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Volume 16, Issue 4: Femina

Contentious Women

Nancy Wilson

Everyone wants a pleasant home. And it's probably safe to say that nobody wants to live in a miserable, unhappy place. But it's very clear that a pleasant home is not something that can be bought with cash. If that were the case, rich people would be happy, and we all know that very few of them are.

What is it that makes our homes truly pleasant places? Without a doubt, it is godly wisdom. When wisdom is at home, home is a delight. So it follows that a pleasant home is one that has a wise, virtuous woman in the center of it. Proverbs has many vivid descriptions of the wise woman and the foolish woman. For starters, consider Proverbs 14:1: "Every wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." Both these women are busy, and their behavior has a considerable impact on their homes and families. But the wise woman is constructing, while the foolish woman is destructing. We could argue that at least the foolish woman is home-centered. Sure she is—the same way a demolition crew is home-centered when it aims the wrecking ball. The home is a sad target, and what a tragedy it is when the person designed by God to be one of the chief blessings becomes instead a shame and a destroyer.
Charles Bridges, a pastor from the late nineteenth century, says in his commentary on Proverbs, "Many are the miseries of a man's life; but none like that which cometh from one who should be the stay of his life." He goes on to say that a contentious wife is a great domestic calamity, and there is no lawful escape. A rebellious son can at least be thrown out of the house, he says, but a bad wife must simply be endured.
The book of Proverbs backs this up. A brawling, contentious, quarrelsome, indiscreet, ignorant woman is a great affliction to her husband and family. It would be better to sleep on the roof, or in the desert, than to endure her anger and bitterness. Solomon says it would be better to face rough weather than deal with her. After all, in this case, the weather may be worse inside than it is out. A man is better off alone than living with a woman like this.
Most Christian women readily assume they are not in this category of "brawling and contentious." But I would like to fine-tune this a little so that we can all take heed. I've seen women destroy their homes, and it usually didn't happen in a day. It was years of nagging, complaining, discontentment, annoyance, and other "petty" sins that were not dealt with. And this turned into a deep resentment that eventually surfaced in a spectacular demolition of the home. "Little sins" of irritation, displeasure, self-pity, and a critical spirit are like little swings with the sledge hammer. Eventually a wall gives way. Little sins always turn into big sins. Song of Songs says that the little foxes spoil the vineyard. Women need to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to their own sins. All must be repented of immediately. Lies must be confessed. Restitution must be made. Forgiveness must be sought in every case. Otherwise, one sin leads to another, and soon the things that should be the sweetest home comforts, the dinner table and the marriage bed, become the stages for the tragedy to be played out.
How can a woman seek out wisdom so this does not happen? How can she turn things around if the home is already in a state of rubble and confusion? As I said above, sin must first be recognized and dealt with. But next, she must consider the characteristics of wisdom as described in Proverbs and diligently seek it. "Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil" (Proverbs 3:7). The wise woman looks for wisdom from the Lord, not in herself. This humility makes her teachable: "The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall" (10:8); "He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray" (10:17). A foolish woman will not receive commands, instruction, criticism, input, or correction from anyone. Not from her husband, not from the pastor, not from her friends, not from the Word. She is wise in her own eyes and needs nothing. She justifies her behavior to herself. She tells and retells her story in her own words and adjusts it to make sure she is still the sympathetic character. But the other characters in the story, her family, see her far differently.
The wise woman is not only teachable herself, but she teaches others good things: "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom" (10:20-21). When the wise woman speaks to her husband, it is nourishing. When she talks with her children, they are blessed. She becomes a source of strength to her family, rather than a drain on their joy. She is a crown, bringing her husband "good and not evil all the days of her life" (31:12).
A home with wisdom in it will be a "well of life" (10:11). A woman who seeks this kind of wisdom will necessarily grow to be cheerful, prudent, obedient, disciplined, respectful and submissive to her husband, a blessing to all around her, building up her home. This is in sharp contrast to the foolish woman who is tearing down her house by being quarrelsome, noisy, indiscreet, ignorant, self-indulgent, argumentative, never satisfied, and always complaining. There is a reason for the repetition in Proverbs on this subject: women are prone to the common temptation of being dripping faucets. And they radically underestimate the impact of their disobedience: "A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are

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