THE BEATITUDES PEOPLE: FAMILY MENTAL HEALTH PODCAST
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New Series! The Proverbs 31 Family
Welcome to the Beatitudes People: Family Mental Health Podcast! I am podcast creator, Natalie Haney. In the coming months, we are going to be exploring how negative relationships damage our faith, and conversely, how positive relationships propel us forward in our pursuit of God, and His calling on our lives, and our feelings of abiding wellbeing and promise. Let’s dive into our first meditation!
“His mother taught him,” Prov 31:1
Proverbs 31 has to be the most detested passage of scripture for Christian women. It might be worse even than the passage that says women should be silent in church.
Over and over, with the best intention, Proverbs 31 has been taught as a list of accomplishments for the most devoted women to achieve. The popular studies of Proverbs 31— for women—completely diminish the idea that individual women would have individual personalities and aptitudes. The studies tend to make blanket statements that assume a uniform family context in which a Proverbs 31 woman would operate— and we know that not every family and marriage is alike!
The #lifegoals laid out in Proverbs 31 are so lofty that some teachers have said the Proverbs 31 woman is actually a personification of wisdom just to alleviate the pressure. I’m just gonna say now that that is possible—- except that there are other personifications of wisdom in Proverbs. And in all those other personifications of wisdom in Proverbs, the woman being described is named “Wisdom.” So there’s that. Let’s not invalidate the Proverbs 31 women out of jealousy over her unique abilities. I fully believe she was real, or at least was expected to be found.
King Lemuel’s mother obviously expected him to dig up this rare gem. Maybe we can postulate that rather than being a “personification” of wisdom, the Proverbs 31 woman is a mother-in-laws wish list. Maybe Proverbs 31 is King Lemuel’s mother having a severe case of “nobody’s good enough for my baby boy.”
In all seriousness, let’s expand our scope for understanding the Proverbs 31 woman. The context of Proverbs 31 is one continuous piece of advice from a mother to her son, the young leader, a newly minted king.
Proverbs verse ONE through 31 is a continuous piece of advice to a son who bears a great responsibility of leadership. An appropriate companion passage to all of Proverbs 31, verses one through 31, would be Titus 1:5-9: let’s read it:
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Compare that to Proverbs 31:ONE through NINE. Quote:
The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Do not spend your strength on women,
your vigor on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Now how about Timothy 3:1-13: hear this:
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”
We see here that throughout the council of scripture, character advice for women is a supporting point within the qualifications of her man pursuing leadership.
The Proverbs 31 woman is really the Proverbs 31:10-31 woman. Within Proverbs 31 there is a whole family described if you pay attention to a complete reading of the chapter, not just “a wife of noble character.”
The Proverbs 31 woman is actually the Proverbs 31 queen married to the Proverbs 31 King Lemuel. He is the Proverbs 31 son, which means The Proverbs 31 woman has a Proverbs 31 mother-in-law, as well as Proverbs 31 children. This passage is about not just one stellar woman, but a stellar family that is powered by interdependent, godly relationships.
The first 9 verses of Proverbs 31 are dedicated to a faithful son heeding the advice of his very wise mother— the Queen Mother. She does not start with advice about choosing a wife— Proverbs 31 is mostly about a man. Straight away in the passage, his mother warns him about avoiding sexual immorality, drunkenness, distraction, lawlessness, being derelict of his duties as king, submitting to a spirit of death and depression, and falling into poverty and misery. He is instructed instead to pursue righteousness, defined as: truth, courage, honor, leadership, discernment, integrity, compassion, charity, and humility.
He is instructed to marry himself to a woman who also loves truth, courage, honor, leads, discerns, has integrity, compassion, charity and humility.
Listen now to Proverbs 31:10-31:
“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence 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 night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
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 household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and 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.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
So let me just sum up what we are hearing in the last half of the passage, verses 10-31: the Proverbs 31 wife, that the Proverbs 31 Queen Mother instructed her son to find and cherish, possesses all of the qualities he is supposed to pursue and cling to. She is his VP. Her noble character is the antidote to every failing he is instructed to avoid. She is an accountability partner!
Additionally, five of the verses describing the Proverbs 31 woman are about the king and the reputation he has because of her. He is able to act powerfully and purposefully as a righteous man in public and his partner adds to his credibility. Proverbs 31 is not a idyllic standard for women; it is a standard for productive, mutual relationships.
This passage describes a life of righteousness as being a group effort. We do not fulfill our purpose, or pursue our calling without the influence of our intimate relationships– we do not live lives of faith alone. We are placed in families, communities, and churches where our faith walk is interdependent on the relationships we are in. The Proverbs 31 Queen Mother knew this and so instructed her son to choose his wife wisely. She taught him and he listened, much like his own children would rise up and call his own wife blessed, virtuous, capable, and surpassing all other women (Prov 31:28-29.)
This episode is the intro to a series about men and women, their relationships, and the effect that individuals in relationship have on: each others’ faith, their obedience to God, and their receipt of God’s promises. This is not a series about marriage. It really is more a series about gender wars— and that gender wars destroy God’s purposes for people; and this series will show how relationships at peace fulfill their destinies. Relationships have destinies, not just individuals. Families have callings, not just husbands or wives. God calls groups, nations, and tribes together into holiness and designated assignments.
Men and women affect each other’s faith and need each other to live out an effective faith. Setting aside the discussions of: giftings and roles, the strong and the weak members, the leader and the follower— these discussions that are pervasive within the church— this series focusses on the impact of healthy vs. unhealthy relationships on the church. Let’s get healthy together and see how our corporate callings to our churches, our communities, and the nations originate at the most nuclear level: family and friendship.
Over the course of this series, we will look at:
Elizabeth and Zechariah
Sarai, Abram, and Hagar
Isaac and Rebekah
Esther and Mordecai
Deborah, Barak, and Jael
Moses, Midwives, Mothers, and Miriam
Mary and Joseph
Job and his wife
Adam and Eve
Jezebel and Ahab