Today’s sermon is a fitting look at Proverbs 31, in honor of Mother’s Day. You can watch our whole service on YouTube, click here to listen to just sermon, and use the sermon notes below as a reference.
I wanted to do a mothers day message to encourage all the moms out there. It’s one of the hardest callings there is. I know no one would not trade being a mom for anything. But it is also hard.
-no off days, no vacations.
-always on call.
-A “sick day” means you do everything you do all the other days, but you feel worse.
I want to encourage you with God’s words, so we are going to look at Proverbs 31.
I also want to say to everyone else: Pay attention! You may not be a mom, but you certainly know a mom. And God may call you to offer some encouragement to that mom. Additionally, many of the things highlighted in this passage are particular expressions of commands given to everyone. We are all called to work, to serve others, and to trust in the Lord. You can learn from this.
And you never know how your circumstances might change to make this relevant for your life. Early in ministry, I oversaw small groups and a premarital program. I had a new married couple join a married couples group in which everyone had kids. The new couple knew the other couples so it seemed to work really well. But the leaders came to me and said they just didn’t know what was going on with Lori. She seemed frustrated during the whole group and would even pull out her phone and disengage.
I later talked to Lori and asked her about it. She said something to the effect of, “all the other couple want to do is talk about their kids, how hard it is, and all the things that have gone wrong or they need to do. What is the big deal? Just feed your kid and take care of them, and lets do some other things in life!” All that soon changed because she found herself pregnant. Within one year of joining the group she was coming in totally exhausted and begging for help on what to do as a new mom. Then her small group eagerly sought to help her with and graciously remind her should might could have prepared a little better!
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes bed coverings 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; she delivers sashes to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to 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 women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:10-30 ESV)
The Ideal Wife
This part of Proverbs is written by king Lemuel. We don’t know much about him. And what is here was taught him by his mother. She wanted him to know what kind of woman to look for. And now her words find themselves in sacred Scripture to help women know what to aspire to and men to value.
This passage is about the noble wife, the excellent wife. Might, strength, power, able, valiant, virtuous, valor, army, host, forces; riches, substance, wealth. These are strong words that describe one who is competent in abilities and character. One of the great accolades of the OT is the “gibbor hayiel,” a mighty warrior, or a mighty man, powerful in strength and ability and character. It is a great accolade,
And you may ask, “What would our culture define as the ‘ideal wife’ today?” I didn’t do any research on this, because frankly I was scared what I might find!
This portrait reminds us there are more important things in life than what our world esteems. “She is more precious than jewels.” Money cannot buy character.
I want to look at a few things that this woman orients herself to:
Oriented to Her Work
People are created to have dominion, and she is doing this. She is a positive example of one who is shaping the world. This lady is multitalented. Look at all that she does. She is a worker.
Verse 27: She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Verse 15: She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household
She buys fields, she puts her hand to the distaff and holds the spindle (she is making clothes). She plants a vineyard. She makes the bed furnishes. She is dealing with fabrics like wool and flax and making sure everyone is fed and taken care of.
“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from far away.” (Pro 31:14 CSB)
I think Lemuel may have seen my wife Amanda coming home after a trip to Costco. It feels like a ship coming in to unload. We spend more in one week at Costco than monthly rent at our first apartment! It is no easy task to shop for six.
There is much to do, and she embraces it. She is not doing these things grudgingly or with bitterness. Work is not a part of the Fall. Work predated the Fall. Work is made difficult because of the Fall. We are called to image the God who works. We ought to work. And we ought to work with an eye to the way it blesses others.
She anticipates difficulty, full of faith! But she’s not foolish. She knows life can be hard. How do we know the difference? If we see a need and are able to meet it, we do it. If we see it and are not able, we trust God.
She works hard. If you want a healthy family that is cared for and loves each other, it takes a lot of work and sacrifice. There’s no quick, “microwave version” of this. No app that just does it. You can’t hire it out.
As you feel yourself giving yourself to work, to serving others, sacrificing year after year – maybe you have been doing this for so long and realize the many other things you could have been doing – you have to trust the Lord. When you are young and single you have to trust the Lord for the future. When you are old you have to trust the Lord with the past.
Oriented to the Home
Verse 15 “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household
The word “household” occurs four times. She sees to the needs of her husband, kids, and others. She improves the quality of everything. That is what it means to bless others.
A common question accompanying this passage is, “Does this Proverbs 31 woman work inside or outside the house?” The answer is both. She is doing a range of activities. And that is what most mothers do. Even those who don’t work full-time outside the house still find themselves doing many things that carry them out. And those who work outside the home find themselves taking a particular care and concern for the home and the wellbeing of the kids.
Love involves sacrifice. When you love someone, you want to sacrifice for them. You will do whatever they need. Moms sacrifice your bodies for your kids. Somewhere after kid number four Amanda was having some weird health things that we couldn’t quite figure it out. Finally, someone told her if you have had four kids in an 8-year span that can put a lot of strain on your body. What insight!
I heard a well-known pastor say recently that fame requires sacrificing time with the people you know in order to make time for people you don’t know. We love the thought of everyone wanting to come to us for advice, but it comes with a sacrifice.
Everyone wants to have the masses following them. But don’t forget that when you focus time to just a few, you can go way deeper with them. Jesus was known by the masses, but he focused on a few to build with.
Mothering is giving yourself to those closest to you. You don’t have the masses standing in awe that you just stayed up for twenty-four hours straight feeding babies, shuttling kids places, and making sure your husband has what he needs. Don’t feel like you are wasting your life. You are offering a sacrifice to Jesus.
V. 11-12: The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
There are people today who think that orienting your life to your husband is sexist, degrading, and I’m sure there are more words. Some would say family roles are tyranny. Some regard being with one man forever as oppressive. People tell you to live for yourself and not your kids. Those same people might also tell husbands it’s crazy to love their wife and limit options to just one. When you are one in purpose with someone else, that makes it possible to sacrifice for the other.
Jesus said the greatest among you will be servant of all. We should let his words influence us.
Verse 23: Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She is having a major influence “in the gates.” The word choice here speaks volumes about this woman’s influence. Notice that it says, “her husband,” naming him in reference to her. He is hers. He belongs to her. This woman is not present in the ruling of the city but her influence is being felt there.
As part of her household, she is oriented to her kids. Moms, you have no idea how your influence will be felt. Self-giving sacrifice is seen here, and it is a way to follow our Lord. In a day when character is not praised, we need to preach it.
Oriented to the Lord
I believe this is the key to the whole passage and to the whole basis of being honorable and effective.
Proverbs is written so that you might have wisdom in doing what is just, right, and fair. Proverbs 1:7 says as much and is the key to the whole book:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;” (Pro 1:7 ESV)
Proverbs 31 gives a picture of a woman who is doing that. The backdrop of all she does is that she fears the Lord. This faith is her whole basis. It is in the background of everything.
Verse 29-30: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Charm is deceptive. Beauty is fleeting, this denotes “beauty as to outward appearance,” literally a breath of wind, “hebel.”
I’ve noticed that most of the who’s who of celebrities from my younger days are gone. The millionaires are broke. The athletes out of shape. Same with many of the actresses – they don’t look like they used to. It comes and goes so quickly. With age, you learn to value what’s more important. Beauty doesn’t sustain a marriage. It doesn’t build a house. It is short-lived.
When I checkout at the grocery store with my kids, I will sometimes point out the headlines in the tabloids. I want them to see it. It’s all the good-looking people with lots of money whose lives are falling apart. Things like beauty and wealth don’t matter if you are a jerk to your family. Their character has not grown as fast as their success.
Character matters most. Ladies remember that. Guys remember that. Kids learn that.
Verse 25-26: Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Opens her mouth with wisdom. This comes from being around the wise. It also comes from the word of God. What you fill yourself is what comes out of you. Fill yourself with bitterness, resentment, pity, and it comes out. Fill yourself with wisdom then it comes out too.
One thing I noticed when I read this, is that while this woman is incredibly industrious there is a sense of her continuing to give. She is healthy – spiritually, physically, emotionally.
Chip Dodd wrote the book The Voice of the Heart about understanding the eight emotions. He says tiredness comes from not living in daily renewal. How do you renew yourself? By resting. Daily and weekly rhythms. Communion with God. Getting his word in your heart. Having communication on a deep level with people.
Mom’s, don’t wear yourself out in caring for others. Particularly moms with young kids. Find times to get away. Recharge. Get off of screens. Go for a walk and look at the trees and birds. Read your Bible and get truth in your heart. Go for a jog and exercise. Find a friend to talk and pray with. These are things God calls you to do.
A while back, I was amazed to read a secular counselor saying that more people need to stop drinking alcohol, put the screens away, spend meaningful time with people they love, and read inspirational writing that helps them care for their inner longings. This guy is starting to sound like a pastor! Moms, this is the kind of recharge I’m talking about.
Dads, you need to find ways to help make that happen. If your wife isn’t doing well, it is a reflection of your headship. Wives, take up your husband and kids on their offer for you to get some rest.
I make it a goal to spend time in the word every day, to read and pray. I make it a priority to have fellowship with other men. I need it. My heart is prone to wander. I don’t know how to deal with things. I need reminders. I forget. People drift from the faith when they just stop paying attention to the things that are most important. They drift into burnout, into collapse.
Establish boundaries. Encouraging people to respect them is one of best things you can do.
She is living for the approval of the Lord. And she gets the approval of others too. It’s ironic, but true. If we live for the approval of others, we often never get it. We are naturally self-serving. When we live for the Lord it puts everything in its right place, and we often get everything.
There is a celebration of who she is. This is an acrostic poem where each line begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. They gave it some thought.
Verses 28-29: Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:28-29 ESV)
Her children don’t sit in silence. They bless her. That is refreshing. We need to honor those worthy of honor. Some of you may not have the best relationship with your mothers. Honor them where you can. Encourage them.
Verse 29: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Most of all, she is trusting the Lord for final commendation. It is comforting to know you will not be judged for making a dinner that everyone likes. You will not be judged on how many people liked your image on Facebook. You are judged by the Lord on being faithful to him. That is both scary and freeing. You don’t have to live for the approval of everyone. Just one.
If you are living for the commendation, of everyone you will never get it. You will wear yourself out and lord it over others. If you live for the commendation of one alone, you stay healthy and are a blessing to others.
This is the best thing you can do for your family. Put the Lord first.