POTRAIT OF A GODLY WOMAN:
If you want to know about the average woman, just ask the average man. Most men spend a significant percentage of their time discussing women.
Of course, all that conversation has never brought them any nearer to actually understanding the fairer sex.Nor has this dia- logue been known for its depth.The qualities which seem to at- tract the most attention have little to do with a woman’s true worth.
If we want to fully appreciate this value, we must not concern ourselves with the average woman.We must focus on the excel- lent woman.
If you are a single man, this is the kind of woman that you ought to be looking for.If you are a lady, this is the kind of woman you ought to be striving to become.
You see, the odds are stacking up against gals who long for a stable home and family.The pool of worthwhile, marriageable men is drying up.The rise of homosexuality has cut into that number.The rise of crime has taken a much bigger bite; in the black community, there are more men in prison than in college. In some parts of the country, the proportions are shrinking to the point where there are five ladies for every man.If you are a committed Christian woman looking for a man who will fulfill his role as the spiritual head of your household, the numbers become even more depressing.
Like it or not, it is a fact of life that the “market” favors the males.Sheer numbers work to their advantage.
But take heart!While it is true that average women abound, an excellent woman is a rare find.
That’s what we’re told in Proverbs 31:10-31, a poetic passage by King Solomon: A wife of noble character who can find?She is worth far more than rubies.Her husband has full confi dence in her and lacks nothing of value.She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earn ings she plants a vineyard.She sets about her work vigor- ously; her arms are strong for her tasks.She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.When it snows, she has no fear for her household, for all of them are clothed in scarlet.She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies the merchants with sashes.She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.She watches over the affairs of her house- hold and does not eat the bread of idleness.He children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
The poem is introduced by a central question: “A wife of noble character who can find?”Obviously, Solomon is not talking about ordinary females.He is referring to a class of women who rise above the crowd.Such women need not be concerned about male/female ratios.They are “noble”–they are women of great and recognizable dignity.
Since their worth is far above jewels, these women are expen- sive.Such ladies don’t associate with men who rub diamonds in the dust.They look for a man who knows how to handle expen- sive jewelry–a man capable of recognizing royalty.
Our passage from Proverbs examines this noble lady from a number of perspectives.Let’s explore them one by one.
“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks
nothing of value.She brings him good, not harm, all the
days of her life.” (v11) “Her husband is respected at the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” (v23)
The man who selects his bride according to Proverbs 31 is no fool.Other men base their decision on secular criteria and, too often, find that they got less than they bargained for.
Men, the choice is yours.You can base your selection on what you see at the movies or what you read in the Bible.The screens of our theaters and television sets abound with lovely ladies.But that kind of physical attractiveness goes no deeper than the two-dimensional image that flickers in front of us. We live in a day when cosmetics can turn practically any woman into a beauty queen.We live in a day when 12-year-olds can be made to look like 25-year-olds.We live in a day when beauty has become a false criteria of value.
This is not to say that beauty does not have its place.Howev- er, heed the warning of Solomon:“Charm is deceptive.” (v30) Remember, beauty has an unbeatable enemy: time.(Often, it takes less time than you thought!)Inevitably, wrinkles, weight, grey hair, cellulite and gravity have their way of repainting your picture of loveliness.
The story is told of a man who went to the opera one evening. As the melodic voice of the talented soprano drifted his way, he fell instantly in love.Though he had never met this lady, he con- cluded that anyone who could look so good and sing so well had to be the woman for him.After the performance, he presented himself backstage to meet the woman of his dreams.
As luck would have it, his zeal paid off.Within a matter of days, the two were married and off on their honeymoon.On the wedding night, the unsuspecting man made some startling discov- eries.As soon as the door closed behind them, the blushing bride ripped off her wig, revealing her nearly-bald head.She scraped off the thick makeup that camouflaged the crevices in her face. She took out her glass eye and popped it into a dish on the night- stand, right next to the drinking glass that held her false teeth. Finally, she unstrapped her artificial leg and propped it up in the corner.Her ritual complete, she turned to her husband and smiled a toothless smile.
Surveying his bride, the man cried out, “Sing, honey, sing!!” The moral of the story is clear.Beauty is an unreliable foun- dation for a life-long relationship.
On the other hand, a man who bases his choice of a mate on Proverbs 31 will find himself with a wife he can depend on for support and encouragement.Her demeanor and commitment give him utter confidence.
Notice that Verse 23 tells us, “Her husband is respected at the city gate.” The “gate” is the Old Testament equivalent of what we would call “downtown.”This is where the “city council” (made up of the community’s elders) would assemble.Evidently, a “Proverbs 31” woman not only improves life around the house, but improves her man’s social standing as well.
A noble wife is one who has decided that her home comes first.That is an especially difficult choice is this day of women’s liberation, career frenzy and disordered priorities.
Although this is controversial, it is biblical.Nowhere in Scrip- ture is a woman commanded to have a career.(Nor, to be fair, is she commanded not to have one!)But there are commands upon commands that women should diligently manage the domain of their homes.There is no way to skirt it, there is no way to leap over it, there is no way to maneuver around it.The Godly woman’s first priority is her home.Other interests and activities need not be eliminated–as long as they don’t interfere with the achievement of her primary goal.
One of the reasons that we have a lost generation of young people is that we have a lost generation of parents.We have traded in motherhood for a key around the neck hung by a shoe lace.We have traded in the priority of the home for the almighty dollar.
Unfortunately, you cannot earn enough dollars to buy back your son once he’s become a victim of delinquency, drinking or drugs.You cannot earn enough dollars to restore your daughter’s virginity once she gives it away.
The television set, the day care center and even the church will never be adequate substitutes for real, live mothers.
A noble mom uses her business savvy for the benefit of her family.Like “merchant ships,” she brings in food “from afar.” (v 14)Merchant ships carry traders from one port to another.Have you noticed how many women seem to be natural-born traders–or, to use more modern terminology, shoppers?Whoever coined the bumper sticker slogan, “A woman’s place is in the mall,” had a grasp on the gender’s intuitive orientation toward shopping.When I enter a store, I know what I want, I get it, I pay for it and I leave.On the other hand, my wife (like most women), can shop for hours.During that time, a Godly woman searches for the best buy, the highest quality, the sweetest deal.She invests her skill (and her labor) in improving her family’s quality of living without devastating their budget.
Let’s turn our attention to the Godly woman’s schedule.Notice Verse 15.“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”In this scenario, there’s no sign of the sun, but this woman is up and on the job. The kids have got to go to school, the husband has got to go to work, and it is up to her to run the systems that get them on their way.
Now, there’s nothing especially unusual about that picture.But notice that, in addition to all this, she is feeding her maids.Nor- mally, if you employed a maid, you would expect her to feed you. Why this departure?
Think for a moment about the domestic helpers you employ. Our Proverbs 31 woman had Ruth and Sally to wash and dry her laundry.You have a Kenmore washer and dryer.Rachel helped prepare fresh food each day.You have a refrigerator and a micro- wave.
When our Proverbs 31 woman feeds her maids, her aim is to maximize the excellence with which they (and ultimately she) can serve her home and family.Domestic help (whether provided by appliances or people) is not intended to take a wife’s place, but to amplify her abilities.
Again, we come to a matter of priorities.This can be a diffi- cult choice to make, and even more challenging to live out. When I was going through seminary (a full-time job, believe me!), my wife and I faced such a dilemma.After the arrival of our first child, Lois elected to become a full-time mother.Obvi- ously, there were repercussions to that decision.Lois’ career plans had to be put on hold.Our financial status was directly affected as well.At the time, I earned $350 a month.The first $50 of that amount was consistently given to the Lord.The next $170 was needed to pay our rent.Even by the standards of the day, there wasn’t much left to live on after that.We couldn’t afford a house. There was no second car.But that “lost” income was directly invested in the lives of our children.
A Godly woman who dedicates herself to her husband and children makes an investment more worthwhile than anything Wall Street has to offer.
Is it acceptable for a woman to have a career?Absolutely, provided she doesn’t give up being a Godly wife and a Godly mother in the process.
Despite the wailings of women’s libbers, I won’t apologize for my position.I stand on the word of God, not the rhetoric of femi- nists.The principal job of a man is to provide for the economic security and spiritual leadership of his family.The primary re- sponsibility of a woman is to serve as “executive in charge of internal operations” in her home.
Notice that I said “primary,” not exclusive.I don’t mean to suggest that husbands should consider themselves above washing dishes or vacuuming the floor or that women are not to have inter- ests or involvements outside the home.
Many women argue, “I don’t have a stay-at-home personality.” That’s like a husband saying, “I don’t have the personality to hold down a steady job.”We’re not talking about preferences, lifestyles (now, there’s a word that’s been milked for all it’s worth!) or even economics.I’m talking about God-given roles and responsibilities. I’m talking about the future of our families.
I realize that many of you are single parents.If so, your cir- cumstances are less than ideal and there may be nothing you can do to change them.A “model” family situation may be out of reach.The best thing you can do is aim for the target and come as close to hitting it as you possibly can.But the fact that you may not be able to hit it is no reason to change targets.God does- n’t amend his Word to suit our circumstances, even if they happen to prove uncomfortable. What does a Godly woman’s career look like? The woman in our passage looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.She makes linen garments and sells them.She sup- plies belts to traders.She considers a field and buys it.From her earnings, she plants a vineyard.
This woman is running a conglomerate.Her business interests are diversified and she embodies the spirit of the entrepreneur. But her career is not allowed to stand between her and her home. In fact, she has chosen work which complements her work in the home.
Many modern women do not need to stop working in order to become Godly women.They merely need to change jobs.With a little planning and creativity, the career opportunities for Godly women are plentiful.
For instance, a lady who was working at our church resigned just before her new baby arrived.Instead of coming back to work after the delivery, she has set up a small business.She provides the same services she performed here at the church without leaving her home.What an ingenious move!The church benefits from her skill as we always have, she is able to serve additional clients and generate additional income, and her family does not pay the price.
Here’s another idea: get several women together and start a business.Rotate the operational responsibilities and share the profits.Everyone benefits and no one is so weighted down with work that her family suffers.
Let me mention one final example.One wife and mother in my congregation had the education and experience to become a school principal.Instead, she remained a teacher so that her work schedule would parallel her children’s and her summers would remain free.
Family first.That’s the credo of the Godly wife.
The Noble Woman and Her Countenance
Our Proverbs 31 woman was a sharp-looking lady.We’re told that she dressed in fine linen and purple.In those days, purple dye was taken from shell fish and was very expensive.This was no frumpy housefrau wearing ragged clothing and looking like she’s ready to collapse.
Ladies who don’t hesitate to dress up to go to the office often balk at showing the same courtesy to their own husbands.Imagine your man’s reaction if you were to put on a nice outfit before sitting down at the dinner table.“What’s the occasion?” he might ask.Tell him, “It’s for you, baby.No other reason than for you.”
Obviously, no one can look picture-perfect all day long unless she’s on television.There, you see ladies scrubbing bathtubs with polished nails and perfect hair.That’s not something we do in the real world.But every now and then, why not honor your spouse by paying attention to your appearance?
Even more important than how you look is how you act.A lot of our men spend their days getting their egos “bashed” in the workplace.The last thing they need is more of the same at home. A husband’s craving for respect rivals his need for love–both are essential.
No doubt about it, some men don’t deserve your respect.But if God only gave us what we deserve, where would we be?We need to follow His example.
There are “morning people” and “night people.”We’re all on different clocks.Morning people jump out of bed at first light, chipper and alert.Night people are those who believe that if God had intended us to see the sunrise, he would have scheduled it later in the day.
But there is a third category.Those in this group dread wak- ing up no matter what time the event takes place.Another misera- ble day has begun!
Verse 25 tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the days to come.”She faces the future with joy.Despite all the responsibility she carries and all the work on her to-do list, she can’t wait for tomorrow.She has a positive outlook on life. Why?I think it’s tied to her perspective.In Verse 30 we’re told, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”Our Proverbs 31 woman has built her life perspective around the fear of God.(Of course, “fear” does not suggest trembling in terror, but rather a sense of reverence and awe.)This perspective will pervade every aspect of her life.Her home will be run in the fear of the Lord.Her chil- dren will be raised in the fear of the Lord.Her husband will be respected in the fear of the Lord.Is it any wonder that her price is far above rubies?
I met my wife in South America.At the time, I was dating another girl.Our relationship was progressing nicely; it looked as though we might get married.
But then, Lois’ father invited me to dinner.When I arrived and saw my future wife, I thought to myself, “Alright!”(I was single.There’s nothing wrong with admiring an attractive lady.) But when we sat down to eat, some details of the conversation captured my attention.“We usually eat rice down here, but I know that in America you like potatoes,” she said. “So I thought rather than cooking rice, I would cook something I knew you’d like.”That was a good sign.
Later that evening, I had a chance to talk with Lois about her goals in life and what she wanted to do.She told me about how she committed her life to the Lord when she was 15.She told me how she wanted to serve Him with her singing voice and other abilities and how she wanted to become a Godly wife and raise up Godly children.
Her life perspective impressed the daylights out of me!When I returned home, I invited my girlfriend out for a “talk.”Don’t worry, I let her down easy.You see, when I found Lois, I discov- ered my ruby.For me, anyone else would be just “costume jew- elry.”
How does one treat a Proverbs lady?Our text makes some suggestions: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her:`Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ ” (v28-29)
Men, when was the last time you told your lady how special she is?When was the last time you took her in your arms and told her how happy you are that you chose her over all the other “fish in the sea”?You see, the greatest thing you can do for your lady is give her praise.Even a little praise can go a long way. The most frequent complaint I hear from women is that they feel they are being taken for granted.“I’m supposed to cook, I’m supposed to clean, I’m supposed to meet his needs, I’m supposed to do this, I’m supposed to do that . . . and when he comes home, all he can say is, `Where’s dinner?’.”
There’s no reason for women to go on feeling this way when the antidote is so readily available.“Honey, thank you for 15 years of being there for me.”
Don’t let a day go by without praise.And be sure to express that praise tangibly as well as verbally:set aside time to be a couple, reserve some attention for conversation, and see to it that the flames of romance are regularly fanned.
An excellent, noble woman is a precious jewel.But unlike natural gemstones, they can be made out of fairly common raw material.All it requires is a willing spirit, a tender heart and a reverent fear of God.
Sometimes it can be frustrating to examine a flawless gem like our Proverbs 31 woman.How can any of us live up to such a high standard?Remember, every precious stone comes from the rough with imperfections.It takes the chisel of the Master Jeweler to chip away the flaws and form the facets that reflect His light.
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