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Up on the roof

“It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9; 25:24).

Not content to state the fact once, the author of Proverbs smuggles this saying in a second time! This is astounding, since I can think of no other Proverb repeated verbatim. The author evidently really means to drive this one home: “Guys, take notice: Living with a contentious woman is the pits.”

It is interesting that God never weighs in on whether the wife in question has a legitimate grievance. There are no qualifications or exceptions given to the injunction against nagging. I tend to want to object a little at this point: Maybe the wife is right about the matter she is complaining about. Maybe he is a selfish man. Maybe he never sees her pain. Maybe he stays out too late. Maybe he drinks. Maybe he smells bad.

The silence of God here is disconcerting. It forces me to consider the possibility (ugh) that it doesn’t matter much what the lady’s grievance is; it just matters that she is a nag about it. Evidently, almost nothing the husband in question does is worse than her constant harping on it. Good grief, is nagging that serious a fault?

A woman I know told me that when she got married she wanted to cure her husband of a particular fault, but that he was not responding to her pleadings. She took the matter to her mother, and her mother gave her advice she has used the rest of her marriage. (They have now been married 30-plus years, and happily, to all appearances.) The mother said words to this effect:

“If you have an issue with your husband, tell him once, and then pray about it.”

This seems to be the wisest course. It averts the two opposite errors respecting other people’s sins: neglect and belligerence. Jesus said that when someone sins against us (if it is even a sin), we should tell the brother his fault (Matthew 18:15), so there is a valid place for confrontation. But Jesus also wants us to trust the Father, and we best demonstrate that trust when we put matters into His hands after praying, and do not imagine that our badgering is indispensable to success.

After all, you don’t want to come home one day and find your husband has hauled his bed and linens up to the corner of the roof.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her commentary has been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides in Philadelphia, Penn.


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The Proverbs is one of my favorite books of the Bible.I think there is another verse that is repeated (I believe it is identical in the ESV here as well as the NASB). Compare Proverbs 18:8 and Proverbs 26:22.


oops, the sentence in my previous post should be: "If I consistently leave my dirty clothes on the floor for my wife to pick up..."


Summer, the context of Andree's comment is that of a "fault", which I would not classify as requiring the full prescription of the verses in Matthew 18.  If I consistently leave my dirty clothes on the floor (I would call this a fault of consideration for her and her "nest"), should she take that to the church and have me "shunned" if I refuse to change?  As Andree said, there is a place for confrontation, and some of the issues you mention surely fit, but every "fault"?  I don't think so.


Andree,  I'm sure you meant well with this article, but if you're going to quote Matthew 18, you must include the rest of the verse!  If he doesn't listen to you, you are suppose to take 2 or 3 others with you.  If he won't listen to them, tell it to the church.  If he won't listen to the church, let him be to you as a pagan or a tax collector (have nothing to do with him).  It doesn't seem you've had to deal with big issues with your husband such as alcoholism or infidelity or "staying out late".  These things are not matters to bring up once and then just pray about it!  They have to be dealt with carefully.  No nagging is going to fix it, but I take issue with the mother's advice above.  She's using her own wisdom, not the Bible's.  Nagging your husband about his clothes being on the floor or the toothpaste cap always being left off is a different matter.  But please don't lump them all together next time.  Some things are trivial.  Others can bring destruction to your family.  

Strawberry Roan

I so love reading your writings, Andree. They start my day off right. Thank you.