The excellent wife is a woman who watches and makes sure that she knows the spiritual condition of those in her household. This particular verse we will examine today says this in a wonderful way that will remind us that as a parent we truly need to know the state of our families' hearts.
We read first that the excellent wife "looks well" to the ways of her household. The Hebrew word for "looks well" is "tsaphah" and it means to look about, keep watch, even to spy on another. This word originally meant to watch or keep guard over something or someone. The word is used of God watching over people, over nations, and even over situations that are happening at the time. The idea behind this watch was that of being a "watchman" who would look far out over the horizon, and warn of danger that was coming. Here is where the excellent wife and godly mother is so valuable to her family. She watches over everyone in the house to make sure that danger is not arising in a way that will catch the family off-guard. She watches for the enemy - and warns everyone in the family of its approach.
What does this woman "watch" for in her family? The word that expresses what she watches for is that she is watching the "ways of her household." This phrase refers to watching someone travel. She is watching as her family walks along the paths of life. She watches because she knows from experience as well as from Scripture that these ways are not always easy. They are often fraught with danger and with problems. If no one is there watching to warn of the traps and the snares of the wicked one - it is far easier to be caught in them. She does what the Scriptures commend us to do as she both "watches and prays" for those whom she loves.
What is interesting to me is the second half of this proverb about the excellent wife. It reads this way, "And does not eat the bread of idleness." The danger for her is that a woman will begin to be sluggish and even lazy about watching and praying for her family. What a reminder this is to the ladies of the church (and honestly to the men as well) that the whole task of marriage and family is not one that can be successfully carried out without watching and praying. Why is this the case? Because the enemy of our souls and our families is setting snares and traps for our loved ones. The wise parent knows this - and prays regularly for his or her child. They also watch for telltale signs that the child is not doing well spiritually. They do this so that they can both pray and offer further parenting as needed.
Just a note on the end of today's post. My oldest child is 29 and my youngest is 18. One would think, according to conventional wisdom, that for me and my wife our parenting duties are almost over. Those who think like this don't grasp that for the excellent wife and the exemplary husband - their time as a parent is never finished until they depart for heaven. The wisest among parents continue to watch and pray long after they have an empty nest. The evil one does not put down his fiery darts just because your child has married and left home. Roles may have changed - but the role of intercessor for your child is one that lasts for a lifetime - at least for the wise and understanding.