[Disclaimer: What I’m about to say in no way represents my Bride. If I were to write about her, I would post on Proverbs 31 or Prov. 18:22 and 24.]
A recurring motif in the Proverbs is a character known as the “contentious woman”. Perhaps you’ve seen her before:
- She is the constant nag who always has something negative to say about her husband’s ideas and decisions
- She constantly complains about her husband and his idiosyncracies to her girlfriends
- She feels the need to “speak her mind” in public or in private in front of the children
- She demeans her husband’s parenting skills because, after all, she is the better parent
- She welcomes her husband home from work with a checklist of all the things he did wrong or did not do at all
I’m sure you get the point by now. This is the contentious woman. And Proverbs has much to say about her. In fact, the term “contentious”, or “quarreling/quarrelsome” is used in reference to a wife five times in Proverbs (19:13; 21:9 and 19; 25:24; 27:15-16). These could be categorized in this way:
- A contentious woman, like a foolish son or a bad leak in the roof, will bring ruin to her husband (19:13). The parallelism here is helpful in understanding the point of reference. The sage is observing the effect that unwise family members will have on the husband/father. So there are parallels between a foolish son and a quarrelsome wife. Likewise, there are parallels between “ruin” and “continual dripping of rain”– a continual dripping of rain brings ruin on a home. So for all the money that we spend for parenting techniques on the “strong-willed” child, we cannot overlook the “strong-willed” wife. Both will destroy a home!
- A contentious woman will make her home a worse living environment than a rooftop or even a desert (21:9, 19; 25:24). Consider what the sage is saying; a man could be on a rooftop, exposed to the elements, prime candidate for a lightning strike– but it could be worse; he could be in his house with a nagging wife! Or consider this: a husband could be in the desert, scorched by the heat of the day, frozen by the cold of the night, whipped by the sand, starving and parched, left for dead with no one to rescue– but it could be worse; he could be back home with his angry wife! Perhaps this is why we have bowling leagues, golf clubs, endless sports networks, fantasy football, etc. Husbands just need to get away! Why does he seem aloof? Why does he always seem cranky? Why does he just sit on the couch watching television? It could be because his wife, by her constant nagging and quarreling, has pushed him away from her.
- A contentious woman, like leaks, wind and oils, cannot be restrained regardless of the effort (27:15-16). Perhaps you’ve met the woman who always speaks her mind. She does not care if she’s right or wrong, nor does she care if she’s appropriate or not. She is only concerned with being heard. The sage says that the husband who tries to rein her in is like one running around in the streets trying to restrain the breeze or a person who can pour oil in his hand without having it run out. You cannot restrain them, and you cannot restrain that kind of wife.
So what do we do with such wisdom? First, if you are single, please note that none of these are desirable situations. If you want to ruin your home, or if you love having a home that makes even the worst places seem like heaven, or if you would want to be known as the one with the spouse who can’t keep her/his mouth shut, then proceed! But if you would like the latter, you must pay attention to that person’s personality before you go any further towards marriage. Anything else would set you up for disaster.
If you are a girl or a woman, please note that this is the woman you do not want to be. You must learn to control your temper and your tongue. And you must swallow your pride. All of the contemporary messages about self-empowerment sounds great, but it could harm your home. You must also work to control a competitive spirit. The issue is not being better than he is; the issue is being wise. If you are younger, watch how you speak to your father and to your teachers. Do you easily snap back at them? Do you frequently question their authority? How you respond today will set up habits for how you respond to your husband. Be wise.
If this is your marriage situation, please consider: God has forgiven us in Christ. Thus all anger, bitterness, slander and contention can be replaced with the forgiveness and love that Christ provides (Eph. 4:31-5:2). This may take moments or years. But if you are the non-contentious one, pray and do not retaliate (Prov. 15:1). If you are the sharpshooter in the marriage, pray that God will conform you into the image of Christ before you wreck your home any further. And for the quarrelsome wife, pray that God will give you a spirit of humility and gentleness. Pray that God will deliver you from the curse of contention set on you from the Fall (Gen. 3:16). And pray that you will be what God intended you to be– his helper, not his lord.