A Mom Worth Modeling

Proverbs 31:10-31

May 9, 2015 | Brian Bill

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.  He established this day as a time for “public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”  It’s certainly true that no nation is ever greater than its mothers, for they are the makers of the next generation.

I read an article this week called, “An Open Letter to Pastors: A Non-Mom Speaks About Mother’s Day” that was very helpful to me.  Here’s part of what the author wrote:

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heartache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren – yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Please turn to Proverbs 31.  Let’s go over some introductory thoughts to help us understand the text better.

celebrating the hard working worshipping woman
  • The Book of Proverbs helps us to grow in wisdom.  Throughout Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a woman—so it’s fitting that the book ends by celebrating the hard working worshipping woman. 
  • Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic.  There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  Beginning in verse 10 through the end of the chapter, each of the twenty-two verses begins with a different letter of the alphabet – Aleph, Bet, Gimel, etc.  This was a common practice in wisdom poetry, like Psalm 119, which has twenty-two stanzas of eight verses each.  This made it easier for people to memorize.  BTW, this gives me permission to continue my affection for adventuresome alliteration and acrostics.
  • The writer is remembering the mentoring his mom did for him.  We see this in verse 1: “The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him.”  The influence of a mom is beyond measure.  In the first nine verses this mom tells her son to be morally pure (verse 3), to not drink alcohol (verse 4) and to stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves (verses 8-9).  And then beginning in verse 10, she tells him what to look for in a woman.
  • Scripture seems to celebrates work “inside” and “outside” the home.  While some have used this passage to castigate women who have jobs outside the home, I see this woman as doing whatever it takes to help her family.  The main point is not where a woman works, but whether or not her family is her priority.
  • This is a composite picture, not a “to-do” list.  The writer is saying that from “A to Z” the ideal woman will reflect these qualities. The Life Application Bible says: “She may not be one woman at all—it may be a composite picture of ideal womanhood.” 
  • Jewish husbands and children recited this poem on Friday evenings.  In some Jewish homes, this passage was read before Shabbat began in order to honor the wife and mother who made all the meal preparations.  These words were designed to build up the worth of wives and to magnify mothers.  

Follow along in your copy of the Scriptures as I read Proverbs 31:10-31:

10 Who can find a virtuous wife?

For her worth is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;

So he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good and not evil

All the days of her life.

13 She seeks wool and flax,

And willingly works with her hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships,

She brings her food from afar.

15 She also rises while it is yet night,

And provides food for her household,

And a portion for her maidservants.

16 She considers a field and buys it;

From her profits she plants a vineyard.

17 She girds herself with strength,

And strengthens her arms.

18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,

And her lamp does not go out by night.

19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,

And her hand holds the spindle.

20 She extends her hand to the poor,

Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,

For all her household is clothed with scarlet.

22 She makes tapestry for herself;

Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates,

When he sits among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,

And supplies sashes for the merchants.

25 Strength and honor are her clothing;

She shall rejoice in time to come.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,

And on her tongue is the law of kindness.

27 She watches over the ways of her household,

And does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;

Her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many daughters have done well,

But you excel them all.”

30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,

But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,

And let her own works praise her in the gates.

A Woman’s Worth

Proverbs 31:10 asks the question: “Who can find a virtuous wife?  For her worth is far above rubies.”  It’s hard to estimate the worth of all the work that a woman does so salary.com releases a study each year that shows a typical stay-at-home mother juggles a 94-hour work week as a housekeeper, cook, teacher, laundry machine operator, van driver, facilities manager, janitor, computer operator, chief executive officer and psychologist.  If she were paid for all this, she would earn $115,000 a year.  A mother who works outside the home also works 58 hours at home and would earn an additional $86,000 for the work she does there (on top of what she makes in her regular work).

While it might be helpful to calculate how much a mother should make, verse 10 indicates that it is impossible to put a dollar value on the virtuous woman.  The word “virtuous” means moral strength and influence and refers to the “strength of an army.”  It’s what Boaz said about Ruth in Ruth 3:11: “For all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.”  And the word “worth” speaks of price.  Rubies were the most valuable of jewels, meaning that a woman is worth far more than the most expensive piece of jewelry ever made.  What makes a gem priceless is because it is rare.  The main point is this: “A good woman is not easy to find; but when found, she is of unimaginable worth.” 

In light of the Hebrew alphabetic acrostic, let’s use the first three letters of our alphabet as our outline.  A wise woman practices her ABC’s – 

  • She Accomplishes a lot 
  • She Brings value to others
  • She Cultivates inner beauty

AAccomplishes a lot through her hands.

A teacher gave her class of second graders a one-hour lesson on the properties of magnets.  The next day she gave her students a written test.  The first question was: “My name begins with an “M.” I have six letters, and I pick up things.  What am I?”  When the test papers were turned in, the teacher was surprised to find that almost 50 percent of the students answered with the word, “Mother.”  Moms do more than pick things up, but they sure do a lot of that.  Let’s look at our passage to see how hard this woman works.

  • She seeks the best.  In verse 13 the word for “seeks” is also used for worship.  She worships while she works, never settling for mediocrity. 
  • She works willingly.  This woman is willing to work and takes delight in her duties as seen in the last part of verse 13: “…and willingly works with her hands.” Verse 17: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”  In verse 22 we read that she “makes tapestry” and in verse 24 she “makes linen garments and sells them.”  Verse 27 adds, “She does not eat the bread of idleness.”
  • She doesn’t sleep muchVerse 15: “She also rises while it is yet night…” and verse 18: “…her lamp does not go out by night.”  I want to especially give a “shout-out” to those of you who are raising young children.  Some of you are battling bedtimes and wondering when all the whining is going to stop.  You’re juggling schedules and running on emotional “empty.”  Take a deep breath right now and listen to these comforting words from the Lord in Isaiah 40:11: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”  May you know the sweet gentleness of the Shepherd as you love the little lambs in your life!
This mom lives on mission.
  • She provides for the poor.  She is aware of the afflicted around her and shares what she has with them in verse 20: “She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.”  This mom lives on mission first in her home and then in her community.

B – Brings value to others using her head. 

The letter “A” stands for accomplishes much.  We could picture this with her hands.  The letter “B” represents bringing value to others.  Never once is this woman said to do anything just for herself – she seems to always be attentive to others.  To help us remember, think of a woman’s head with its different parts – ears, mind, eyes and mouth.

  • Her husband is pleased.  Verse 12: “She brings him good and not evil all the days of her life.” She uses her ears to listen to his concerns.
  • Her family’s needs are met.  Verse 15: “She provides food for her household…”  Verse 16 tells us that she buys a field in order to better feed her family.  Verse 27 says that she “watches over the ways of her household…”  She engages her mind as she strategically follows a plan.
  • Her servants are cared for.  Check out the last part of verse 15: “…and a portion for her maid servants.”  Her eyes notice the needs of her servants and she makes sure they are cared for.
  • She speaks words of wisdom.  A mother’s tongue is to be tender and her words weighty according to verse 26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Campbell Morgan, a profound British preacher whose four sons all became pastors, influenced millions with his sermons, teaching and writing.  One day, when his young son Howard finished preaching, a reporter asked him, “Since you have five Pastors in your family who is the greatest preacher?” Expecting the son to give the honor to his father, Howard surprised the reporter by saying, “My Mother!”

A wise woman knows her ABC’s.  First, she accomplishes a lot through her hands.  Second, she brings value to others by using her head.  Finally, and most importantly, she cultivates her inner beauty with a holy heart.  In fact, it’s out of a holy heart that her head and her hands find their foundation.

C – Cultivates inner beauty in her heart. 

Take a look at verse 30: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”  It’s a wise woman who knows that true beauty comes from a holy heart.  Her identity comes from an inner encounter with the Almighty.  The real issue is not her looks but how she looks to the Lord.  The word “deceitful” means a “sham.”  It’s not the real “you” anyway.  If you focus only on the outward you’ll find it to be fleeting.  It will leave you feeling unsatisfactory and empty.  In fact, true beauty comes from the inside, which lights up the outside. 

Essentially we have two choices – we can fear how we look on the outside and spend all our time trying to make ourselves look better or we can fear God and allow Him to make us better on the inside.  The real fear should be that we might displease God not that we might displease someone else. 

Let me add one other thought.  When women cultivate a holy heart that worships a holy God, they realize that their purpose is wrapped up in their identity as a daughter of the King.  This reminds me of the main focus of the Book of Esther where we learn that: “Our position is a platform for God’s purposes.”   If you’re a mom, being a mother is your primary mission and ministry!  Once your heart is holy, your head will be in the game and your hands will work heartily as unto the Lord.

Giving Praise Where it is Due

It’s time for us to honor all women today.  Proverbs 31:28-29: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’”  And verse 31: “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.” 

We’re called to congratulate and celebrate the worth of women.  Children and husbands are to publicly praise the woman in their life.  I’ve often wondered if the woman of Proverbs 31 is able to fully engage her heart, her head, and her hands precisely because she receives praise from her husband and children.  Our words of thankfulness can help the women in our lives feel the worth that is theirs.  

We want to honor the wisest women here today.  Do we have any moms here over 70 years old?  80?  90?

In the spirit of children rising and blessing their moms and husbands providing honor to their wives, I’d like all women to remain seated while the rest of us stand.  With loud voices, let’s offer these words of encouragement to the wonder women here today: You’re blessed and you’re the best!  Let’s say that again.  You’re blessed and you’re the best!

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?