Woman Beware

As a dad and as a pastor giving guidance to young people I have written very little for young women.  Following the pattern of King Solomon in his instructions to his son, I am starting out with some cautions.  And much of what I share here comes from the wisdom of Solomon.

The Heart of the Matter

For all of us the heart is the “heart of the matter”.  Our actions are less significant in God’s eyes than our motives.  So any guidance to youth is really guidance for their heart.  This is particularly so for young women who can be distracted by externals, such as their own appearance or competing with the beauty of others.

King Solomon instructs us to be very diligent in protecting our heart, because the reactions of our heart become the “issues” we have to live with and deal with in our lives.

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

“Solomon my son, know the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts: if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever.”  1Chronicles 28:9

Womanly Issues

From my counselling experience and from my reading of the Bible I am aware of several issues which women are likely to struggle with.  I want to draw them to your attention with the caution that these areas deserve careful consideration to keep the heart free.

I note, for example, that women are more concerned about security and preparation for the future than their husbands often are.  I note, too, that women want to feel “loved” and yet their husbands can often neglect them without realising it.  I also note that women can fall into contention, argument and having the last word, when they are upset with their husbands.

Then there is the reflection about womanhood that I once heard from Iverna Thompkins.  She observed to a large group of women that men tend to have a pigeonhole for everything – from work, to the kids, to the car, wife, dog, etc.  A man can therefore shut off to his unhappy thoughts or feelings about work (or some other issue) when he faces something that is not in that pigeonhole, such as playing with his children.

Iverna observed that women operate differently.  “For us girls,” she observed, “it’s just ONE BIG HOLE!” What she meant is that if a woman is upset about one thing her feelings spill over to everything else as well.

This leads to the observation that women must pay attention to Solomon’s advice to gain “rule over your own spirit”.

“He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” Proverbs 25:28

Proverbs 31 Woman

It is often observed that the last chapter in the book of Proverbs provides a description of an ideal woman.  Many women, therefore, take note of that description and try to match the various qualities, such as rising early, running a home business, and so on.

Let me remind you that it is not our actions but our heart that is the heart of the matter.  Despite the many activities described there, the key verse for women is not about wool, flax, food, enterprise or rising early.  The key verse is about the heart.

“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”  Proverbs 31:30

The true “Proverbs 31 Woman” is defined by a heart to fear the Lord.

So let me point out how having such a heart makes you a very rare woman indeed.

Humility and Faith

I believe the two most powerful qualities a young woman can develop, and which will save her from the many traps that womankind falls into, are humility and faith.

Pride is a terrible thing in a woman because it leads her to fight and argue with her husband, which is the very opposite of being submissive and fitting in with his plans.  Let me show you how that works.

A contentious woman is proverbial, both in modern society and in the Bible.  King Solomon made repeated references to how terrible it is to be around a woman who is contentious.

“It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”  Proverbs 21:19

“… the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.” Proverbs 19:13b

Putting up with a contentious woman is like Chinese water torture!

So where do contentions come from?  Contention is evidence of Pride!

Only by pride comes contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”  Proverbs 13:10

And a fruit of pride is that people look down on others, scorning them, and holding them in contempt.  That’s why getting rid of a “scorner” removes contention.  Scorn is an evidence of pride of heart.

Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.”  Proverbs 22:10

Scorning the Husband

One of my lovely daughters-in-law related a few years ago how she attended a ladies group in her church and all the women did was complain about their husbands.  These young wives held their husbands in contempt.  They “scorned” them.  This means they had pride in their own heart about how much better they, as women, were, compared with their husbands.

When a wife lectures her husband, scolds him, belittles him, treats him like a naughty schoolboy, takes control over him and the like, she is in pride and is scorning her husband.

Yet it seems very easy for a woman to do that.  So beware of your heart.

Wives are commanded to submit to and honour their husband.  If you do not rule your heart properly you will probably find contentions coming from you because you scorn your husband.

The Place of Faith

I mentioned the need for both humility and faith.  I have shown that humility is important, to neutralise pride that leads to scorning and contention.  So, what about faith?

Wives are instructed to submit to their husband.  Yet many wives struggle with the lack of care, wisdom and planning they see in their husbands.

Because women are geared toward a need for security, the impulsive, undisciplined actions of her husband can make a woman fearful.  From that place of fear, combined with scorn for her husband’s lack of care for her, a woman can take control of the home and family, so she will feel secure.

This is where “faith” comes in.  Since it is God who commands the woman to submit, she must seek to do so with all her heart.  If she is insecure in the abilities and thoughtfulness of her husband, then she must focus her faith on God, not her husband.

A wife may pray something like this: “Lord, I know You want me to submit to my husband.  But he is so irresponsible and I am afraid for myself and our children.  He wastes money and makes decisions on impulse, despite all the times I try to get him to grow up!  But Lord, I want to worship You by obeying Your instructions.  So I choose to submit to my husband and honour him.  I do this as an act of faith in You.  I give You my fears and my needs.  I ask You to protect me from my husband’s foolishness.”

Such a prayer places the woman’s faith where it is supposed to be; on God, not the husband.

Out of Order

The ideal woman is one who fears the Lord (Proverbs 31:30), and rules her own spirit, having both humility and faith.  So what is a woman like if she does not follow this wisdom?

A woman who does not fear God allows her pride and fear control her, so she then seeks to control the man and children in her life.  This is where we get the idea of the matriarch who rules the family, or the woman who makes her husband a “hormone hostage”.

Manipulation and control are a ready pitfall for a woman who is out of order.  King Solomon has a description of such a woman.

“And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: the one who pleases God will escape from her; but the sinner will be taken by her.”  Ecclesiastes 7:26

Note that a man will feel like it is better to be dead than to live with such a woman.  That has echoes of the comment about living in the desert rather than putting up with a contentious woman.

I have had to counsel both men and women who struggled with the manipulation and control of a mother or wife.  Such control is more than just emotional, it is devilish, because it is rebellion against the will of God.

Witchcraft in the Home

While a godly woman is a most wonderful thing, a rebellious and contentious woman is a bitter thing.  However the deeper danger is the spiritual curse such a woman can bring in a marriage and home.  So let me add this observation to caution your heart.

A woman driven by fear, pride, scorn, self-will and an out of control heart will be in rebellion against God and he husband.  And “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”.

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”  1Samuel 15:23a

If a wife was to practice witchcraft in the home then spiritual oppression would come upon her, her husband and the family.  So, when a wife practices rebellion against God’s instruction to submit to her husband, she also brings spiritual oppression upon herself, her husband and the family.

This is part of the “snares and nets” problem a woman can be in a home.

What is Ruling You?

If a wife gives in to her impulses, fears, pride or reactions, she will be out of control.  She will not be under God’s headship, nor will she be under her husband’s headship.  Instead she will be ruled by her fears and other things that are ungodly.

If she then tries to contend, manipulate, control, argue and the like she is exalting that wrong spirit over the home.  Her husband should not give in to her, otherwise he is saying to Jesus, “You can’t be the head of this home right now, because my wife wants that spirit of anger to rule her and me.”

A wise husband will resist his wife’s manipulation and control, tantrums, outbursts, verbal attacks, contentions or the like, because he wants Jesus to remain as the head of the home, not some out of order attitude or spirit that wants to rule through the wife.

A Good Thing

Don’t think that these cautions mean women are terrible or evil.  All men and women have fallen short of God’s glory.  The challenge for each of us is to be holy as our God is holy.  For women that involves some challenges different to men, and vice versa.

It is God’s favour to give you as a godly wife to a man the Lord blesses.

Whoever finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour of the LORD.”  Proverbs 18:22

Godly women want to be a blessing.  And you are.  You are a gift to your husband.

Note, as a final word of caution, that you are a blessing when you are a “wife”.  A woman who is married to a man but acts as his superior, boss, mother, manipulator, jailer or the like is not his “wife”.  Being married to a man makes you a wife in human terms, but not according to God’s plan.

I call upon each of you to be a godly wife, by living in humility and faith and the fear of God, ruling your own spirit, so you do not give in to fear, pride, scorn, manipulation, control or any other thing that leads to rebellion against God.

And may the Lord bless you as you do.

Teachable Heart

Do you hate being told off? Most of us react when someone is giving us a lecture and pointing out our faults. Some people turn off immediately, run away or even react aggressively when being corrected. How do you take correction? What don’t you like when people are bringing up your weakness, failings or faults? Do you have a teachable heart, or are you one of the stroppy ones who react poorly?

What about your children? Do they take correction? Do they become annoyed and frustrated when you try to instruct them?

King Solomon speaks directly about this common weakness in taking correction. He refers to correction as ‘reproof’. In Proverbs 12:1 Solomon notes that those who love instruction love knowledge, but those who hate reproof are the stupid ones.

There are no accolades for those who react when they are corrected. If you find yourself cringing, tensing, resenting the speaker, blocking the input, or other negative response to reproof you are on dangerous ground.

If you also think that your way is pretty good and you don’t need correction, you are even on worse ground. Hmmmm. Proverbs 12:15 says “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that receives counsel is wise”. Those voices of correction or reproof are ‘counsel’, and you are wise to receive them. If you are determined that you are right, then you are likely a fool.

Now, I know that there are some people who can turn correction into a toxic substance. That makes it even tougher to receive their words of reproof. What can I say? Those people do exist. They make a compliment into a death sentence. They have the ability to humiliate, denigrate and offend in the very process of giving reproof or correction which is valid.

When those people speak into our life we are doubly challenged. We don’t want to be corrected in the first place, but we also don’t want to be put down, taunted or otherwise offended by the person bringing correction.

To be super-spiritual about it, let me suggest that maybe God has elevated the stakes in your life, by bringing along the offending corrector. The double whammy may be to test your heart even more than normal. By upping the stakes on you God is giving you the chance to press through to greater freedom. Champions don’t train with the primary school squad – they undergo the most rigorous conditions. And so it is with your heart and spiritual growth. By having additional weights put onto the bar you are being given the opportunity to become a champion. The scorning corrector and the toxic rebuke, when received with God’s grace, will give you victories not attainable under the hand of a patient and kind counsellor.

So let’s consider your children again. If they react to your correction and instruction it could be because you are heavy-handed and even toxic in the way you bring correction and instruction. Please search your heart. There is no need for you to make life difficult for your children. If you have sufficient relationship with them, which I hope you do, then you may want to discuss these thoughts with them and encourage them to develop a teachable heart, even when you are not kind in the way you instruct them.

I counsel you to receive counsel. I counsel you to have a teachable heart. I counsel you to receive correction, even when it comes in a nasty package. I counsel you to be of an excellent spirit and to be counted among the wise, not the fools.

Scorner in the Corner

I was contacted many years ago by a young male university student who had recently joined a skeptic group on campus. He phoned me to practice his powers of intellectual argument or something. The exchange didn’t go as he had planned.

The first thing I sensed as the stranger did a hasty introduction and then hit me with some challenging question about Christian faith, was that he was a rather insincere young man. He seemed to be trying something out that really didn’t fit him very well. I gave an off-the-cuff cursory answer to his question and he pressed his point. I can’t remember the issue that he raised.

He rather proudly announced that he was a skeptic. I think he found some solace in the idea that he was backed up by something like a body of supporters. I replied by sharing with him my thoughts about people who are sceptical.

I pointed out how it surprised me that people who chose to identify themselves as sceptics were principally only sceptical about faith in God. These supposedly enlightened minds, superior enough to see through other people’s folly, seemed remarkably gullible and ever ready to be uncritical in their embrace of things anti-Christian. They did not prove to be sceptical of their university professors, nor of the populist ideas of their group. They did not seem to be sceptical of their own scepticism.

I went on to explain that it seemed that the mainly male groups which identify themselves as skeptics are likely composed of people whose own moral compromises motivate them to become devoted to an anti-God posture, in fear of the alternative. Instead of getting on with life and engaging in the broad sweep of life experience, some of these self-proclaimed sceptics are caught in an eddy, which swirls them around in an endless pursuit of the perfect proof that God does not exist. In reality that are being tossed around by their own conscience, and that’s about as close to ‘science’ as many of them get.

I respect those who engage in open-minded analysis of facts and data and who can accept and accommodate competing beliefs and perspectives. Many who identify themselves as skeptics may be just like that. However, the genuinely thoughtful person in such groups is likely to have their integrity compromised by the passionate crusaders who see skeptic groups as a place to celebrate their religious devotion to an anti-God belief system. Those impassioned people are not sceptical at all.

Three thousand years ago King Solomon, in his wisdom, gave a name for people who choke on truth. He called them ‘scorners’. I fear that the young man who phoned me those years ago was trying his hardest to be a scorner. I pray he failed.

It is a sad thing to go through life motivated by fear of judgement for shameful actions. It is also a sad thing to go through life under the cloud of immorality and moral compromise. What a shame for many young men that their lusts bring them into a place of inner defeat that they cannot resolve. Rather than finding true release and personal freedom (Jesus Christ promised such freedom and history attests to its delivery ten thousand times over) these people compound their slavery by playing mind games and slipping into an intellectual backwater. They celebrate their advanced state – the sceptical mind – while they are actually taken captive by vain imaginations and empty beliefs.

If you know someone how is caught up in such a life of scorn, please pray for them. I sense that it is time for many of them to come to the real freedom they are crying out for on the inside. I sense that God is ready to rescue their minds and release them to use their intellectual capacities for good, in ways that will so thrill them and give them what their current delusions don’t deliver.

“Lord, only You can rescue the scorners. Solomon warned us against rebuking them, since they will only try to tarnish the reputation of all who do. So Lord, we pray for them. We pray that You reach out Your hand and apprehend these fine young men who have become enslaved in shame and delusion. Rescue them for Your kingdom and use them for Your glory. Cause the hearts of their ancestors to rejoice in having brought them into the world. Release them into divine destiny. We ask this in Jesus’ powerful and eternal name. Amen.”