The Praiseworthy Woman
Topic: Topical Passage: Proverbs 31:10-31
I haven’t done a Mother’s Day sermon, since I’ve been at Life Point, mostly because every year around Mother’s Day we already were dealing with issues of femininity in our studies of 1 Peter, 1 Timothy, and Colossians. But this year, I’d like to take a look at the Proverbs 31 woman. I know that going to Proverbs 31 on Mother’s Day is not very original, but this passage is so full of significance that it’s worth revisiting often (read).
In this passage, God describes an excellent wife. The author may be describing an actual woman, or he may not. When you think of this woman, picture an Israelite woman who comes from a higher-class family, seeing as she dresses in “fine linen and purple” (v. 22). But her family is not at the highest end of the economic spectrum, because she is a skilled clothing maker who uses her trade to help provide for her family. No rich woman would be doing such a thing. She is not elderly seeing as she is busy doing strenuous work, but she’s not a newlywed either. Her husband is an elder in the community, and she’s old enough to be a respected voice of wisdom herself.
Therefore, I imagine she is nearing the end of the childrearing years, and her children are transitioning adulthood. In our context, think of a gritty but respectable, upper middle class woman in her 40s to 50s. She’s someone you respect because she has everything together, yet she is also relatable and down to earth. She is the ideal role model, which is why Solomon highlights her. But I imagine that for many in this room looking at a ideal model can be painful because of how it shines a light on your less than ideal circumstances. So I’d like to begin with 3 qualifications.
Trust God with your failure. Maybe you are divorced, and when you look at this picture it hurts to think of how your marriage failed. Or maybe you’re an empty nester, and you made a lot of mistakes as a parent. You grieve over how you failed as a parent. Or maybe you are a young mother, and you feel inadequate as a mother and wife. You look at the Proverbs 31 woman and think, “I will never be that.”
Regardless, I would encourage you to rest in the grace of Go If you are grieving over past failures, know that God’s grace is sufficient to forgive. He doesn’t want you to live in the past; he wants you to leave your past under the blood. And if you are overwhelmed by present failure, know that God’s grace is sufficient to do the right thing today. So don’t be intimidated by this picture; instead, look to God for grace to be what God calls you to be today.
Trust God with the failures of others. Another temptation you might have when studying this passage is to be critical of the failures of others. Maybe this passage picks old scabs regarding how your mother failed to live up to this ideal. It’s painful to remember. Or maybe you are struggling with your spouse, and this passage reminds you of his or her failures.
In either case, stay anchored to the fact that a sovereign, wise God gave you your parents and your spouse with all of their imperfections. And just maybe he is doing something precious through your imperfect situation that is far more valuable than immediate comfort.
And if this text exposes faults in your spouse, don’t sit there and gripe about it; rather, consider what you can do to help her be more of what God made her to be. And then make sure that you are much quicker to notice where she excels than where she struggles.
Trust God with your singleness and(or) childlessness. Maybe reading this passage is painful because you long for marriage and children, but God in his providence hasn’t given them to you. That can be very hard, but again trust the sovereign wisdom of God. His will is good, so find a joy in God that no spouse or child will ever match. With this foundation, let’s talk about…
II. The Character of an Excellent Wife
I say excellent, because the Hebrew term in v. 10 isn’t mainly about virtue; instead, it typically describes the strength or power of a valiant warrior. Therefore, God is not merely highlighting the woman’s morality; he is highlighting her complete excellence. That being said, I’d like to highlight 5 attributes of this woman’s character. First…
She is industrious. It’s worth emphasizing that this chapter confronts several false narratives about biblical womanhood. For example some think biblical womanhood means “barefoot and pregnant,” where a women rarely leaves the house and must have lots of kids. Others claim the biblical pattern promotes abusive, domineering husbands whose wives are ditzy sex trophies. She has nothing going on upstairs and a whole lot going on down below. And still others assume that the biblical wife is merely a glorified housemaid.
But Proverbs 31 praises a highly industrious, ambitious woman. She is tough, hardworking, and successful. In particular, she has a physically demanding but profitable business making clothing. Verse 13 says she goes out to gather wool and flax. And processing the flax into useable fabric was a long and demanding process.
But she doesn’t mind. Instead, she works long days doing the necessary work. Verse 15 says she gets to work “while it is yet night” or early in the morning, and v. 18 says, “Her lamp does not go out by night.” She’s a tough cookie. In fact, notice how she is described in 17. Her hard work has made her physically fit and strong. Now I should say that God is not saying that you have to look like Serena Williams to be an excellent wife. This is an ideal, not the only ideal, and God gives different gifts to different people.
And notice that all her hard work serves her family well (v. 24). A high-quality garment was worth 2 months’ pay, so her work is very profitable. As a result, v. 14 says she is able to provide her family with foreign delicacies. And v. 22 says that she is able to dress herself in fine clothing.
In sum, she is not a ditzy, lazy, trophy, who sits around and watches soap operas all day. She is an ambitious, hardworking woman. So ladies, if your ideal routine involves a lot of wasted time doing nothing of value, or if you have no ambition to do anything beyond the minimum, you are missing what God made you to be.
Instead, v. 27 says, she “does not eat the bread of idleness.” God made us to be productive. So ladies ambitiously serve your family. And if God has blessed to where you don’t need to make money, be ambitious about pursuing other opportunities to minister and serve. Redeem the time for the glory of God and the good of others. Her second attribute is…
She is wise. It’s fascinating how this woman embodies the wisdom that Proverbs encourages over and over. For example, she plans ahead (v. 21). Of course, she demonstrates significant business sense through her profitable clothing business. And then notice what she does with the profit (v. 16).
This is a significant venture. Presumably she bargains for the field, clears it of brush and stones, plants the vines, puts up a trellis, and builds a winepress. It’s pretty impressive isn’t it? Again God is not saying that every Christian woman needs to do such a thing. This is simply an illustration of a woman using her gifts to their fullest. So God is not saying you have to plant a vineyard, but he is saying you should make wise and ambitious plans and pursue them.
And notice how the community acknowledges her wisdom (v. 26). Based on years of wise living, she has earned the right to instruct others. I think we all know the type. When some people speak, you instinctively tune them out, because they haven’t earned your ear. But you are eager to hear what others have to say. Everything they say is humble but insightful and wise. It’s a joy to listen to them think.
So ladies, pursue wisdom. I especially want to emphasize this point to the younger girls in the room. Our culture tells you to grab the world’s attention with how you shape and present your body, with how you dress, and with how you talk. But Proverbs 11:22 states, “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” I grew up around hogs, and trust me a pig’s nose is not clean and honorable. It’s gross.
So girls, make yourselves attractive and be confident in who God made you. Modesty doesn’t mean hiding from the world. But above all strive to make sure that your most outstanding quality is your character. You are wise and discerning, godly and compassionate.
And men, make sure you also value what God values. To the single men, you can’t just ignore physical Proverbs 5 says she should be attractive to you, but remember that a ditzy sex trophy is like a “a ring of gold” in a smelly dirty pig snout. And married men, your wife may not be in the prime of her physical beauty anymore, but do not let your eyes covet a younger woman at work or on TV. Appreciate the inner beauty of experience and love your wife for all God has done in her. The 3rd attribute is…
She is family-first. Notice that this woman is very ambitious, but it’s not a selfish ambition. Instead, all of her labor and planning is focused on her children and her husband (vv. 15, 21, 27).
Of course this is where our culture begins to get antsy about biblical femininity. It says that the biblical structure oppresses women and that they need to free themselves from these structures and express themselves in whatever way is natural, especially through a career. They need to do what’s best for them, not for family.
But this philosophy is pure narcissism and self-absorption. And God consistently condemns that spirit in both men and women. Men shouldn’t be pushing family aside either to pursue their own dreams. No, the Bible calls all of us to find our joy in something bigger than myself. It teaches us to find our joy in selfless, humble service, within biblical structures.
This begins in the home for both husband and wife. From there it extends to the church and the community. God made us to thrive in these structures. And when we follow God’s design everyone benefits. There’s no question that our culture is not getting healthier as we reject God’s design. Children are suffering in broken homes, and adults are depressed and angry.
And in the short term, selfless service brings far more lasting joy than self-expression and worldly passions ever will. So don’t buy the world’s lies. Both men and women, build your life around family, trusting the Lord that he knows us better than we know ourselves and that his will is always good and wise. The 4th attribute is…
She is generous to all (v. 20). She doesn’t just provide for her family. Her compassion extends to everyone around her. It’s a reminder that a godly home is not a fort intended to close the world out. Instead, it’s a hospital, especially for our own family, but for everyone in need. The 5th attribute is…
She is godly (v. 30). This verse tells us the foundation of her character. I say that because Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” And Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In other words, a right view of God is the foundation for a right view of life, and it drives godly, selfless, and generous living.
Ladies, the greatest gift that you can give to your husband is not physical beauty, a clean house, or great food. The greatest gift you can give is a godly heart that fears the Lord. And the greatest gift you can give to your children is not a great education, great structure, and lots of extracurricular activities. The greatest gift you can give is a godly heart.
So no matter how much pressure you feel to be excellent at everything, never compromise the pursuit of godliness. And men, make sure that you put your wife in a position to thrive spiritually, because if she is struggling spiritually, then at some point the building is going to collapse. So guard her walk. In sum, this passage praises five character traits of the excellent wife. In light of her character, notice…
III. The Value of a Godly Wife
The text begins and ends by emphasizing this woman’s incredible value. Notice in v. 10…
She is rare (v. 10). Notice that v. 10 begins with a rhetorical question. It’s an attempt to arouse in the young man a deep desire to find such a woman. How we need that emphasis, because most young men dream of finding the most gorgeous woman possible. But Solomon urges his son to desire the strong character that he will go on to describe.
And then he drives this home, in the 2nd The last word can be translated a lot of ways. In the NKJV it’s rubies. Others say jewels or pearls. Regardless, the term speaks of something precious, rare, and extremely valuable.
So ladies, you might be lacking in a lot of the standards our culture likes to hold up. You may not be beautiful or smart. You may not have any great talents or an impressive career. But if you are hard working and wise, if you serve those you love, and if you are godly, you are precious.
And even if you aren’t all those things, they are all in reach by the grace of God. So don’t let the world shape your view of self or of what you should be. Strive to be what God values, because it is extremely precious.
And men, if you have a wife like this, give thanks to God and to her. It’s so easy to be critical, and it is so easy to let the world shape your expectations. But if you have a wife like this, God says you are rich. Do not miss all that you have. And if you are single, dream of a woman of godly character, because she will do you far more good than beauty ever will. So the text begins by emphasizing that this woman is rare, and then it ends by emphasizing that…
She is praiseworthy (vv. 30–31). We could talk a long time about the first line of v. 30. It does need to be said that there is nothing wrong with charm or beauty. Praise the Lord for women with charming personalities who are quick-witted, personable, and fun to be around. And beauty is also a wonderful gift. The Bible teaches that husbands and wives should find each other attractive and enjoy the physical relationship that comes with it.
But God warns that both have limited value. Someone can have a charming personality that makes a great first impressive, but a sparkling smile isn’t worth much when life gets tough. And no woman is going to look like she’s 22 forever. Therefore, both men and women must keep a long-term perspective on what really matters.
Ladies, do you spend more time cultivating your body or your heart. Do you dress and do you present yourself in an effort to make a show of yourself, or are you modest and humble, letting your character do the talking?
Men, see through the charade of charm and beauty. And don’t buy the lustful perversion that our culture tries to sell. Instead, value the deep-seated character this passage affirms.
And then express it. Verse 30 says that the excellent wife deserves to be praised. We must not stay quiet about such excellence. As such, v. 31 pictures a scene of public praise at the city gates. The excellent wife deserves public, wide honor for her incredible character and service.
So husbands, let your wife know how much you appreciate her. You may not be a romantic, and everything may come out choppy and discombobulated. But if it comes from the heart, you’ll make your point. Praise your wife at every opportunity. If you have a godly mother praise her for her excellence and thank her for all she does. In light of all of this, I’d like to conclude with 4 quick applications.
Be what God made you to be. Ladies, and especially young ladies, the world puts so much pressure on you to fit its mold. You have to be sexy, loud, and have a big career. But they will never satisfy. It’s a bunch of broken lies. Instead, trust the Lord that he knows what’s good for you, and find your joy in pursuing his design.
Support each other in being what God made us to be. A big temptation in a sermon like this is to notice where everyone else falls short, but especially your own spouse or mother. It absolutely can be hard to live with the faults of others, and I know that some of you have endured terrible grief at the hands of a spouse or mother.
But I would urge you not to be bitter or to complain. First, embrace God’s good will for your life. And second, ask how you can help that person grow. Make it your passion to support them not to crucify them.
Teach the next generation to embrace God’s values. Parents, grandparents, and children’s workers, 30 is vital to your role both for boys and girls. Let’s work to make sure we model the beauty of God’s design in our own homes, because talk is cheap if we don’t live it. And then let’s do a good job of communicating the beauty of God’s design.
Give praise for and to the excellent woman. Men, don’t be bashful about praising your wife. And if you are sitting there thinking, “I have nothing to praise,” then find something and probably learn to be less critical. Our wives are a wonderful gift, and we need to express it.
The same goes for your mom. Being a mom is hard work. Your mom has faults, but she has probably invested more love and effort into your life than you will ever grasp. So tell her how grateful you are.
Folks, God has given us a wonderful model in this text. So let’s give thanks for God’s perfect, wise, and good design, and let’s give thanks for those who have lived it before us.