Pro 21:9 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
We are reading through Proverbs in Sunday school and we came upon this verse. There are actually several verses like this one including one in the same chapter, Pro 21:19 It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. The question was asked why there are so many verses about this and why is it always about the contentious wife and not the husband. They are questions that are worth considering.
On the surface the easy answer is that this book is written from a father to his son and so naturally it would be from the man or husband’s point of view. I think that if we look at it from the man’s point of view but also from a biblical and New Testament perspective we can make a good application.
I think men typically either read a verse like this as a funny truism and then move on to the next verse or immediately think of a nagging wife and tend to apply it to wives by telling them they shouldn’t be contentious but submissive instead. We tell them that if you submit to your man the home will be one of peace. Now there is certainly some truth to that but that application directs these verses to the woman and not to the man. And so the verses become mostly just truisms about what a home is like if the wife is a nag but they hardly find application in a man who wants to be wise in the Lord.
As I said earlier, this book is written to instruct a son and while there are great applications for men, women and children in this book yet I began to think about what would be the wisest and most profitable way for a young man looking for a wife or a husband who finds himself in this situation to apply it to himself.
There are at least two ways we can approach this. We can quote it to our wives when we feel they are being quarrelsome or nagging, etc. We can use it then to try and keep our wives sweet and submissive or we can consider how to apply it to ourselves as husbands. Perhaps a similar verse will help, Pro 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife. Here the point is the same but it doesn’t blame either the man or his wife for the problem. It is simply saying that a home of peace is a much more enjoyable place to live than one in which there is strife.
I think a better application of these verses then is for a man not to use them to try and get his wife to submit but to look at why there is contention in the home to begin with. Since the husband is to be the head of the home then we should always look at our leadership with suspicion when there is strife. Why is my wife contentious, why is she not happy, why is she nagging me, etc.? In fact, a better way to ask that question might be what is there about living with me that is making her unhappy.
Yes, it is miserable to live with a contentious wife but it is equally miserable to live with a know-it-all, abusive, “I am king of my domain” husband. So it might be best for the husband to read these verses and think to himself that since it is miserable to live with such a woman I need to make sure that I am the kind of guy that brings out the best in my wife and not one that is unbearable to live with. In this way these verses become a directive for husbands to consider how they lead rather than just something to use against our wives.
A young man looking for a wife would do well to keep this verse in mind and look for a woman with a sweet, godly, submissive attitude because if he just looks on the outward he might very well end up with a miserable home. And this applies both ways. How many girls have gotten caught up in a guy’s looks, money or “manly” take charge attitude only to find out that he is just mean or so caught up in himself that it is impossible to have much of a relationship.
There is a lot in the verses to think about but I hope we men use them to consider the atmosphere we encourage in the home and not use them to beat our wives over the head with. Otherwise they just become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy in which we make her miserable and she returns the favor. And of course, we could just go to the Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, and Eph 5:28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Eph 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. The application is the same. If we love her like we want to be loved, she will be happy and the home will be at peace.