The heart of her husband has confidence in her,
And he has no lack of gain.
She brings him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:11-12 (NET)
Last week we looked at God’s perfect design for marriage and His plan to make the woman and man one in Genesis 2. Genesis 1 recounts the creation of everything and the days in which God did His work. Then, Genesis 2 gives the detail for what occurred on the 6th day of creation.
1. Who was made in the image of God?
2. What two jobs did He give them as joint responsibilities (v.26)?
3. What were they commanded to do (v.28)?
There have been various interpretations given for “the image of God.” One idea is that it involves the functions and/or abilities given to people that make them similar to God in ways that the animals are not. For example, speech and logical intellectual abilities set us apart from the animals. Another thought is that it involves our rulership over the earth, or dominion, as God’s representatives. Another aspect of the image of God involves community. Just as He relates as three in one, we relate as male and female. Mankind alone is made in the image of God; therefore, all human life has value.
The word “man” in these verses refers to mankind, both male and female. God has given women great value and you are equal partners with men, created in God’s image and given dominion over all the earth. Even though God’s image has been defaced because of sin, it has not totally been erased. In the worst of mankind, there is still an element of the image of God. This is, in part, why we are to treat every person with regard and respect. What a wonderful and high calling to represent God in this world and to be given dominion over all we see!
4. Write a prayer of praise to God for His loving creation of you and the value that He places upon your life and the lives of all human beings.
5. Why did God make the woman? (Consider Gen. 2:18 as well as Gen. 1:26-28.)
The New Bible Commentary explains the companionship of marriage:3
The husband and wife complement each other. Suitable helper would be better-translated ‘helper matching him’, i.e. supplying what he lacks. She is his missing rib. Matthew Henry commented on God’s choice of a rib to create Eve: ‘Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.’ Perhaps this reads a little too much into the rib, but it expresses well the biblical ideal of marriage.
In Genesis 1 woman is part of God’s plan to create mankind in His image, along with the man. In Genesis 2 she is the companion and “helper” (NASB) or “companion” (NET) to her husband. Man was never intended to be complete apart from the woman; she is his perfect partner. Both are made in God’s image and likeness. Both are to rule and exercise dominion over all of creation. Genesis 1 relates God’s purposes for all of mankind, our overall responsibility on earth. Chapter 2 describes the relationship of husband and wife.
6. Consider the unity of your body. How do you see different parts helping the others and yet being “one”? What would happen if the parts refused to help one another? How might this picture apply to the home?
God had work for both the man and the woman as partners. The Hebrew word for “helper” does not imply inferiority or passivity in any way. It is azar, meaning help or support. It is most often used in the Scriptures to refer to the assistant, the one who helps or supports someone else.4 The two share the workload. Drs. Alice Mathews and Gay Hubbard comment:5
As helper, the woman is not merely standing by her man, handing him a wrench when he needs it. The use of this particular Hebrew word means that he is inadequate without her. To help here means “to share the same tasks.”
The same word for helper is used in Psalm 121:1-2.
7. To whom does the word helper refer in Psalm 121? Describe how this helper assists us according to this psalm.
8. Considering #7, would you agree that the word helper does not infer inferiority? Why or why not?
9. List the ways that you see the wife supporting the husband in Prov. 31:10-31. Memorize the Wisdom from the Word for this week, which comes from this passage.
God’s design of total oneness is pictured in Eph. 5:23: “For the husband is head of the wife.” Paul gives us visual representation of marriage. We are one body with the man as the head and the wife as the rest of the body. Sarah Sumner comments on the teaching of the picture:6
The picture of “one flesh” communicates volumes of theology. It indicates immediately the organic unity that bonds husband and wife. How might the divorce rate plummet among Christians if we would recognize that God joins a man and a woman into “one flesh” through the mystery of marriage? It is not so disturbing to imagine a leader breaking up with his assistant. But it is utterly disconcerting to imagine a body being amputated physically from its head . . . A body belongs to its head and a head belongs to its body. That’s why God hates divorce.
Steve Smith, with whom I worked at Prestonwood Baptist Church, suggests that women help their husbands to death in the wrong way, constantly trying to “help” them improve. That is not the right kind of helper. As wives, we need to accept our husbands as they are but assist them where they need us and want our help. We are in this together. Often my husband asks me to call various people or pick something up to help him get things done. Sometimes I feel very put out because I have so much to do myself. God has to convict me of my attitude. My role is to help my husband with a loving heart.
10. Married women: Think about your husband’s strengths and weaknesses. In what areas does he need your help? (Be careful here. Make sure that you aren’t trying to improve him!)
The job of being a “helper” differs with each marriage. My husband asks me to pay many of the bills and keep track of the money because he doesn’t like to do that. (A later lesson will deal specifically with finances but you need to remember that the principle of the helper applies to it and other areas.) The fact that I help with the bill paying does not mean that I take over the decisions concerning money, tell him how much to spend, or supervise his spending habits. I merely am responsible to manage a specific amount of money each month and pay certain bills from that amount. I am his “helper”.
11. Married women: Think about being one with your husband. Go back and review the list you made from Prov. 31 in question #9. Write down 1-3 ways that you can better support him to make your marriage stronger.
12. Write a prayer to the Lord, and if you are married, ask for His help in fulfilling your commitment to the things you wrote down in #11. If you are single, write your commitment to being that kind of helper.
At one point in our marriage, my husband’s business was not going well and he and his partners had to take a pay cut. In order to help him, I needed a part-time job. I was not excited about it, but this is where I could support him. It took some of the pressure off of him at that point. We together decided that substitute teaching would allow me to continue with some ministry that the Lord had given me. I began to substitute at the senior high school, which ended up being a great place for me. God taught me a number of lessons through my years in this job, and I look back on them as almost fun!
Being helpers involves making adjustments for our husbands. Just as we help in different ways depending upon the needs of our own husbands, we also must adjust to them. Perhaps you need to change your schedule to allow more couple time. Maybe your husband needs order around him and you have to begin to place more order into your home management. He may be a person who needs a lot of structure and wants you to plan in advance when you are a spur-of-the moment type. It is the wife’s responsibility to adjust herself as her husband’s helper. I still have to work at talking to Gary early in the morning. He wakes up and wants to have a conversation while I want to grunt in response!
13. Married women: Write down a specific way that your husband needs you to adjust to him or that you have already learned to adjust to him.
Child-raising is the joint responsibility of both parents as part of God’s original mandate to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Although ideally both of you agree and act in unity in decisions concerning your children, what happens when you cannot agree? You leave your husband and your children in the hands of God and back off. This requires great trust in God, knowing that He is at work and can show your husband his mistakes. You do not have to trust the decision your husband makes. Perhaps he will have to make some mistakes for God to teach him that you are right!! As women, we often make it harder for our husbands to come around to our way of thinking because they know we will remind them how wrong they have been. If your husband knows that you will not be an “I told you so” kind of wife, he will more easily listen to your advice. When you do disagree with his handling of the children, remember that you are one with him and need to discuss it outside of the presence of your kids.
14. As you fulfill your role as your husband’s helper, what are you teaching and modeling for your children?
Learning to be a helper to my husband, Robert, by loving and praying for him grew for me at a time when he lost his job. It was a difficult period for the whole family, but I realized how it was more difficult on him. I had to resist in trying to tell him what I thought he should do in how he was going about looking for a new job. He was getting advice from everyone on what to do. He was doing the very best that he knew how.
My prayer life grew as a result. I prayed every morning and evening that God would help me to be patient, show me ways to love and encourage Robert through this difficult process of looking for a job. It could be as simple as a hug or kiss, or words of encouragement when he didn't hear back from anyone and to remind each other that God was in control and knew what was best for us.
His timing was perfect. He gave Robert a job that helped him learn many facets of the industry he was making a career of. Praying together and on my own about our situation brought us closer. Difficult times can bring you closer and make that bond of oneness stronger. It also taught me to pray for him all the time!
15. Write in your own words what it means to be your husband’s helper.
16. Married women: Write a prayer asking God to show you ways that you can be a better support and help to your husband. Have you been guilty of resenting the things that your husband asks you to do to help him? Before you can ask God to forgive you, you need to ask your husband to forgive you (Matt. 5:23-24). Go to him and humble yourself and confess your wrong attitude and failure to be his helper, as God has designed you to be. Tell him that you intend to be his support and help from now on. (By the way, practice apologizing for your specific actions that were wrong. Do not just say, “I’m sorry.” Mention your specific sins.)
3 The New Bible Commentary, ed. Donald Guthrie (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1970).
4 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2; ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 660-661.
5 Alice P. Mathews and M. Gay Hubbard, Marriage Made in Eden: A Pre-Modern Perspective for a Post-Christian World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 179.
6 Sarah Sumner, Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 143.