Chapter 6

It's a Man's World
Respect for the Dignity of Your Woman's Worth

It has been decades since "Leave It to Beaver," but many men in the '90s are still hung up on the old traditional role of the husband and wife portrayed in the '50s.

Even when women earn more, men rarely contribute their share at home — a major source of tension in the modern marriage.

If a man's home is "his castle," he needs to treat his spouse as the queen, not the maidservant!

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   Even though it has been decades since "Leave It to Beaver," many men in the '90s are still hung up on the old traditional view of the worth of the husband and wife. Many of us grew up with the television models of "Ozzie and Harriet," "Father Knows Best," "Leave It to Beaver," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and "I Love Lucy." In all of those cases, Mom was the faithful homemaker while Dad did all of the "important work" outside of the home. Mom took care of the kids, took care of the dishes, and took care of the house, while Dad was out there bringing home the paycheck and making a mark on the world.

   The subtle undertone and attitude that was projected through all of those role models was that Dad's world was more important than Mom's — at least what he did was more important than what she did. Of course, this picture of the '50s is hardly a working model for the '90s. Aside from being impractical, it's really not all that biblical. We should move toward a more biblical model of dignity and respect for the woman.

   We have to come back again to the beautiful model of Proverbs 31 to see how absolutely worthwhile the woman is as a partner in a marriage.

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What she does is full of dignity, honor, and worthy of full respect:

A Woman's Worth

Proverbs 31: 10-11

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

   In our early years of marriage, I expected Donna to play the good housewife and servant role that my own mother played in our home. And I have to confess that I thought it was much more important that I receive an education for my profession than it was for Donna. Today I regret that we did not allow her more freedom in the early years to pursue her educational objectives before the children came. Not that she is complaining because she loves the role she has as a wife, mother and homemaker. In addition to her role in the home, she has a fulfilling ministry with women in our church. But she also has worked outside of the home. This professional side to her has also given her a great deal of satisfaction and sense of worth.

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   In the last chapter we looked at the need for a man to understand the work of his wife: her role. This chapter is about her worth. The extreme that the world projects to us is that a woman should get out of the home if she is going to do anything important. The working world has opened up to the woman, and we've seen some of those "glass ceilings" shatter everywhere. We applaud this greater opportunity for women outside of the home, but that's not the full picture. Can a woman fulfill a role of worthiness, dignity, and respect by what she does inside the home as a homemaker, wife, and mother? We would say the answer is a resounding yes! There is nothing wrong and a lot right with wanting to fill that role. And, in fact, the trend is that more and more women are leaving the workplace and their careers to go back to a simpler life of more quality and value in the home during the child-raising years of their marriages.

   Recent surveys and studies are showing that the career model for the working mother is not all that it was cracked up to be. Just as more and more families are moving back to their roots in the hometowns they grew up in, looking for a simpler life of more quality and a slower pace, women are leaving the corporate world to go back home in great numbers in the '90s. Financial realities, of course, demand that some mothers work. Whether the wife in your home is a homemaker or employed outside the home, the husband must learn to appreciate her worth.

   How do we handle our roles in the Finzel household? I, Hans, have grown to appreciate more and more, as the years have gone by, the incredible value that Donna provides in our home and marital relationship. I appreciate that she is home raising our children, and we work hard to try to keep it that way. As far as I'm concerned, what she does is just as important and valuable as what I do. She has chosen to be in the home to pour her life into our four young children and to prepare them to be men and women of God as they enter adulthood and go

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into the world. The bottom line from my viewpoint is this: What she does is as important as what I do! I try to show her this every week and every month in the following ways:

By listening to what is going on in her life.

By dropping what I have to do to help her with what she needs to do when she asks.

By honoring her publicly whenever I have an opportunity to do so.

By communicating to our children the valuable role she plays in our home and family.

By allowing her great freedom in the decision-making areas that affect her responsibilities in our family.

By seeking to provide "vacation" away from her job just as I get vacation away from my work.

THE VIEW FROM HER SIDE

   Let's take a moment to hear how Donna feels about her role in our home: Life as a full-time homemaker with four kids in the 1990s is a huge challenge. Life in America with all of our modern conveniences has accelerated the pace and expectations put upon the family. Choices bombard us constantly. Somehow this has seemed to isolate us from one another within the family, church, and community, as our lives are so busy and full. I especially remember when we first arrived back in America after living overseas for nearly ten years, how shocking it all was. We would watch in amazement at how everyone lived and wondered, "Where are they all going? What is all the great hurry about?"

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We soon discovered that much of the energy and time expended by people involved:

"doing" — activities such as soccer, ice skating, baseball, football, ballet, and church clubs.

"going" — to pull off all of those activities, the family van had almost become "home."

"getting" — shopping and consuming is truly an American art form. Nowhere else in the world has all of the options and availability or commercialism to draw people to buy, buy, buy.

   As the homemaker, together with Hans, we've sought to find our own way, as I know many of you have, to not be ruled by the standard "way it is" described above. We seek to make our family life, relationships with our kids, and ministry for our Lord our primary focus and motivation. I believe we do have a very close bond as a family, and we spend a lot of time at home together. Inviting the kids' friends in and opening our home, inviting others in are things we're doing more and more.

We want to make "being"

a close family

— more like our Lord Jesus Christ

— a caring family for others in our neighborhood and church family

— a loving testimony of a Christian family

the priority in our lives.

   Yes, I do find joy in my role as a homemaker. As long as I maintain balance and make choices based upon our true priorities as much as possible, our home is peaceful and a great place to be in. Sometimes,

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though, reality demands that our schedule be too full, and priorities are left in the dust as I run about doing, going, and getting! That's life, and no home is perfect. When I get discouraged and feel overwhelmed wanting to give up, usually it means I've been doing, going, and getting too much. This is a huge job. But it is rewarding to know that I personally have the daily opportunity to be with my kids in their formative years, to convey our values, and to guide them.

   Taking care of the children and teaching them responsibility go hand in hand. A great help when I get those feelings that "this is a thankless job" comes from the promise the Lord has given to us:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. — Colossians 3:23-24

   Men, learn to respect the role your wife plays in your marriage and family. If she works outside the home, then you and she need to be equal partners in fulfilling all the domestic duties that you face in the home. It's not fair for her to have to work just as much as you do and then have to carry the entire load of the household when you both get home in the evening. That is a no-brainer. And yet we are amazed at how many men still feel that their wives should be superwomen who can do it all.

MEN: ACTIVELY FOCUS ON HER WORTH

   Whether or not they were employed outside the home, nine out of ten women surveyed by the Families and Work Institute said it was their responsibility to take care of their families. And according to another recent study, women who outearn their husbands do even more housework by a large margin than women who make about the same as their husbands:

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Even when women earn more, men rarely contribute their share at home — another major source of tension. When any of her three children gets sick, Lisa, a pathologist, is the one who takes a day off — even though her husband, George, a computer programmer, earns a third of what she does. "All of a sudden my work is secondary," she says (Good Housekeeping, January 1996, pp. 94-95).

   If you find yourselves in the more traditional role of the husband working outside of the home and the wife working in the home, then you may need to learn to respect and give great dignity to what your wife does in the raising of your children and the care of your castle. If a man's home is "his castle," he needs to treat his spouse as the queen, not the maidservant!

   I must keep reminding myself that God designed couples to be different for the very sake of providing color in the lifelong relationship we call marriage. Looking at myself as a husband, I know I haven't always made Donna's role a joyful one. But I'm learning, and I consciously consider her schedule and the demands upon her time as we go through our weekly routines. I try to give her plenty of notice on upcoming travel commitments and appointments, and try never to "spring" surprises on her that she can't prepare for! By doing that, I am showing respect for her role and contribution to our family. That has made life for Donna more fulfilling and has helped things run more smoothly overall in our home life.

TWO EXTREMES IN THE VIEWS OF A WOMAN'S ROLE

   Whenever we think of the role of a woman, two extremes seem to drive us. First, there is the overly aggressive woman, who hates terms like "submission," or "that's the woman's place." It is difficult for this woman to be led by anyone, especially men. Second, there is the woman who lacks confidence to assert herself anywhere outside of the

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home. Even in the home, she views herself as personal servant to the demands of her husband.

   Neither of these extremes is a biblical view of marriage. A survey of Scripture dealing with women paints an entirely different picture, most notably portrayed in the truths of Proverbs 31, which we had already begun to describe.

   As a husband, I would challenge you to read through this "paraphrase" of Proverbs 31, and circle the qualities you see in your wife. Then share with her those good qualities you see in her, "praising her" by thanking her for the initiative she takes in meeting the needs of you and the kids in those areas. Remember, the woman portrayed here most certainly grew into being the "Noble Wife" over a period of years and received much praise from her husband along the way!

Proverbs 31 — A Personal Paraphrase

The "wife of noble character" is said to be rare indeed! She is of highest value and worth, and her husband totally trusts her, not second-guessing her, but rather relying on her, knowing her work will bring him good, not harm, ALL THE DAYS OF HER LIFE. She is a woman with multiple skills and training, involved in commerce. She works very hard, even having her own income. She is strong, compassionate, generous, given to hospitality. She plans ahead and dresses herself and her family well. She decorates her home beautifully. She exudes "strength" and "dignity," but has a sense of humor. She speaks wisely and chooses her words carefully as she instructs her children. Her husband is respected highly. He children and husband praise her. But her highest praise is that her beauty is inward as she is a great woman of God who walks closely to Him!

HER WORTH AND DIGNITY  

"Frankly, I am convinced this underscores the fact that God never intended the woman to feel inferior or to live fearfully beneath some heavy cloud of unfair domination. While no one who takes Scripture seriously can deny that a wife must, indeed, fit into her husband's plans (1 Peter 3:1) and ultimately allow him the place of final authority in the home (Ephesians 5:22), in no way is she ever viewed as an individual lacking in worth or dignity." — Charles R. Swindoll

DOORMAT OR DIGNITY?

   We appreciate Charles Swindoll's wrestling with the extremes of the "over aggressive" versus the "doormat" type view of women in his

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booklet titled: Woman: A Person of Worth and Dignity. As he looks at the two extremes we just described, he carefully identifies the causes for these biblically inaccurate viewpoints:

1. A misunderstanding and misapplication of "submission."

Husbands and wives alike have done this. Pastors and other so-called authorities have also contributed to this most unfortunate problem.

2. A failure on the part of Christian husbands to carry out three essential responsibilities, namely:

to think biblically

to lead fairly

to release unselfishly

3. A strong, well-organized action from the secular world system to "liberate" today's woman . . . regardless.

Even those who don't want to be "liberated" are made to appear foolish and backward. The happy homemaker, the fulfilled woman who enjoys being at home, is mocked by the system.

4. An equally strong resistance from some voices in Christendom to keep the Christian woman boxed in, seated, and silent.

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Frankly, I am convinced this underscores the fact that God never intended the woman to feel inferior or to live fearfully beneath some heavy cloud of unfair domination. While no one who takes Scripture seriously can deny that a wife must, indeed, fit into her husband's plans (1 Peter 3:1) and ultimately allow him the place of final authority in the home (Eph. 5:22), in no way is she ever viewed as an individual lacking in worth or dignity (Woman: A Person of Worth and Dignity, Charles Swindoll, pp. 8-9).

HERO HUSBANDS WE KNOW

   I, Hans, just returned from an encouraging trip to meet with an acquaintance we'll call William, a hero of a husband, who lives in the beautiful rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania. Fortunately also I had the change to meet his lovely wife, Barb, and learn of their special relationship as it involves his respect for her role in their marriage.

   William has been the president of an international ministry for twenty-five years. Four years ago they moved their world headquarters from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. During the process of renovating their new ministry center, they added 35,000 square feet of new offices to their complex. When it came time to work on interior design, his gifted wife, Barb, volunteered to take care of all planning of the furnishings, colors, wall coverings, paintings, and decorations. Quite a big job and big commitment for his spouse! William had two choices — bring in a "professional" and pay the big bucks or take a risk and allow Barb to use her gifts in his world.

   Not every woman is gifted in interior decorating, but Barb is. I spent two days at their headquarters, and I can tell you that it is beautiful beyond description. Tastefully and professionally done, Barb left her mark on the world where her husband rules as chief executive. William's decision to let Barb come into his world in such a significant way

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communicates several important things.

He trusts Barb.

He believes that she can make significant contributions to his world.

He views his wife as a partner in his work.

He wants his wife to be connected to his world.

He wants the other women at the office to see how involved he is with his spouse.

He believes that she has much to offer him.

   Many men are overprotective of their workplace, and they would just as soon their wives stayed away. Work is work and home is home, and never the two should meet. This unhealthy attitude builds barriers between a husband and a wife and makes her feel that his world is much more important than hers. Remember, he comes in and out of her life freely on the home front. Why can't she be a vital part of his world as well?

Powerpoints

   The applications of this chapter have to do with men recognizing the worth of their wives, no matter what their role in life is. Whether she is a working career woman or a dedicated homemaker, there are things husbands can do to enhance her worth.

   This is an assignment for husbands:

Try the yellow-pad approach. If for some reason your wife was permanently taken out of your life tomorrow, what are all the things you would miss about her? Make a detailed list and write it down on a yellow pad.

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Take a Proverbs 31 inventory: Read carefully through Proverbs 31, and write down a list of all the valuable traits of the woman described. It would be especially helpful to read through the "paraphrase" found earlier in the chapter and circle the qualities you see in your wife. Then share with her those good qualities you see in her, "praising her" by thanking her for the initiative she takes in meeting your and the kids' needs in those areas.

Bring your wife into your life: How much is your spouse involved in knowing about your world? Do you communicate that it is too complex for her to understand? Take the time and energy to let her in.

View your marriage as a partnership. Since some guys still don't get it, or don't want to get it, work at this no-brainer. If she works outside the home, then you and she need to be equal partners in fulfilling all of the domestic duties that you face in the home. It's not fair for her to have to work just as much as you do and then have to carry the entire load of the household when you both get home in the evening.

Keep surprises to a minimum: One way to show your respect for your marriage partner is to keep her well informed of all plans that you are making that affect her or the family. Do not spring business trips, outings with the guys, or vacation plans on her unannounced.

Discover her personal goals: Talk to your wife about her long-range goals. Do you even know what her private aspirations are? Many husbands have no clue what the secret dreams of their wives are. If she has worth to you, then take the time to draw those dreams out of her.

Help her dreams happen: Most women have dreams of being more than they are and doing something special with their lives. Help your wife reach those dreams by taking a submissive approach to her needs, in this case you as the man submitting to her in the spirit of Ephesians 5:21:

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"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Give up some of your personal goals and pursuits to allow her time to pursue hers.

Show her you value her in the little daily things of life: We will repeat here the list found earlier in the chapter that Hans works on consistently in our home:

By listening to what is going on in her life.

By dropping what I have to do to help her with what she needs to do when she asks.

By honoring her publicly whenever I have an opportunity to do so.

By communicating to our children the valuable role she plays in our home and family.

By allowing her great freedom in the decision-making areas that affect her responsibilities in our family.

By seeking to provide "vacation" away from her job just as I get vacation away from my work.

HIGHEST VALUE AND WORTH  

The "wife of noble character" is said to be rare indeed! She is of highest value and worth, and her husband totally trusts her, not second-guessing her, but rather relying on her, knowing her work will bring him good, not harm, ALL THE DAYS OF HER LIFE.

A Proverbs 31 paraphrase

Chapter Seven  ||  Table of Contents