Most ancient and modern cultures demean and treat women as inferior to men…objects to be used, not people to genuinely love and cherish. Not so with Jesus and not so with the wisdom writer of Proverbs. Jesus treated women with courtesy and honor and allowed women into his most intimate group of followers. In fact, Jesus befriended women who had been used, abused, and treated poorly, and transformed them by His grace into willing workers in His kingdom.
It is eminently fitting, in a book devoted to wisdom, that a woman of noble character should have the last word. Wisdom is personified as a woman. This beautiful acrostic poem elevates womanhood to a position of supreme honor and paints a vivid picture of a wise woman. I focus today on three facets of her life from Proverbs 31:10-31: The rare find, the fixed center, and the focused commitments of a wise woman.
Caveat: Husbands, this passage is not written for you to hound your wives about their shortcomings. This passage like all passages of Scripture serve in three ways: A mirror…a whip… a lamp. A mirror tends to show us our flaws. The swiss cheese effect of God’s Word – it shows us the holes and how we don’t measure up to God’s standard of perfection. This passage demoralizes most women because they use it strictly as a mirror. It is easy to view this passage as a harsh yardstick by which to measure your shortcomings. Many cringe at the mere mention of this woman. Secondly, this passage serves as a whip that drives us to Jesus who is the wisdom of God. Thirdly, it serves as a lamp and a guide for living. Proverbs 31 serves as a pictorial mentor for womanhood much like 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 serve as a pictorial mentor for manhood.
Becoming this type of woman is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit and is a lifelong pursuit. Let me assure you: This portrait of a wise woman looks at the finished product. It reflects the cumulative effect of a life lived wisely. Here’s my counsel to you: Rather than becoming overwhelmed by this beautiful portrait of a godly women, why not focus and think about one way that the Lord wants to weave her character into you.
- The Rare Find of a Wise Woman: (v.10)
Proverbs 31:10 asks the rhetorical question: Who can find this ‘wife of noble character,’ whose value is ‘far more than rubies.’ Proverbs 3:15 and 8:11 describe the value of wisdom as also being “more precious than jewels.” Thus the search for wisdom and for the noble wife are both worth the time and effort.
The word “noble character” or “excellent” has several shades of meaning – moral goodness and physical vigor and activity. She’s a woman of virtue… a woman of physical strength and moral excellence…It is the same word that is used of the mighty men of valor.
The description of this wise and virtuous woman serves as a challenge for young women and wives as well as a guide to young men in seeking a wife.
- The Fixed Center of a Wise Woman: (See v. 30)
Women, what is the fixed center of your life? Do you have a tendency to look to other things as the fixed center of your life? Physical beauty, your children, your family, financial security…
The fixed center of a wise woman’s life is her relationship with the LORD.
The wise woman anchors her life on the “fear of the LORD” (v. 30). One cannot be wise without entering into a personal relationship with God.
The text says that she fears the Lord. Meaning what? The fear of the LORD is that God-given affectionate reverence by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s will. The life she lives is one in which worship and the study of God’s will have no small share. Psalm 33:18, “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his mercy.”
All that she says and does is governed and guided by the Word of God. Exodus 1:21 – The [Hebrew] midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them.
Exodus 20:20 – Moses said to the people, ” Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”
According to verse 30, why is it important that she fears the LORD? Physical attractiveness is deceptive and temporary.
- The Focused Commitments of a Wise Woman: She orders her priorities.
To liberals who are focused on liberating women from the demeaning straight jacket of domestic slavery, Proverbs 31 shows the dignity and eternal value of domestic focus and excellence.
- Her Domestic Diligence, Focus and Faithfulness. The good management of a household is a sacred duty by which women please God.
This domestic diligence is seen in her role as a faithful wife.
“The heart of her husband trusts in her.” (v.11). “Her husband has full confidence in her” (v.11).
Jill Briscoe observes: “We know that this marvelous couple were good friends because it says they could trust each other. You can only trust one you know” A virtuous wife enhances her husband’s standing and reputation outside the home (31:23). Question: Does the way that you conduct yourself outside of the home denigrate or honor your husband?
“She does him good, and not harm” (v.12). She brings him good can be a fuller word; ‘deal bountifully’ (Ps. 13:6) conveys more of the glad goodwill with which the good is done.
She interacts with him by supplying his needs and giving him grounds for trusting her (Prov. 31:11). Have you made it your constant business to do him good (31:12)?
“Her husband is respected in the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land: (v.23) Her husband arises and “praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all” (vv.28-29).
This domestic diligence is seen in her role as a loving mother.
Some of you are already attempting to be super mom and I do not want to add fuel for this fire. Many of us have had the priceless advantage of a mother possessed of Christian virtues and graces. This passage ought to serve as kindling for renewed gratitude to God.
A wise woman diligently manages the affairs of her household (v.13 and 27 – “She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.”) The text says that she “works with eager hands.”
A wise woman faithfully and kindly teaches her children (v.28). The last phrase of v. 26 literally says “law of kindness” (torah hesed). All that she says is governed by the law of kindness. She does not rule by the “constant droppings” of censure, but by the never-failing stream of kindness. The kindness of God has led her to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Therefore, she uses kindness to shape the hearts and lives of her children. The children of the Proverbs 31 woman do not have an unpredictable mother. They call her “happy.” She cares for and establishes a good relationship with their children.
The most important ministry mothers and fathers have is the spiritual training of their children. See 2 Tim. 1:5 and 3:15. Lemuel’s mother boldly warns him of some of the dangers he will face in life: sinful companions, strong drink, and a temptation to disobey the Word of God.
Application: Do you take pleasure in the position/place that God has assigned to you? Wives and mothers, what would your husband and/or children nickname you? Compare with Titus 2:3-5 – “Workers at home.”
Work to make your home a haven… a place of peace and quietness (absence of an argumentative spirit). Remember that a happy lived-in home is much more appealing than an unhappy, sterilized one.
Danger: Putting your family above your LORD. Placing your children above your husband in terms of your time and your affections.
(To conservatives who say that a women’s place in strictly in the home, Proverbs 31 serves as a hand grenade going off in their laps. For now we see that a wise woman’s fear of the Lord inspires her towards excellence in her business enterprises.)
- Her Entrepreneurial Enterprise (Read 31:16-18; 24)
She is involved in the textile industry, planting and cultivating vineyards and purchasing real estate. This passage teaches that woman can exercise their gifts widely – in the home and in the workplace. The wise woman does expand her horizons beyond her home, but all her outside business endeavors do not hinder her fundamental commitment to meet the needs of her family.
KEY: Her husband is not threatened by her initiative and apparent success even in ventures outside the home. Question: Is your marriage marked by competition or cooperation?
Danger: Thinking that you can have it all.
(Next, we see the end of entrepreneurial enterprise is not to hoard, nor to waste it on self-indulgence, but to invest it in relieving the needs of others.)
- Her Generous Giving and Philanthropy (v. 20 – “The noble wife also provides for the poor.” The text literally says that she “opens her palm” to the poor; i.e, she gives to the poor with liberality.
A wise woman proactively serves those in need (v.20). Do you willing serve needy people in your sphere of influence and welcome them into your home with all of their mess?
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Conclusion: What is the end result of becoming this type of woman? She, as well as her works, are praised by all whom her life touches: her husband, her children (vv. 28-29), and her community (v. 31).
Husbands, let me challenge you to what Kenneth Blanchard, in his book One Minute Manager, calls “one minute praising”…find her doing something right and praise her today!
Husbands and wives, here’s a prayer to internalize and make your own as you consider the above:
Forgive us, O Lord, for the sin that so quickly spoils our life together in our families and in our church: For the moodiness and irritability that make us difficult to live with, for the insensitivity that makes us careless of the feelings of others, for the selfishness that makes life harder for others. Forgive us for the times that we have made it easier for others to sin. When we honestly assess ourselves, we thank you for Your forgiving grace and cleansing blood. Grant us today repentant hearts that grieve over our sin. At the foot of Your cross and at the entrance to Your empty tomb, may we find our burdens rolled away and resolve to live more fully yielded to You in the days to come. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.