The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1
Sometimes the Book of Proverbs strings together ideas that are not obviously related. At first glance, Proverbs 14:1-4 may seem to be such an unrelated string. But a closer look reveals the thread of thought that unites them.
The first verse contrasts a wise woman and a foolish woman. The word used in Proverbs 14:1 for “build” is banah, which means “to build, rebuild, establish, cause to continue.”* The wise woman works at building her house. Well beyond putting up the physical structure, her construction includes creating an encouraging atmosphere for the other members in the household. Additional building is always needed; sometimes demolition and re-building are necessary. However, the foolish woman destroys her house with her own hands. Control is more important to her than building up.
Verses 2-3 show how this building up or tearing down can be done: wise or foolish actions and wise or foolish words. Wise actions include walking uprightly and fearing the Lord. Foolish actions include walking in devious ways and despising the Lord. The wise woman’s words protect her, but the foolish woman’s words bring punishment. What we do affects others. Acting as if God doesn’t see what we’re doing—allowing selfishness, crabby moods, angry fits, sarcasm—tears down our households.
Verse 4 can be a word picture, which demonstrates the above ideas. An empty stable is neat, but fill it with oxen or cattle, and you have muck to clean up. An empty house is neat, but fill it with people, and you have messes to clean up: toys all over the floor around the toddler, peanut butter and jelly all over the table as your little children learn to make their own sandwiches, dirty socks and sports equipment wherever your young athletes leave them, or books and papers piled on your spouse’s desk. But praise God that your stable is full, even though it isn’t clean.
Our goal is to build up and strengthen those in our stable so we can all be what we were created to be. Can you allow your household to be imperfect and messy as its members are under construction—learning and growing?
Read Proverbs 14:4 in various translations. Although the second part is worded differently in these versions, how does the meaning remain the same?
Proverbs 31 contains a description of an ideal woman. Does it say that her house is perfectly clean and neat? What are her activities? Note she even finds time to go to the gym to work out (v. 17).
Balance is vital. Why not rewrite Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 based on your household experiences? For example, “a time for toddlers to learn to pick up their toys, a time to leave toys scattered on the floor.”
Nancy J. Baker
*Hebrew Lexicon :: H1129 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 10 Oct, 2014. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H1129&t=KJV