Proverbs 11:16

A Gracious Woman and a Strong Man


1. This is a simple statement, yet difficult to be certain about which Solomon is contrasting.

2. What IS the main point of the verse? Is he contrasting:
• Men and women? (Is the emphasis on differences in gender?)
• Grace and strength? (Is the emphasis on differences in character?)
• Honor and riches? (Is the emphasis on differences in results?)
» Or is he highlighting all of the above?
» Usually a proverb is intended to drive home one main point.


1. Solomon associates grace with women and strength with men.

a. Roman Catholic Church play: Sister Mary _______ says, “Girls are good and boys are bad.”

b. Solomon doesn’t go that far, but he does seem to be singling out a difference between men and women.

c. Men are not viewed in the most favorable light in this passage.

2. Being gracious seems to come more naturally for a woman.

a. Gracious: (Strong’s) – charm; favour; grace; elegance;

b. The term describes the virtuous woman as a charming, elegant, kind, compassionate, caring, loving woman…

c. I Pet.3:4 – The gracious woman is of a meek and quiet spirit… being in subjection to her husband.

d. Being gracious is not exclusively a feminine quality (for the Lord was FULL of grace)… but it is one of those qualities that seems to come easier for women.

e. Isn’t it true men, that on not a few occasions, we were about to do or say something quite UNGRACIOUS—and our wife stepped in and reminded us to be gracious and kind—rather than allow our hot temper to carry us away?!

3. Being strong seems to come more naturally for men.

a. Strong = (Strong’s) – terror-striking; awesome; terrifying; ruthless; mighty; violent…

b. The term does not highlight strength of character.

c. Rather, it speaks of an inclination towards violence… aggressive… mighty… and even ruthless.

d. Of course, this doesn’t mean that women are never aggressive or violent… and that all men are.

e. But over all, most would agree that men are more aggressive… more forceful…

f. Strength is often associated with men in the Scriptures.
• Be strong; quit you like men! (I Cor. 16:13)
• Let us play the men for our people… (II Sam. 10:12)
• Women are referred to as the “weaker vessel.” (I Pet. 3:7) By implication, the man is the “stronger vessel.”
• There might be exceptions, but this is the rule.

4. This is a basic difference between men and women that God wants us to KNOW… (I Pet. 3:7)

a. The husband is to dwell with his wife with this knowledge… that men and women are different.

b. Men are by nature more aggressive; women more gracious.

c. You would be surprised to discover how many husbands don’t get it… and how many wives don’t understand either—that there are huge differences.

d. Sometimes wives don’t understand why their husband doesn’t come home from a hard day at work and want to talk for 2 ½ hours about their feelings…

e. Sometimes husbands don’t understand why, when his wife is all stressed out emotionally, that he can’t just tell her to “snap out of it”—and he expects that she will just be strong like him.

f. Husbands and wives are to dwell together in this knowledge—they are different… one is weak, elegant and gracious… the other is strong and aggressive…

g. It’s a good combination—but it is a difference that must be understood.

h. Without this basic knowledge of the difference, there can be disastrous results.

5. The gracious woman who retains HONOR for her household is every whit as valuable as the breadwinner—

a. The husband who through strength retains riches… he brings home the bacon…

b. The contrast puts the woman in the best light here…

c. The contrast is between a godly, gracious woman and an aggressive (even violent) man…

d. They both RETAIN something… but what she retains is more valuable! Honor! Riches are good, but honor is better.

*** That is looking at the verse as contrasting the gender differences… but that is not the main point of the passage.


1. Both of these qualities (grace and strength/aggression) retain something. (Retain: to grasp; hold; support; attain; lay hold of; hold fast.)

2. Grace retains honor.

a. The gracious woman lays hold of honor… in the end.

b. The woman whose life is characterized by grace will be honored… if not on earth at least in heaven.

c. Prov. 31:28-31 – she is praised by her children, husband, and God! This is honor!

d. Ultimately, she will receive a well done, thou good and faithful servant.

e. The gracious woman lays hold of something she will keep with her for all eternity—honor!

3. Strength retains riches.

a. The strong, violent, aggressive man often retains riches.

b. If a man is aggressive enough, he can gather many riches to himself.

c. He might be a hard worker… even a bit pushy…

d. The term for strength is not all that complimentary. It may imply the man who climbs over others and even stabs them in the back in order to obtain a better position for himself…
• NIV = A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.
• NAS – A gracious woman attains honor, And violent men attain riches.

e. He’s strong and aggressive—and he successfully obtains wealth.
» But the strong, aggressive man eventually leaves all his riches behind! (I Tim. 6:7)
» In his aggression to obtain wealth—he may obtain it—but often at a price to himself and his family. (I Tim. 6:9-10)

f. There is a big difference between the gracious woman and the strong, aggressive man.
» The gracious woman takes honor with her into glory.
» The strong man leaves what he has obtained all behind.

g. The violent aggressive man might obtain the riches, but he also may loose his honor in the process… and a good name is BETTER than riches! (Prov. 22:1) Honor is far better than riches!

4. There is a good example in the Old Testament of a gracious woman and a strong, violent, aggressive man… (I Sam. 25)

a. In this story, Abigail was a gracious woman who retained honor.

b. David was the aggressive violent man who was about to obtain wealth…

c. In the context, David and his men were fighting battles and were hungry.

d. Vs. 2-3 – They came across the home of Abigail and Nabal.

e. Vs. 5-8 – David sent men to Nabal to ask this wealthy man to provide some food for David and his soldiers.

f. Vs. 10-11 – Nabal refused.

g. Vs. 13 – David’s immediate response: Ruthless violence: let’s get him! Let’s fight! We will show him whose stronger… we will be aggressive and take all the goods!
• David demonstrated a violent, aggressive side…
• Grace and honor were not on David’s heart at this point.
• Rather, he was ready for a confrontation.
• He wanted the riches—the goods… and he was ready to fight for them.

h. vs. 18 – Abigail’s response Grace: (when she heard about the situation)
• She very graciously provided abundantly for David and his men.
• She very graciously took care of her mindless, drunken, selfish, foolish husband.
• Vs. 23-25 – Abigail graciously approached David… not in violent aggression, but in a gracious, meek, submissive grace!
• Vs. 28-29 – She reminded David of Gods’ marvelous provision and promises.
• Vs. 31 – She talks sense to him graciously—and reminds him that the Lord is able to take care of Nabal…
• Vs. 32-34 – David gives HONOR to this gracious woman!
• He recognizes that she prevented him from shedding blood causelessly… he recognized that her advice was good and from the Lord…
• He realized from personal experience that which his son Solomon would later record in Proverbs: A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.

i. Abigail proved herself to be a gracious woman who retained honor!
• David was about to prove himself to be an unthinking, aggressive, violent man who almost LOST his honor in order to obtain some earthly wealth… food—porridge!
• David did well to listen to this gracious woman rather than plunging ahead in his violent aggression and losing his honor…
• We as men are prone to this kind of aggression and strong headedness.
• Thank God for women who can talk sense to us when we need it!
• We would do well to stop and listen to our wives when they want to point out to us that there might be a better and more gracious way to go about our business… a kinder, gentler, more gracious way to word it…
• God made men and women different… to compliment one another.

5. Looking at it from this angle (RESULTS), grace is better than strength.

a. Strength can aggressively seek and obtain wealth all to be left behind.

b. Grace retains honor… from God and men… and will be rewarded in eternity.

c. The author is really speaking about two KINDS of strength:
• One is the raw brute strength of body and will…(physically strong or strong headed)… aggressive violence that demands its rights and often gets what it wants in this life…
• But in doing so, it often hurts others and makes enemies… it promotes self and tramples over others…
• One is the strength of character—a gracious spirit… that is willing to suffer itself to be defrauded… to put others first… This is far superior to being strong in body or being strong headed.
• The reward of a gracious spirit is of eternal value; the reward of brute force is temporal—of little value.

d. Jesus was a man… a manly man too.
• He had strength of body. (Omnipotence! How’s that!)
• But he also had strength of character (John 1:14) (full of grace and truth)
• But He didn’t think it was necessary to push his weight around; to demand His own way;
• His gracious spirit is seen in Phil. 2:6-8 – all of this was done out of grace… sacrificing Himself for the good of others… for those who were undeserving…