The Help Meet Known As "The Preacher's Wife"
By Michael Davis
"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help meet for him." (Genesis 2:19) According to Thorndike - Barnhart Advanced Dictionary, "help meet" means, "a counterpart; a fit opposite to supply the needs of the former." The famed Strong's Exhaustive Concordance concurs. More importantly, one cannot ignore the wisdom of Jehovah in designing the perfect supplier of man's needs in the form of woman. From Peter's text of 1 Peter 3:1 - 12 we learn much about this complex, yet most unique creation of the Almighty. In fact, Peter especially tells the husband, "dwell with them according to knowledge" (vs. 7). After more than thirty years of marriage to the most wonderful woman on earth to me, (and I challenge you husbands to not think less than this of your own wives!) I am convinced the only way we husbands can comply with that directive is for the wife to teach us, and we patiently and diligently listen and learn their teaching! Paul's inspired words of Ephesians 5:22 - 33 speak of the wife in likeness to the Lord's church (and not vice versa). Indeed, if compliant with God's Word for her life, she is the fitting companion for man, and most certainly, the fitting companion for the gospel preacher.
Though he had the right to marry (1 Corinthians 7:15) and did not refuse it to those righteously entitled (Hebrews 13:4), Paul chose not to marry. None should speculate as to his comforts or discomforts sequential to such a decision, for we recognize this as his choice, and note well his dedication (i.e. "marriage") to the work of Christ and His church. Certainly, no shame exists in such a decision; yet, by Paul's own inspired writings we note he could not be an elder nor deacon in the Lord's church (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). Obviously, the wife is a most essential item in finding a man qualified for either office in the Lord's kingdom. And while no man is "commanded" to marry, those of us who recognized our need for a help meet certainly appreciate with grandeur the wisdom of God in designing this immeasurable honor for our otherwise uncomely beauty (compare 1 Corinthians 12:24).
The writing of this article will not please my wife. She would sternly rebuke me if I published this article locally: and I can't tell you what she's apt to do were I to include her name! She seeks absolutely no glory or attention for herself and expresses some embarrassment when publicly noted. That is her humble nature, and among her greatest qualities. However, I will gladly accept her rebuke in that area inasmuch as the intent herein is to bring attention to this often forgotten value to the Lord's cause. Those of you gospel preachers whose lives span many more years than mine are able to confirm these thoughts with multiple additions to the accolades our help meets merit. You elders and deacons can speak volumes regarding the value of God's wisdom in directing you to have a godly wife at your side. Perhaps the contents of this treatise will help young men contemplating the work of an evangelist to more carefully contemplate the type of woman a "preacher's wife" must be. Perhaps as well, it will help young women understand their role and the stabilization they are to their husband's work in the kingdom of Christ Jesus.
Admittedly, those congregations who have bravely requested and agreed to my location with them in preaching and teaching the gospel soon find it is my wife who possesses the calmest demeanor. I've often said, "They hired her, but let me preach." In traveling, I do not find my wife to be an exception to this observation. The preacher's wife in most locales possesses the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (1 Peter 3:4). It is she who is reserved and patient in hearing the critiques of her husband's labors. She is his "sounding board" and usually, her retort to his boiling frustrations is, "Add to your faith temperance and patience." She accepts the "fish bowl" life imposed on her as a preacher's wife. Like all gold fish in the round clear-glass bowls, the true size and expectations of the preacher and his family are usually magnified through the glass to inappropriate measurements of demands. Yet, the preacher's wife accepts the challenges as well as the rebuke and exhibits through her character that "chaste conversation coupled with fear" (1 Peter 3:2).
Her capabilities in caring for her family mirror the miracles of our Lord in feeding the five thousand and at times, in feeding the seven thousand! She can take the smallest amount of leftovers and create a meal fit for kings and feed all the unexpected company until full and take up a few baskets of fragments still! She is not afraid of the snow for she's shoveled so much of it in helping save her husband some valued time. She doesn't fear mowing the grass either; for it often supplies an outlet for her regarding the frustrated emotions she rarely exhibits except to her husband. She clothes her family in scarlet, or at least the best of Penny's polyester, cotton or sales rack items. Her candle does not flicker at night for she often is busy with mending these items. While her coverings of tapestry, and her clothing of royal silk and purple are in actuality her mother's quilt and the hand-me-downs of friends who now wear better, she does not despair nor complain. Her hands are never idle for she remains busy in every room of her abode, doing something to assure the comforts of her beloved.
If there were anything of the material realm that surpasses her abilities with food, clothing and shelter for her family, it would be the incredible way she manages the books of finance. While a few preachers do their own managing, most of my acquaintance find this valued help meet is much more proficient than he! Somehow she can stretch the dollar to accommodate the needs and often a few of the "wants" of her family: often to the exclusion of her own needs and wants! Preachers are considered "self-employed" by our government, and few brethren realize the preacher's income is "gross pay" (I'll let you run rampant with that terminology) rather than "net." Yet, through her managerial skills, she always has "enough" and Uncle Sam remains pacified. There are times when she finds it required to work outside their home. Many preachers, due their self-employment status, cannot afford health insurance, or are frankly "uninsurable" for other reasons. Knowing the needs of her household, she again sacrifices her time, her health, and her all to supply her husband's needs. She understands the meaning of "help meet".
Incredibly, she endures the long weeks in which she surrenders the presence of her husband while he preaches the gospel in other places. She's packed his clothes, reminded him to take his briefcase of books and sermons, kisses him goodbye and wishes him well. Meanwhile, while he enjoys the brethren's kindness of fine cooked meals and/or restaurants his wife can only imagine (their budget just doesn't permit the finer places frequented by most brethren - her favorite is often Burger King!), she remains at home, contented with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a hot roll. Her children spill the milk, cry for another peanut butter sandwich and think they're in "hog heaven" when mother cooks a meal of ground round steak, mashed potatoes and baked beans! When he returns, often after their initial welcome into each other's arms, her next comment is, "Where's your laundry? I need to get that started so you have a clean shirt for Sunday!" Oh, the charms of this unequalled helper fit for his needs!
Usually, the congregation is cordial to her. She sits with her husband and lovingly accepts the presence of other children to her side. She appreciates and understands the euphoric desires of a child to "sit with the preacher and his wife". Of course it's often her pen and paper the visiting child uses to take notes of the sermon (or do whatever else they do) while she sits with one ear listening to the truth and the other hearing, "Do you have any gum?" or "I need to go to the bathroom." That comes from her own little ones as well, but when they've grown and gone, she recalls the eyes of the congregation when she obliged such requests, and now their eyes when she denies it. When services are over, this help meet attempts the loving acknowledgement of everyone present. Some rush to her side as if to captivate her attention first (and exclusively). Others casually greet her, and yet "heaven help her" if she should innocently neglect someone. So many forget she is not a "free slave" in the arrangement of the preacher's work. She is his help meet, and by her example tries to teach other women this powerful characteristic called "humility."
As she ages in grace and poise, her beauty remains radiant to her husband! He indeed safely trusts in her. She has done him more good in the days of his life than he can ever repay in adequate fashion. While he is known in the city among the elders of the land, she remains unnoticed to the masses but ever strong and viral in the mind of her preaching husband. It is truly her strength and honor that clothe her and cinch up her husband's courage. Her mouth utters wisdom so profound that her husband often wonders why God keeps her out of the pulpit. (1 Timothy 2:12) The tender kindnesses of our Lord direct her law of kindness (Proverbs 31:26). The honored declaration of her children calling her, "Blessed", and her husband's praises are minimal compared to her well-deserved accolades.
Alas, the preacher's wife scoffs at such a tribute as this, thinking herself so unworthy. She knows it is her choice to support the desires of her husband to proclaim the Word of God (Romans 10:14 - 15). After all, she is very capable in influencing him to do or not to do other things of greatness in their life as husband and wife. When he comes home at times muttering, "Why didn't I keep that secular job and provide better for you and the kids?" her loving answer is, "Because this is what you do best, and you can't give God or us less than your best!" The consummate cheerleader, the preacher's wife sees the light at the end of all dark tunnels and often runs ahead of her husband to assure him it isn't a train!
If this help meet is not the most precious vessel to the preacher (1 Peter 3:7), he needs to restudy his Book! While directed to all husbands, Peter's directive seems especially poignant to preachers: if they do not LEARN from them, they cannot "dwell with them according to knowledge." If they do not HONOR them, they abuse them, which is sin. If they do not LEAD them, their inheritance is in jeopardy and their prayers are hindered. (ibid.)
While all husbands should treat their wives with such loving esteem (Ephesians 5:22 - 33), surely we preachers need to take time to sincerely thank our wives for their uncompromised loyalty, tolerance, patience and love. I once asked an elderly preacher for his answer to the age old quandary, "Where does the barber go for a good hair cut, or the doctor for a wise physician, or a preacher when he needs advice?" This wise old gentleman answered, "I go to my wife for all three situations!" These wonderful creations of God merit our praise, brethren! Granted, they would "skin us" for publishing such about them. Worse if we used their names! That's why I've taken this method of declaration. Maybe somehow, those reading this tribute might share it anonymously in bestowing upon preacherís wives their worthy tribute.
No preacher should ever
enter the pulpit without first speaking to God. He should ask God's favor upon
him for strength and boldness in declaring His word to the exclusion of his own
notes. He should seek God's help in being gentle enough to cause righteous
understanding in the young minds, and yet ask for wisdom in being convincing to
those of educated minds: in all showing that we have been with Jesus in our
study (Acts 4:13). They must understand James 3:1 with great clarity and
responsibility. For those of us fortunate enough to have as our help meet, a
virtuous woman, we find each of these requirements exemplified in her life. May
God help us all to implement them well in our own lives as we must frequently
thank Him for this help meet!
Michael Davis, preacher
Church of Christ
825 West Second Street
Bloomington, IN. 47403