From time to time I study the Proverbs 31 woman in hopes that someday I would learn to be like her. But in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I usually find myself disliking her for the same reason many people seem to dislike Martha Stewart and her expertise in homemaking – she’s just too good to be true and the mastery of her craft sheds light on my inadequacies. So when I read about the Proverbs 31 woman, I don’t necessarily marvel at all that she is capable of, but rather I see how I fall short in various areas of my life.
But for some reason, as I was studying her in preparation for speaking today, I found myself warming up to the idea of her. I think it’s because I’ve finally realized that the Proverbs 31 woman is actually a description of the type of woman a mother wants her son to marry.
It’s helpful to step back and read the verses leading up to the ones that we have been studying this semester. These are Proverbs 31 verses 1-9 and they tell us that what we are about to read in verses 10-31 is what King Lemuel was taught as he sat as his mother’s knee. Now King Lemuel is not mentioned anywhere else in the bible except for in this chapter. There are several theories about who he was but according to what is recorded in scripture, we really don’t know much about him other than he was going to be a king with great responsibilities.
Let’s review those verses so we can have the proper context.
Proverbs 31 verses 1-9 from the Contemporary English Version:
The chapter heading is: What King Lemuel’s Mother Taught Him
1 These are the sayings that King Lemuel of Massa was taught by his mother.
2 My son Lemuel, you were born in answer to my prayers, so listen carefully.
3 Don’t waste your life chasing after women! This has ruined many kings.
4 Kings and leaders should not get drunk or even want to drink.
5 Drinking makes you forget your responsibilities, and you mistreat the poor.
6 Beer and wine are only for the dying or for those who have lost all hope.
7 Let them drink and forget how poor and miserable they feel.
8 But you must defend those who are helpless and have no hope.
9 Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless.
So what we are reading about is a mother who is teaching her son about the way he should go. You see, even though Lemuel will be a king, his mother knows him best. After all, this is the son of her womb, the son she dedicated to God. This boy will be a king with great responsibilities. He will be charged with being a leader of people, standing up for the poor and destitute and he’ll be fighting for justice!
And because his mother is wise, she knows what will take him off course and they are listed in those verses. Essentially they boil down to too much drinking and being involved with a woman who doesn’t have his best interest at heart.
So then in verse 10, his mother begins to describe the type of woman he should marry. And the heading for that chapter is: In Praise of a Good Wife. If you remember, verse 10 says “A truly good wife is the most precious treasure a man can find!”
The rest of Proverbs 31 is the detailed description of the type of woman that mom believes will keep him on track. It’s her vision for what will keep him on a righteous path. And as the mother of 2 boys myself, I can relate to her desire, her vision for her son.
You see, a vision is a mental image of what life could be like. It’s an intelligent foresight or an anticipation of what may come to be.
Businesses often have Vision Statements. They are an aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve in the future. It is intended to serves as a clear guide for choosing courses of action. And whenever business people are poised to make a decision that involves their business, they review their vision statement to see if their decision will fall in line with their vision. Will the decision they make help them reach their target or will it take them off course?
So in Proverbs 31, this mother has a vision for her son. And she shares it with him with the hopes of influencing the decisions he will make in the course of his life.
I too have a vision for my sons. My sons are 10 and 9 and for years I have been teaching them what to look for in a girlfriend. We pray for the women they will marry but I’m teaching them about how to choose a girlfriend because it is the girlfriend that will become a wife.
Does this mean that they will listen to my advice? Not necessarily, but at least I know I have taught them in the way they should go, Proverbs 22:6. My hope is that the seeds I am planting today will grow and influence the choices they make in their lives.
My boys are now at the age where they starting to have crushes on girls. I know this because I ask them. I want to be in the know so we can have an open discussion about it. We’ve talked about how it’s easy to be attracted to someone but it’s wiser to be attracted to the kind of girl that they could potentially marry.
I’ve tried to instill in them that it’s not even worth having a girlfriend if the girl doesn’t have these 3 things I’ll mention in a minute. Because once you call someone your girlfriend, a little piece of your heart belongs to them and it’s harder to be objective and evaluate if she would be a good person to be yoked to…forever.
So I remind them that the kind of girl they should date should:
1) Believe in God and know Jesus
Being married is hard enough without having this common thread that holds you together. Arguably, Jesus is the only reason that many of us are still married today, because of our faith in God and His promises.
I teach them that by choosing a girl who knows Jesus, they will have a similar moral compass and it will be easier to make certain deicsions for their family easier. Notice I didn’t say easy – Just because 2 people believe in Jesus, doesn’t mean things will be easy but it is likely to be easier.
2) The girls they date should treat them well.
My sons are at the age where kids can be mean on the playground because they are attention seeking. This is the time when girls chase you at recess or pull pranks on you and laugh and according to my son, “wherever you turn, there she is annoying you!”
You might remember doing this as a child yourself or being the recipient of it. Well, our natural instinct is to say, “Oh, she’s acting that way because she likes you. She’s being mean because she likes you”.
Ladies! I implore you – don’t say that. We know that what we mean by this is “she’s trying to get your attention because she likes you but unfortunately, she is doing it in a negative way.” But when we say “she’s being mean because she likes you” what our boys are hearing is “mean treatment equals they like me”.
I don’t want my son to fall for a girl who is mean to him. Like King Lemuel’s mother, I want him to find a girl who will do him good all of her days.
Obviously, this concept applies to girls as well. Teach your girls to find a boy who is kind to her. Avoid implying that mean treatment equals affection or interest. That will save your daughter some heart ache in the future.
3) I also tell my boys that the girl they date should also be interested in getting along with his family.
Of course, when 2 people marry, they need to leave their mother and father and cleave together, Genesis 2:24. I get that. What I don’t get is when married couples cut off communication with the in-laws as soon as the honeymoon is over!
I know a family with 2 grown children who were always a close knit family. Then the son married a gal who now forbids him to see his parents due to some hurt that she refuses to discuss with them.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again and it’s devastating for parents. Imagine that you’ve cared for and raised your child only to have them marry a contentious person who pits your child against you!
I remind my boys about how much fun we have as a family now and that Dominic and I look forward to having fun with their families when they are older. In order for that to happen, they need to marry a woman who is interested in getting along with us.
On the flip side, Dominic and I will also need to be good, non-meddling in-laws. We need to be the kind of people that our children will want to hang out with. So keep that in mind as you pass through the seasons in your life – strive to be a good in-law, too.
So, despite my resistance to the proverbs 31 woman, it turns out that King Lemuel’s mother and I have something in common. We want what is best for our sons. We have a vision, an aspirational description, for the kind of women we want them to marry: a woman who is not just as good as we are to them but better!
This is the kind of woman who has the character and skill set that will create an environment where her husband can fulfill God’s calling on his life.
That is the type of woman I want my sons to marry, and that is they type of woman that King Lemuel’s mom want him to marry.
I have a feeling that this is the type of woman my mother in-law wants for her son and your mother in-law wants for her son. Let that sink in for a second.
What our mother-in-laws want for their sons is the kind of woman who has the character and skill set that create an environment where their sons can fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
In the past few weeks we’ve heard about some of the specific qualities that King Lemuel should be seeking in a wife and today, we see that in Proverbs 31:16, which is our specific verse for today, that the proverbs 31 woman also has a vision. Our virtuous future daughter in-law also has a mental image of what the future could be like.
Proverbs 31:16 She considers a field and buys it; and from her profits she plants a vineyard.
I’m going to break it up into 3 parts because they each say a lot about her.
1) She considers a field
The dictionary defines the word “Consider” as : to think carefully about, especially in order to make a decision; to bear in mind; to make allowance for; to think deliberately; reflect on; to view thoughtfully.
So in addition to being a visionary, our proverbs 31 woman is a savvy business woman. As a visionary, she wants what’s best for her family and dreams of making the best happen. But it is the astute side of her that puts in the work to make her dreams realities. She is wise to the fact that vision without action is simply a fantasy or a dream. But action without a clear vision is chaos.
As a business woman, she has turned her attention to a certain field. She carefully looks at the field to see if it’s a wise investment. In her heart she wants the field, taking possession of it is desirable- that is the vision burning inside of her. But she makes a concerted effort to let her mind take control. She needs to evaluate it from all angles to see if it will it be fit for her use. She has a vision that will better her family’s future but she has to inspect this particular opportunity. She is not going to change her vision to fit this field. She is on a mission to see if this field that will help her fulfill the desired outcome.
So she sets out to learn all she can about the piece of land. She examines it and goes over it with a fine toothed comb. She doesn’t take this process lightly. We know she fears the Lord so it is likely she would have prayed and fasted over this decision. Because she is wise and does her husband good all the days of his life, we can safely assume that once she’s gathered all the facts, she brings her plan and research to her husband and she doesn’t leave out the bad parts. If there is anything questionable or undesirable, she doesn’t omit this information. She fills him in on the good, the bad and the ugly. She gets his input. And if he’s not convinced that this is the best situation for them to be in, she lets it go and looks elsewhere.
In my life, I have my own “field” to let go of after much consideration. Some of you know that for years I volunteered at the Free Clinic in Simi Valley. One year, I was approached by the board of directors and asked to become the director of the dental clinic. In the dental world, this was a big honor, not to mention a huge ego boost. It meant that people had noticed my work and dedication to the clinic and wanted me to lead the whole thing. So I took a few meetings and got more information. In my mind I had developed my vision for the clinic and how I was going to whip it into shape and make it a model clinic for all the surrounding clinics. Directors everywhere would come from miles around just to see how well we were running this thing. But when I brought the opportunity to my husband, I had to let him know not just my vision, but the reality of the amount of work it would entail as well as the challenges I would be facing running a program of that magnitude. And my husband simply said, “I know you want to do this and you’d be great but I know you. And I know how much time and effort you would be putting into it. I just don’t think it’s a good time to do that given everything else on your plate right now.” And I struggled, “but you don’t understand, this is a big honor!” But ultimately, after praying about it – I realized my husband was right. I would be spreading myself too thin and taking on that responsibility would not fit into the vision we have for our family. So I turned down the position.
Years ago, I had lunch with Lisa Chan at what used to be the Marie Calendars in Simi Valley and we spoke about the proverbs 31 woman. She told me about a time in her life when, she was being groomed to pursue a singing career. For those of you that have heard her sing, you know how great a gift she has with her voice. There were offers and people who were standing by ready to make her a star. But after much prayer and consideration, she and Francis decided that the timing wasn’t right and it wouldn’t have been in the best interest of their family. She passed on that opportunity. That must have been a very hard thing to let go. If any of you know how hard it is to break into the music industry, you would know what she walked away from. But after consideration, that opportunity did not fit into the vision they had for their family.
Now of course, there are times when after prayer and consideration, all systems are go! But a wise woman like our proverbs 31 woman, knows when to say no, despite the desires of her heart, because she has all the facts, has considered her vision and has the discernment to know if they are a match.
In our verse for today, we see that after much consideration, fasting and prayer, she does buy the field.
2) She Buys It:
Once she buys it, she’s committed and plans of following through with her decision with purpose and intention. She doesn’t back out last minute because she gets cold feet. She has informed herself well and approaches this commitment with confidence. So there is no question that she will remain faithful and dedicated to fulfilling her vision.
3) The third component of this verse is that from her earnings, she plants a vineyard:
Now typically people assume that she has planted a vineyard on the field that she has purchased. It would make sense that she took the field, improved the land to her advantage and then plants the vineyard. But some biblical scholars argue that it is highly likely that she bought the field, sold it as a piece of real estate and then used the profits, her earnings, to plant a vineyard elsewhere. I guess ultimately, it really doesn’t matter where she planted the vineyard but it shows that she was able to profit as a result of purchasing the field, and then further her vision.
I think what important to get from this portion of the verse is that she has committed to something substantial and now she’s cultivating it and expecting to produce fruit. What I find awesome about this woman is that she chose to plant a vineyard instead of say a cotton field, vegetables or flowers. I love it…and not just because I am Italian and am fond of wine. I love it because it, again, shows her wisdom. She knows that in her area, where water is scarce, grapes are the perfect crop to grow because she can make her own wine for her family. She can also sell the extra crops to others for them to make their own wine and or she can make extra wine and sell it. And with the earnings she gets from this endeavor, she will have the capital to fund her next vision!
There is great symbolism here about working at something and expecting to produce fruit. It reminds me of my time spent in Africa on a mission trip where I had the opportunity to work at a dental clinic affiliated with Africa Renewal Ministries. I’ll never forget what the attending dentist said to me as we worked together that day. He said, “the purpose of this clinic is to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. The method we use is dentistry.”
It was so profound to me. He could’ve said “the purpose of this clinic is to provide dental services to the underprivileged in the community”. And I would’ve expected him to say that and thought nothing peculiar about it. But that is not what he said. He said, “the purpose of this clinic is to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. The method we use is dentistry”.
Now that is producing fruit through your work!
So how do we take what we’ve covered today and apply it to our lives? Well, I’ll offer you 3 suggestions for personal application.
• Consider your faith – Learn about attributes of God so that you can make your faith your own. Many of us grew up believing in God and Jesus but your knowledge of who He really is may not be accurate. Evaluate the scriptures by reading them. Ask questions and challenge yourself to be able to explain to others why it is that you believe what you believe. This is a great exercise because at some point, someone will ask. It’s better to be prepared.
• Buy it – Accept Jesus by inviting Him into your life as Lord and Savior. Make a commitment to daily lay down your life at his feet.
• Plant a vineyard – Sow seeds that will grow your faith. Overtime you will see the fruits of the Spirit and your harvest will be plentiful.
2) Your Household
• Consider your household: Are you creating an environment that allows the members of your family to fulfill God’s calling on their life?
• Are you committed to the spiritual development of those in your care?
• How can your household Bear fruit for the Glory of God
• Consider your friends: Who are you surrounding yourself with? Don’t keep friends just because of history. Sometimes, it’s better to make new friends. I recently attended an event, a mini reunion of sorts. These are ladies I used to hang out with 20 years ago. Now, I know how much I’ve changed in 20 years and I was open to experiencing the same from many of these ladies. But sadly, this was not the case. Many people get stuck in their old patterns of interacting and behaving and I found myself slipping into those old ways just by hanging around them for a few hours!
• Surround yourself with people who remind you that you are a new creation in Christ. This doesn’t mean you stop talking to your old friends but consider changing the way you view that friendship: minister to them, encourage them, be there for them but don’t count on them to encourage you in your daily walk.
This is what Jesus meant when he said leave everything behind and follow me. The cost of following Jesus may include leaving family members and friends behind. Luke 14:25-33. But it’s worth it because the reward is so great.
• Surround yourself with positive influences for Christ who will support walk with the Lord, who will pick you up when you stumble, pray with you and get you back on your feet. Be discerning and get to know your new friends. Evaluate their character before opening up – just because someone says they’re a Christian doesn’t mean they are.
But once you find a gem, minister to her, invest in her. This will bring glory to God.
Teach your children to consider, commit and be fruitful in their choices (sports, choosing friends, other activities, etc)
Teach them what to look for in a spouse and pray with them about it.
Now that I am appreciating the wisdom outlined in this passage, I decided to go deeper with my sons. I’ve written them a letter about how to choose a wife, of course in terms they can understand.
Feel free to share it with your friends. Create your own letter or use mine, either way. Just talk to them about it – NOW. It’s never too early.
What are your thoughts about this topic? Please leave me a comment below as I do read them.
If you think this post will encourage someone you know, please share it with them! May it further the gospel of Jesus Christ!