Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.
Great women are not born – they are made. A great woman chooses to be great. She has the right priorities for her life; she is wise and disciplined; her family and estate prosper.
On the other hand, many women are foolish and rebellious; they are distracted and lazy; their families and estates fall into ruin during their lives and afterwards. What a waste!
Here is encouragement and a warning to women. You have a tremendous opportunity to build a family and estate that will be to the glory of God and profit of others well into the future. It is your choice to be wise and to build. Forsake the foolish and prosper (Pr 9:6).
Learn the proverb. You have never seen a woman literally tearing shingles and siding from her house by hand. Solomon used a metaphor, where one thing represents something else, to contrast a woman either improving or destroying her family and estate.
The word “house” in Proverbs and the rest of Scripture is often much more than the building you live in. It is broader than that. It describes a family and/or estate. Consider:
House. The persons living in one dwelling; the inmates of a house collectively; a household, family. A family including ancestors and descendants; a lineage, a race: esp. one having continuity of residence, of exalted rank, or high renown. [OED].
Consider use of “house” elsewhere (Ge 7:1; Deut 25:9; Ruth 4:11; I Sam 2:30,35; II Sam 7:11) and in Proverbs (Pr 11:29; 12:7; 14:11; 15:25,27; 24:3-4). Of course, taking care of the residence is also her job, but it is not the emphasis (Eccl 10:18). The house you must build is your marriage, family, husband’s estate, and family tree (Pr 24:3-4; Tit 2:3-5).
A wise woman can greatly improve a marriage, family, home, and estate, even into future generations. A foolish woman can ruin all of this and destroy her legacy. The opportunity is very great for every woman that will appreciate this encouragement and warning from God and Solomon. For any woman that wants to be great, read on and learn.
There are few better modern examples than Sarah Pierpont, the wife of Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. She was a great wife to an exceptional man and public figure, trained eleven children in the fear and love of God, kept a model home in holiness and warmth, and established a legacy through her descendants unmatched in American history.
A woman is either a crown to her husband or rottenness in his bones (Pr 12:4). This difference cannot be hid from the eyes of others, for his shame comes from them witnessing his curse (Pr 27:15-16). A husband’s flattery is of little value when others can easily witness a wife’s neglect of him, the children, the house, or the estate (Pr 24:30-34).
The virtuous woman had great influence over her family and husband’s estate. She directed the care of the children and household and engaged in commercial real estate development and manufacturing and sales. Her husband’s importance in the city was greatly due to her superb management of these matters. Read it carefully (Pr 31:10-31).
Houses were built up by Hannah, Lois, Eunice, and Bathsheba; all of whom invested in their children and grandchildren to the glory of God. Houses were torn down by Michal, Jezebel, and other odious and lazy women. The only widows to be financially supported by the church are those who build up houses well (I Tim 5:3-10). Others will be rejected.
How can you identify a wise woman? Look first at her husband. He will be successful in his vocation, for she will have relieved him of most or all the household duties (Pr 31:13-27). He will be confident, happy, and content, for she will have been a great lover and companion (Pr 5:19; 19:13; 31:11-12). He will apply himself well to the larger matters of family and estate, for his wise wife will have taken care of the lesser ones herself.
A wise woman knows sexually defrauding her husband creates bitterness, reduces his creativity and productivity, and makes other women he meets much more attractive. She knows frequent suggesting or disagreeing steals his peace, undermines his confidence, and makes him edgy and critical. She knows that her better ideas are better when kept to herself. She knows that doting like a dating teenager can build her man into a leader. She knows that praising him to the children leads to a strong, unified, and happy home.
How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her children. They reflect their mother very much, which is why the Bible says that a neglected child will shame his mother (Pr 29:15). Mothers spend much more time with their children than fathers, and from early ages they are greatly influenced by their mothers. Children of the wise woman will be exceptional in character, conduct, and reputation. Samuel, Solomon, and Timothy say much about their wise and noble mothers (I Sam 1:27-28; Pr 4:3; Phil 2:20; II Tim 3:15).
For children to be successful in relating to others, they must be taught. To be diligent and successful workers, they must be taught. To be truly spiritually minded, they must be taught. To be organized, neat, and orderly, they must be taught. To be gracious, noble, virtuous, and zealous, they must be taught. A wise woman knows that her example is at least as important to this training as the frequent and careful verbal instruction she gives.
How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her house. It will be clean, orderly, organized, comfortable, and bright. It will reflect on the outside and inside the care of ownership (Pr 24:3-4,30-34; 31:13-27; Eccl 10:18). No part will show long-term neglect. Hospitality shared in it will be generous, warm, comfortable, and gracious (Pr 31:14). It will be decorated creatively with the best that a motivated woman can find (Pr 31:22).
How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her balance sheet and income statement. She will understand financial discipline, never spending outside strict limits. She will be frugal but also foresightful to make investments for the family’s benefit. She will have transferable skills or acquired knowledge in areas that can produce profits when she has the opportunity or time. She prefers family profits over personal pleasure in her hobbies.
How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her appearance. She will be of a proper weight, in good physical condition, and as shapely as God intended her. She will dress to honor her husband; he will not have to endure bathrobes, sweat suits, or headbands (Pr 31:22). Her carriage and demeanor will be closer to a queen than to a waitress. Her face and hair will not only shine with cleanliness but with contentment, joy, and excitement.
How can you identify a wise woman? Look at her soul. Her sins are confessed; she keeps her heart with all diligence; she avoids approaching the lines in life between holiness and sin. She is contented and happy with the Lord, no matter what circumstances she faces. The LORD is her everlasting portion, and she enthusiastically does anything she can for the kingdom of God. She is humbly contrite for her sins and sinfulness, but fully confident in God’s forgiveness to press ahead with bold joy in fulfilling her calling.
Wise women are not satisfied with cooking, laundry, and dusting. A trained twelve-year-old girl can do all those things. Neither is she satisfied helping with homework. These are childish things women of the world do with little lasting effect on their family trees and estates. There is another level that great women consider and focus on for their families. Sitting at soccer practice two hours a day, five days a week may make you feel warm and fuzzy (and very lazy), but are there not ten or twelve better things you could be doing?
A wise woman is a holy example of great godliness and loving femininity at all times. Her children can easily observe her submission, service, and affection to her husband. They see a consistent standard of purity, temperance, diligence, and graciousness every day. The law of kindness is in her tongue, and she rules her spirit without fail. She is the sunshine of the home and a constant example of faithfulness in spirit and conduct.
A wise woman teaches and enforces the virtues of Christian character. She instills in her children an ambition for holiness, love of truth, service to others, and gracious conduct. She crushes sibling rivalry, foolish talking and jesting, sarcasm, backbiting, disrespect of authority, moodiness, and worldly friends. She requires virtuous deportment at all times. She presses them to grow in favor with God and man and keep a good reputation.
A wise woman works harder than her husband and uses body and mind to be productive. She does not waste time away from home at low-paying jobs or hobbies for self-fulfillment. She manages the household, repairs the house, makes the money go as far as possible, and earns as much money as possible. She is not merely busy: she is productive. She does not try to save a penny while wasting a pound. She rises early and stays up late.
She is a keeper at home, rather than a busybody, gossip, conversationalist, babysitter, window shopper, social butterfly, or wasteful errand runner (Tit 2:5; I Tim 5:13-14). She guides the house so that it is an orderly, peaceful, and quiet home – a delightful refuge. She constantly assesses demands on her time and allocates her day and energy to those tasks that will provide the biggest return to her husband and children in years to come.
This proverb is true as gravity. If a woman compromises her duties, her family and estate will amount to little (Pr 11:29). But if she applies herself wisely and diligently, there will be a lasting influence for generations (Pr 24:3-4; Ruth 4:11-12). The opportunity here is so great, and the rewards so pleasant, what woman would not leap at the offer of this proverb? Though tired today, make the investment, for future joy is coming (Pr 31:25).
Dear woman, when did you last pray with each child? When did you last tell each child verbally and tenderly you loved them? Surprise each child with a favorite snack and soberly express your spiritual ambition for their souls? Pray fervently for each of them? When did they last catch you in serious devotions? When did you last describe the qualities of the spouse you pray for each of them? Praise your husband to them in private? Tell them of your great love for God? Confess any shortcomings they can see?
What are the curses of the foolish woman? Laziness due to society influences and religious training; wasted time due to misguided priorities; distraction due to an unfocused mind; recreation in an entertainment oriented generation; not going beyond mere maid duties; trusting academic education to make successful children; lost time due to lack of urgency; being a bad example of an affectionate lover; lack of strict discipline; discouraging her house by being overbearing, critical, or negative; being prudishly out of touch with reality; and selfishness in forcing her own interests on the family.
A godly woman will have a great reputation, for true character and performance result in growing in favor with God and men (Pr 11:16; 31:28-30; I Sam 25:3; I Pet 3:5-6). If you are not highly esteemed by others, you cannot excuse yourself with arrogant thoughts of self-righteousness, for you are failing in various areas of your life, and your family will suffer for it. Believe the judgment of others; humble yourself; repent; reform; start over.
Rather than only address one role, a famous expression should be changed to read, “Behind every great man there are two great women.” For it is by a great mother and a great wife that men are great. Wise women see both of these opportunities for building their houses and apply themselves with holy zeal to promote both husband and children. The woman who loves her children over her husband will lose them both, for the husband will suffer directly and the children will despise the selfish defrauding taking place.
Young man, establish the greatness of your house and future carefully. Your marriage choice is one of great importance. You will see much of your abilities, efforts, and blessings disappear by a foolish wife; you will live out your days in pain and loneliness by a bad woman. Marry, but only marry well, for your life, children to be born, and your future estate are at risk. Marry a godly woman that fears the Lord and loves diligence and zeal, and she will leverage any ability or efforts of yours into even greater successes.
The English have had a proverb, “A fortune in a wife is better than a fortune with a wife.”
Young woman, your family’s future requires a noble and virtuous man, so you must also marry well to avoid having your efforts greatly diluted or destroyed by a worldly-minded man that does not seek first the kingdom of God in his life or wisely lead the family.
As the bride of Jesus Christ, let both men and women be ambitious in the building up of His house, the church. You can tear it down as well by neglect and fighting (Ga 5:15), but you have been called to build it up by your endeavors (Ep 4:3,16). What a blessed privilege to leave a local church on earth better for your family than how you found it. Wise men always look ahead. They never sacrifice the future on the altar of the present.