Archive for the ‘Oh, no! Not Proverbs 31!’ Category

Proverbs 31 #6

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. … She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. (Proverbs 31:21-22, 24)

This part of her description shows us more about the kind of work she does. We already knew about her wool and flax and about her weaving it into cloth. Here we go again. So why do we need our faces rubbed in it some more?

This part adds quality. She doesn’t just get by. She makes quality cloth so she doesn’t need to be afraid of the snow. Her family will be warm. She makes bed coverings that will keep them warm at night. And her work is of such quality that those looking for merchandise to sell come to her.

In those days, scarlet and purple were special. She didn’t just get by and clothe her family. She added special little touches like color. And linen was an up-scale fabric, too. This whole piece adds up to a well cared for family and more …

Caring for physical needs is necessary. She did the kinds of little things that made each person feel special – to let them know they were in her thoughts. And that’s timeless!

Proverbs 31 #9

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:30-31)

We’re at the end. Here is where Lemuel’s mother summarizes everything she’s said.

Our society has us trained to believe that it’s the outside of a person that’s important – the charm. This verse says that charm is deceitful.

That word deceitful can also mean disappointment or falsehood. We’ve all operated as if that new haircut or those new shoes will make the difference. But did it? When you think about it the idea is false. And the thing itself is always a disappointment.

The word vain can also be translated as vapor or breath. It doesn’t last.  It fades when the sun hits it.

BUT… The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Not her clothes, her hair, her wrinkle-less face. A woman who respects and worships the Lord grows in beauty – on the inside. The kind of beauty that doesn’t fade. That people recognize and want to be around.

That kind of woman produces fruit/works that will praise her. I don’t usually think of my work praising me. There are just things that I do. But, as I think about it, the things I do build a reputation. A reputation both for me and my Lord.

This woman trusts the Lord, makes good use of what He’s given her and treats others well. Pretty good reputation I’d say!

Proverbs 31 #8

Monday, July 7th, 2008

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 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 31:27-29)

It may not look like it a first glance, but we’ve got more army pictures here.

Looks well can also be translated keeps watch. And ways can also mean traveling company. So, when Lemuel’s mother said that this wife looks after the ways of her household, she was painting a picture of someone who guards her family even to the way they go and who they go with.

She doesn’t just meet physical needs – clothing and food. She’s on guard. She keeps watch – guarding them from evil as well. That’s not to say that nothing will touch them. We know that’s not true. Living in a broken world means that some of that brokenness is bound to touch us. But she is on guard to keep her family as safe as she can. Not eating the bread of idleness tells us that she doesn’t stop.  She stays on guard.

And she gets what we all hope for! Her children rise up and call her blessed. Notice there’s no time frame given. Her children may be grown and have children of their own before she hears it! But she hears it.

Her husband, too, he praises her. And the word excellently is that same word used in the beginning. It means strength, efficiency and army.  That word excellent is used of armies – when they are the best kind of army – courageous, noble, honorable and fighting for right. He recognizes what she’s done but more than that. He recognizes her character.

I read recently that modern conveniences have actually made more work for us – because they mean that more is expected from us all the time. We look at the things this wife does and it’s overwhelming because we imagine adding those same things to our already full schedule.  In that time period those were the things that had to be done and a lot of what we do now just never even entered the picture – there wasn’t time for them.

This lady isn’t praised just for doing the things listed here. She’s praised more for her attitude and character. Look at some of what we’ve seen: she’s trustworthy, she does good and not evil, works with delight, helps the poor, strength and dignity are her clothing and kindness is on her tongue. Those are all things we can cultivate, too.

The stuff we do is important, but it’s who we are that makes us excellent.

Proverbs 31 #7

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
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. (Proverbs 31:23, 25-26)

What she does affect her husband’s reputation? Our society wants us to think of each part of a couple as a separate entity. Own life. Own decisions. Own bank accounts even. But in reality we often judge one spouse by the other. We assume that one spouse causes the actions of another. Or at least approves of them.

Elders at the gate isn’t a picture of old-timers sitting on the porch. Elders used to sit at the gates and people would come to them to judge their disputes. Here, this lady’s husband is respected and sits with the elders. We don’t know anything about her husband’s character – except that his choice of a wife was good. And he has the confidence to give her the freedom to use her talents. The way the verse is written gives the impression that that’s enough to make him respected in his community.

Then we see strength and dignity are her clothing. Strength can be translated as might, power, or fortress/stronghold. And the word dignity can be might or majesty. We’re back to the army imagery.

I don’t think this is the strength of a weightlifter. It has more to do with character. When I think of the ideal image of a soldier, I think more of things like courage, confidence and standing for right. These are the things that she wears. She stands firm and prepared for the time to come.

And she teaches. Kindness can also be translated as goodness or faithfulness. She teaches what she lives.

What kind of a difference would it make in those around us if we opened our mouths with wisdom and kindness came out?

Proverbs 31 #5

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:19-20)

Before she could weave her cloth, she had to spin it. And before the spinning wheel there was the distaff and spindle. Anyway, her hands are busy, but what interests me about these verses are the two pictures of her hands.

She holds her work. But she opens her hand and reaches out her hands to the poor and needy.

That word open literally means spreads out her palm. Picture it. She has her hands wide open and palm up and reaching out.

It’s a picture of openness, compassion.and caring.

But it’s also a picture of trust and thankfulness. She was deeply involved in caring for her family. But ultimately God provided – and she must be trusting that he would continue.

It’s thankfulness and trust that makes caring for the poor possible. As long as I’m afraid about tomorrow and what will happen, I can’t part with anything. I might need it. But she doesn’t hold on for dear life – she opens her hand.

This woman takes her responsibility seriously and shares her blessings. Sounds like a great life balance to me!

Proverbs 31 #4

Monday, June 16th, 2008

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. (Proverbs 31:17-18)

Other translations say: she girds herself with strength … she gathers her strength around her.

The word dresses is also translated arms or girds on. Words used of an army. And “makes her arms strong” is literally makes strong, bold or alert. Again, the picture of an army.

What a picture! There she is, feet a little apart so she won’t be knocked over. Long skirt tied up out of the way. Sleeves rolled up – alert and ready.

That’s not the picture I usually think of when I think of an excellent wife. This lady is strong. She is prepared. She provides and protects. She is confident that what she does is good (beautiful and beneficial). And she’s prepared – her lamp doesn’t run out of oil during the night.

I look at her and then look at the women’s movement. They work for women’s rights – the right to do the same work as men and get the same pay. They have accomplished things. But at a cost. It’s created a lot of women who tend to screech. They demand and they push. They murder the next generation for convenience sake.

An excellant woman/wife is armed with quiet strength, knowing what she does is beneficial.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control … (Galatians 5:22-23)

Proverbs 31 #2

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

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. (Proverbs 31:11-12)

The heart of her husband trusts her … that’s an interesting way to say it. Not just he trusts her, but his heart trusts her. Not just his mind, but all the way down to his core. The King James version says he “safely trusts” in her and the NIV says he has “full confidence” in her.

Where does that kind of trust come from? Probably from what comes next. She does him good and not harm.

So many marriages are more like sibling rivalries after the honeymoon is over. “He did …” “She did …” They end up with a list of hurts that builds so that every new hurt doesn’t stand on it’s own anymore – it’s added to the others and becomes much more painful than it needs to. And even when they try to deal with one hurt it’s complicated by all the others added to it. One huge hurt.

“She does him good” has a lot to do with a state of mind. She wants to do him good. She looks for ways to do him good.

That word good can also be translated benefit. To safely trust – to trust at all – requires keeping short accounts. Dealing with things quickly so they don’t build. And (remember the army idea) standing together against all enemies (allies, not rivals). It also requires a mind set on his benefit. Looking for ways to help him succeed. Looking for ways to do him good.

Trust doesn’t just happen, it’s built.

Proverbs 31 #3

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. (Proverbs 31:13-16)

Busy lady! It looks intimidating, but let’s look at it in modern terms. We don’t make our clothing from scratch anymore – I mean scratch – the wool and flax had to be made into cloth first. And who wants to be compared to an 18 wheeler!

She works with willing hands. She brings food from afar. She provides for those in her home. She considers a field – she’s in business. And I assume that the fruit of her hands means that she sells some of the clothing she makes to buy the plants for the vineyard.

Whether you work at home or have a second job outside, like she did, it’s all work. And we all bring our food from afar. We may make lunches at night instead of getting up early, but we still provide for our family. So, we’re not so different after all.

I think the important thing is attitude. It seems to me that the key word in this passage is willing. That word can also be translated delight or pleasure. It matters how the work is done.

Again, Lemuel’s mom wanted her son to know that that excellent wife is a team player. Involved. Active. Taking initiative and being creative. And taking delight in it all.

What would it mean to take delight in it? I know it doesn’t mean blindly grinning through every job. But taking delight in the whole – in building a home that works well. In building a family that works well, too.

That’s something to take delight in!

Oh,no! Not Proverbs 31!

Friday, June 6th, 2008

The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him: … An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. (Proverbs 31:1,10)

This is a king. A king reciting what his mother told him. There’s stuff about wine and strong drink. There’s stuff about defending the rights of the afflicted and needy And then we get to the Proverbs 31 woman. She makes all of us feel uncomfortable – even guilty.

But this isn’t just something a mother told a son because God made sure that it became part of his Word. His Word can make us uncomfortable sure, but it does more than that. It encourages and it shows us another way to live.

So, what does this passage say?

An excellent wife. That word excellent carries with it the meaning of strength, majestic (like mountains) and efficiency – but also army. That’s right – if this word was used for a man it might be translated differently.

What makes an army excellent? And how does that apply to a wife?

Lets begin to find out …