The wise and foolish Builders – OT version (Proverbs 14)

Blenheim palaceThe other week, we visited Blenheim Palace. It’s an impressive tourist attraction, an elegantly designed building set in acres of beautiful parkland.  As well as being a tourist attraction, it’s actually the home of the Marlborough family. However, a number of commentators have observed that it wasn’t so much designed to be a home as a memorial to John Churchill, victor at the Battle of Blenheim.

So what does it take to make a home?Proverbs 14 says

“A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.”

Note here that the focus is on a woman as the home maker.  There are probably two reasons for this.  First of all, at one level, throughout Proverbs, wisdom is personified as an upright, moral, reliable woman of good standing in the city.  This contrasts sharply with folly portrayed as an unfaithful woman or even a prostitute.

Secondly, there is a practical application to women running through Proverbs. Right at the end, there is advise to wives in Proverbs 32.  Now, to talk about women as “homemakers” today doesn’t go down well. The word and the vocation has been somewhat downplayed and diminished. So, the concept seems outdated and even sexist to us. If someone says “I’m just a housewife” that’s seen as a self-putdown.

So, it’s worth stepping back a little bit and remembering that these Proverbs were written before the Industrial Revolution.  Making the home was not what women did by looking after the kids and cleaning whilst their husbands went off to work at the office or factory where the real action was.  This comes out in Proverbs 32.  The household was where the action was.  Family and work-life centred on the home and the community for centuries.  The role is about trading, managing workers, business, educating children etc.  Husbands and wives may have had different roles but   Biblical perspective they were equally valued.[1]

Now, that means in a modern world, assuming we don’t simply opt out of our culture completely then we are going to have to use wisdom to carefully apply things to our context.  In Marriage at Work, I try to make a start at this and argue that what the Bible teaches about men, women and marriage shouldn’t be used as pretext for women having to stay at home or for inequality in the workplace.[2]

But however we divvy up the roles in an industrialised society, we do well to heed the Proverb’s advice. Life is about more than money and materialism. A home is not just bricks and mortar.  So making or building the home as a place of protection and provision for the family and welcome for the vulnerable and needy is vital.

Building or tearing down

The Proverb distinguishes between wisdom building the home and foolishness tearing it down.  Things that tear down and bring destruction include

Proud talk (v 3)

Making light of sin and guilt (v9)

Concealing and failing to deal with your true emotions (v 13)

Recklessness (v 15 -16)

Building a home where godliness will flourish requires listening to God and walking in his ways (v2), hard, diligent work (v23) and peaceful hearts (v 30) that are not given over to jealousy.

The Fear of the Lord again

“Fear of the Lord is a life-giving fountain;  it offers escape from the snares of death.”[3]

Do you really want your home to survive the storms of life? Then, put God first.  What are our priorities as Christians? Too often, we can buy into the World’s priorities for families.  It’s natural to want our children to be successful, to find the ideal wife or husband, to get good exam results at school and go on to University before getting a good job and finding a nice house to live in.  We hope they too will have children and that they will be healthy.

There’s nothing wrong with any of the above but

  1. If we put those things first or become consumed with them then we can turn them into idols. We will end up with a family that pretends to be rich but in fact is poor.[4]
  2. It is possible for our family to be denied all of those things and yet for us to say that we have built a home and that it has not been torn down

A true home is one where Christ is central and where the family find their peace, protection and provision in Him alone.

[1] That’s not to say that ancient society (including Israelite culture) got it right in practice and did treat men and women as equal in value.

[2] This pdf e-book is available from our publications page.

[3] Proverbs 14:27)

[4] Proverbs 13:7

 

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