own wife.
Proverbs 31 can place a lot of pressure on a wife. I can hear someone asking, "How can any woman be like the Proverbs 31 wife?" I don’t think it is fair for us to hold our wives up to this chapter to see how they compare. While many take this chapter as a goal for wives to live up to, it actually functions at another level. Chapter 31 is the culmination of 30 previous chapters that discuss wisdom. Earlier chapters talked about "woman wisdom." This last chapter of Proverbs shows what mature wisdom looks like: it is industrious, responsible and community-oriented. (See Dave Bland, "Proverbs" in College Press, pp.282-3). We are blessed if we have a good wife that is modeled even only partially on the Proverbs 31 wife. If we are so blessed, we must honor our wife with praise and thanksgiving.
Secondly, a husband with a good wife rejoices in her. "May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth." (Proverbs 5:18). Fountain in Proverbs is one of several water sources that refers to the sexual relationship we share with our wife: "Drink water from your own cistern running water from your own well." (V.15). The fountain being blessed could refer to either children born to the marriage or to the pleasure of the relationship. A husband with a wife who loves him can rejoice in the companionship and love-making he shares with her.
A wife’s love can be captivating: "... may you ever be captivated by her love." (V.19c). To be captivated is to be under the spell of the "inebriation of love." (Murphy, p.32). The King James Version renders this word as "ravished."
The word for captivated actually means to go astray or err. It means to get lost. It is used of sheep in Ezekiel 34:6: "My sheep wandered all over the mountains and on every high hill. They wee scattered over the whole earth ..." "They simply nibble their way to lostness." (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT; 2:904).
This word is used three ways in Proverbs to describe how men can get lost. One, it refers to drinking too much wine or strong drink and losing control of oneself (Prov. 20:1). Two, those who listen to bad advice or fail to listen to good advice can get lost in life (Prov. 19:27). Three, a man can get lost in his love for a woman. A man can lose himself to a bad woman (5:20) or to a good woman, his wife (5:19c). You’ve heard the expression about being lost in love? Well, it is true. Solomon says that is ok, so long as the woman is your wife!
Thirdly, when a man has a good wife he devotes himself to her. He is faithful to her.
"Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?" (5:20).
"Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes." (6:25).
An important issue in Christian marriage is fidelity, or life-long faithfulness. The unity and endurance of a Christian marriage reflects the nature of Christ’s relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:25-28). Christ loves us with a redemptive, eternal love. Even when the church is acting like a spoiled child or an ungrateful bride, Christ still loves us and is devoted to us. He loved us even when we were unclean (Rom. 5:8). In the same way, husbands are faithful and devoted to their wives even when the relationship may not be has smooth and peaceful as it could be. There is an enduring quality to love.
Romantic Love vs. Enduring Love
Our society is enamored with romantic love. Romantic love is what inflames us and drives us to our spouse. "Rejoice in the wife of your youth" and "may you ever be captivated by (or lost in) her love" refer to romantic expressions of love. But there has to be a deeper quality to love than just the romantic. What happens when the sexual dimension of love declines because of ill health or injury, age or hurt feelings? A devoted love is what will see us through.
"Romantic love seeks intensity, not continuity." (Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character, p.192). A faithful, devoted love gives marriage its continuity and endurance.
Proverbs 5:20 and 6:25 are concerned with the endurance of a relationship. "Don’t let anyone else side track you from devotion to your wife!" Romantic love is about intensity and excitement. I think of it as a sprint. Devotion is about long term faithfulness. It is the language of a marathon.
When we "find" our wife, when we are blessed by God with her presence in our lives, we are grateful to her, we rejoice in her, and we are devoted to her.
Bruce Waltke says that, "When a man has a competent wife, he praises God, not himself." (Waltke, 2:108). God is the source behind the special woman who has come into our heart and is making the life journey with us.
"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)
"The vast majority of men have wives who want their husbands to win. She is on your team. When a man begins to understand that, he views his wife in a new way. Gentleman, your wife is a strategic gift to you! She has eyes that see what you don’t, a mind that assimilates information from a different perspective, a heart with sensitivities you do not possess, and a personality with strengths that offset your weaknesses. That’s a built-in protection for you. That’s why you must tap into her perspective as you lead your family. When she offers a constructive criticism, learn to listen to her with an open mind." (Point Man, P.174)
Guys, when God wanted to meet the most deep and personal needs in our lives he blessed us with our wives. We honor her because she is God’s gift to us, she completes us, and she deserves it.