“Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” Prov 31:23
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Prov 12:4
In considering a man for church office, a word should be written about the character of his wife. Oftentimes more may be intuited of the character of a man by observing his wife’s manner in the church than by anything he might choose to reveal himself.
Since husband and wife are constituted one flesh in the eyes of God, there develops over time a considerable degree of spiritual sympathy and likeness in the couple. This is not a hard and fast rule in Scripture, of course — examples to the contrary abound (e.g., Abigail and Nabal the Calebite, 1 Sam 25:3). In general, bad company corrupts good character, and a believing husband will “sanctify” (or influence to the good) an unbelieving wife (1 Corin 7:14). A godly spouse is as salt and light in a marriage (Matt 5:13). D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once exhorted younger ministers to be seen much in public together with their wives, as the two constituted the completeness of the one man (Gen 2:18).
We learn from our first proverb that a woman is esteemed praiseworthy if her husband is familiar with the leaders of God’s people. He is deemed worthy to meet with them at council (Prov 31:23). Fools feel out of place at the city gate, for “Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth” (Prov 24:7). Old, suffering Job (whose wife suggested that he curse God and die!) once had a regular seat at the city gate, being held in awe even by the hipsters of his day (Job 29:78). The excellent wife promotes the integrity and honor of her husband, whereas a bad wife ultimately works to his undoing (Prov 12:4).
Ruth is commended as a virtuous woman whose future husband, Boaz, was familiar to the men at the city gate (Ruth 4:1). That remarkable match is remembered in Matthew’s Gospel, in Jesus’ genealogy (Matt 1:5).
A picture should be emerging to suggest that to omit consideration of the wife of a nominee to a church office would be unfortunate. Indeed, in listing the spiritual qualifications for both elders and deacons, the “women” mentioned by Paul are better understood to be the “wives”, as the ESV translation has it (1 Tim 3:11). “[Deacons] wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober minded, faithful in all things.” Their character must correspond to that of mature women in the church. Paul’s letter to Titus fills out these qualifications with their corresponding behavior: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Ti 2:2-5).
Since wives are help-mates to their husbands, “they must be aids to their husbands in their office; which cannot be, unless their behavior excels that of others.”2 It seems right that the wives of deacons, who are often engaged with their husbands in the diaconal service, would have qualifications that are “virtually synonymous” with that of the deacons.
“ …some feminine ministration was necessary in visitation and in attending women candidates for baptism. For such work certain moral qualities would be essential…These qualities all contain a serious note, befitting the character of their task. The warning against malicious talkers is basic, for no-one in God’s service can be allowed to indulge in slander. Of the other necessary qualities, the first, temperate, echoes verse 2 and is again a basic requirement, but the second, trustworthy in everything, is again one of those demanding requirements which makes a person stand out in an age when reliability and honesty are at a premium in the non-Christian world.”
Please consider taking time to meet with the wife of any man nominated for church leadership at Covenant. If she is an excellent wife, you may discern what the proverb means by her being “the crown of her husband”. Such women, along with the deacons, undoubtedly make godly servants of the servants of God.