A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand. (Proverbs 27:15-16)If you've ever been around anyone who argues to "show up" a spouse, or to be "clever" while playing the spouse as less than so, or, in order to, by their words, set a group against a wife or a husband, you know exactly what these verses are addressing.
It's serious business. (And like many serious passages of Scripture that use vivid or exaggerated imagery, these verses make their serious point hilariously.)
But more to the point of Proverbs 27:15-16, there's good reason to wonder whether spouses like the ones described here are really married. By that I mean that I wonder how committed to their marriages and to the persons to whom they're married people like this really are.
One reason I wonder is that the eighth commandment, with its proscription against gossip, in Martin Luther's phrasing, calls us to "fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, lie, or gossip about our neighbors, but defend them, speak well of them, and put the most charitable construction on all they do."
If all of this applies to our neighbors everywhere else in the world--from the person next door to the occupant of the White House--how much more does it apply to married people treat the neighbors with whom they share a bed?
Contentious and quarrelsome spouses, in breaking the eighth commandment with repeated impunity, as I have often observed, also break their marriages in ways that bring misery to Christian spouses who take both the eighth commandment and their marriage vows seriously. "My husband [or, my wife]," they may think, "isn't married. But I am." And so they feel compelled to stay in their non-marriages and make the best of their lives. It's sad and it's brave all at once.
Maybe we pastors would be well advised to use Exodus 20:16, where the eighth commandment appears, along with Proverbs 27:15-16, applying the latter to both quarrelsome wives and husbands, for our next wedding sermons instead of 1 Corinthians 13.
It might catch someone's interest and warn some newlywed husband or wife to seek God's help in refraining from being like incessant dripping on a rainy day, unrestrained in their never-ceasing nastiness.
It might even stop some non-marriages from happening in the first place.
Just a thought.