Proverbs 31 Isn’t Just For Women

Great sermon at my church Sunday. We’re doing a series on Living Proverbially, which means, in accordance with what the book of Proverbs teaches. I like the way our pastor and the others who have preached have dealt with the topics. Above all, they have not come across legalistically. They also have not approached Proverbs presumptively, meaning they do not teach that God MUST do X if we but do Y.

This last Sunday, my pastor, Darin McWatters, began by reading chapter 31, which is often considered the description of what a wife is supposed to be like—hence, the idea that the chapter is just for women.

But Pastor Darin pointed out that the chapter is instruction a King Lemuel received from his mom concerning what he should look for in a wife—instruction that he passed on to his son. In truth, the admonition is directed to men about women.

I couldn’t help but think of an article I saw on the internet recently stating that men preferred women who were debt free and did not have tattoos. Well, there you have it, I thought during Sunday’s sermon, those men are looking for the wrong thing. And the women are enabling it! Oh, the article author seemed to be saying, men want this wrong, skewed thing, and that inconsequential thing, so by all means, girls, be sure you give the guys those things! Above all else!

King Lemuel was stepping in and correcting his son, telling him he had to get his eyes off the wrong (or foolish) and the inconsequential.

This attitude of pleasing men by being debt and tattoo free, makes me think of the Pharisees of Jesus’s day. They demanded certain external things too. They weren’t interested in who had a heart for God, who was loving His neighbor, and certainly they were not concerned about who had repented of their sins and received forgiveness.

Guys who are only looking at a statement of debt and what tattoos are showing, are just like those Pharisees.

But what guys are supposed to be looking for are the qualities that all of Proverbs has already featured. In other words, the very things that the first 30 chapters have addressed as part of Solomon’s advice to his son. They can be categorized in three general statements: recognizing one another’s intrinsic value, serving each other sacrificially, expressing our love for one another.

Pastor Darin did an amazing job of showing parallels from chapter 31 with other verses in Proverbs, each falling into one of these three areas.

As he spoke, another thought came to my mind—something I learned years and years ago from a pastor addressing what the Apostle Paul said was his idea and not from Christ. These verses were still in the Bible, still inspired by God, still given to him by the Holy Spirit. And, all Scripture, not some, is profitable to the believer. It will teach us or reprove us or correct us or train us. God will use it in our lives.

So too with Proverbs 31. What if it actually were written just to women? Men could still learn from it, should still learn from it. It’s in the Bible so it falls into the category of all Scripture—inspired, profitable.

But clearly it’s not a “to women” passage: “The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him” (Pro. 31:1).

I like what Pastor Darin did next. He said the passage could be viewed sort of like the satellite image someone can see using Google maps. First you can zoom in and see your house, then take it out to see your block, your city, your state. So, too with this passage. The close up view shows us ourselves, but then we see ourselves in relationship with our family, our church, and the ultimate, as part of the Church, with Christ.

After all, we are His bride, He the bridegroom. We are to speak highly of Him, serve Him sacrificially, express our love to Him. In other words, God’s principles work on every level! They aren’t just good ideas or helpful in marriage. They are truths that should infuse our lives and affect every level of relationship we have.

The Proverbs 31 Woman

woman-praying-840879-mThe Bible is really ahead of the times. Some people think of it as a bunch of fairy tales, others that it “contains” truth. The Christian understands that the Bible is God breathed, even as Man himself was God breathed in the beginning. So it should come as no surprise that the Bible addresses things for which we need guidance in the twenty-first century.

I doubt if the people back in Solomon’s day were engaged in gender wars or that there was a lot of confusion about the role of men or of women. Yet here at the end of Proverbs is this amazing chapter detailing attributes of “an excellent wife.”

I remember a good number of years ago that the Proverbs 31 woman was who we women were all studying to become. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be excellent in our role in the home?

But then someone—I forget who—came along with a counter. This new view sort of mocked the Proverbs 31 woman by making a caricature of her getting up early, buying property, making the family’s clothes, procuring their food, and on and on. The way this person laid it out, it was so obvious that NO woman could ever do all the stuff the Proverbs 31 woman was supposed to do.

And yet, fast forward, a few decades and lo and behold, women in our culture are expected to do all the jobs the Proverbs 31 woman was doing.

So is Scripture giving us a blueprint for how to live? Not in a legalistic way—and that may have been the problem with the earlier approach. Nevertheless, it does portray women in a positive light—not as drones or slaves trailing their men by ten paces with heads covered and faces veiled.

Instead, the specifics mentioned about the relationship with this wife and her husband are two: he trusts her and she does him good, not evil.

The rest of the chapter details things she does to care for her household, to work as a businesswoman in the community, to help those in need, to be prepared for the future, and to pass on to others what she has learned.

Only toward the end does her relationship with God surface, but it appears to me to be the foundation of all else:

Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates. (vv 28-31)

The recognition she gets from her husband and her children, augmented by the praise she receives from others because of her works of kindness, generosity, and all the rest, are a direct result of the fact that she fears the LORD.

By implication, she also is not wasting time on being a charming person or trying to enhance her beauty. Those things are deceitful—here today, gone tomorrow. But the qualities of character and the service to her family and community—those things last.

The bottom line is this: in today’s gender wars, the Proverbs 31 woman gives us a pretty great model to pattern our lives after. She is hard working, focused on others, and motivated by her reverence for God.

For these things she’s called excellent and she receives praise from the person who she’s closest to: her husband. Her children will also express their gratitude for her, and all the good she’s done others will reflect favorably on her.

Proverbs 31 is not a schedule of a woman’s day, as some might have tried to make it in the past, but it certainly outlines the principles that can guide a woman through the rough gender-war waters of today.

In truth, it’s not so different from love God and love your neighbor—just a little more specific.

Published in: on February 5, 2015 at 5:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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