Vol. 4, No. 7
Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*
~ Page 16 ~
During the annual lectureship in 1979, at the East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions in Knoxville, Lois McCord spoke to the ladies' class on the topic of:
Some Bible scholars think that Bathsheba, in the thirty-one verses of Proverbs 31, in describing a woman of value, tells her son Solomon [under the name of Lemuel, Proverbs 31:1; 1 Kings 2:13] what kind of woman he ought to select. She is virtuous, pure, strong, poised and dignified. She is filled with wisdom, kindness and patience. She is energetic and not slothful in business. She is a cheerful and devoted mother, a loving and faithful wife. Above all, she reverences the Lord.
I hope, when we read about all her talents, that we do not immediately become discouraged and think, "I could never do all those things!" We need to understand that this is a description of the ideal woman. She is the perfect wife, mother, housekeeper, etc., set forth as our example. She is the five-talent woman. God does not make as many five-talent women as he does two-talent and one-talent individuals.
But the important thing to remember is that each one of us has a talent or more and we must develop the talents God gave us. We will have to give an account of them at judgment day (Matthew 25:19). Find your talents and develop them, realizing that God blessed you with the ability to do some things that others cannot do, while others can do things that you cannot. What are some of the characteristics of this worthy woman of Proverbs 31 that we should develop?
"Her husband, with all of his heart, trusts her. She is all that he needs. Good and nothing bad she is to him as long as she lives" (Proverbs 31:11-12). The Creator, being all-wise, said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper for him, one meeting his needs" (Genesis 2:18). Designed for man's good, she is custom-made. No ready-made animal would do, and not another man would do either! Instead, the all-knowing God entered into a special creative act to make the woman adapted for man's need. That is why we are here.
Though woman is equal to man in being made in God's image, yet her role in this life is supplementary. She is not man. Though she is his equal mentally and physically, she is inferior and therefore is the weaker vessel. She has qualities of gentleness and kindness and consideration that help her husband. Her relationship to him is not competitive, but complementary. The "Equal Rights" advocates would have us to compete with our husbands. They want to put women on an equal footing with man in all walks of life. This is to take her entirely out of her God-given place and the result is not happiness but disillusionment and frustration. As man's companion, she was not made from man's head to rule over him, nor from his feet that he should walk on her, but from under his arm that he should love and protect her. We find our greatest happiness working with him, standing by his side.
God's teaching is clear that wives are to submit to and obey their husbands (Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5). There is joy in submission. Our place is as queens of the home (1 Timothy 5:14), gladly obeying a loving husband who rules his family for God. We are told our subjection is to be "as unto the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22). What does that mean? To me, it means our subjection to our husbands is a part of our service to God. We cannot be said to be obeying God fully until we are in subjection to our husbands. Just as children obey the Lord when they honor their parents, so wives obey the Lord when they are in subjection to their husbands.
The husband of a worthy woman "is well known in the city, as he sits among the elders of the land" (Proverbs 31:23). In her love for him, and in her desire to do him good always, she takes care of his clothes so that he is always neat and tastefully dressed. One can tell he has a good wife at home caring for him. She conducts herself in a becoming and discreet manner, always speaking of her husband in such a way that people know she honors and respects him (Ephesians 5:33). She encourages him to grow in the knowledge of God and strengthens his influence and reputation for the Lord's work. And she is his support in good times and bad.
II. A Model Mother
We are told to love our children (Titus 2:4). If we truly love them, we will do all in our power to bring them to love God and obey him. "Behold! Children are the heritage of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his pay" (Psalm 127:3). They are a sacred trust from God and our role is to prepare them to return to God.
In turn, "children arise and call" their mother "Blessed," showing they honor and respect her (Proverbs 31:28). She loves in such a way before them that her example means more than her words. She teaches them to love and respect their father by doing so herself and giving him the authority in the home. Her reverence for the Lord by her example becomes part of their lives too.
This is not to say that children reared this way will automatically become Christians and serve the Lord. Unless the children in their own hearts choose whom they will serve, they are puppets (Joshua 24:15). Normally, children trained properly will not depart (Proverbs 22:6), but they can allow evil companions to corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). A black sheep in a family of six children is not necessarily the fault of the mother and father, for they all had exactly the same training.
III. A Worker
The worthy woman is industrious, rising early to care for her family's food and clothes, and to supply the needs of poor people. She works "willingly with her hands," and "she does not eat the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:12, 27). She enjoys her work and takes pride in doing her work well. If she works willingly, she reflects good cheer. She does not resent having to work. We do our best work when we work cheerfully. Are you thankful that you have work to do? Someone said,
Thank God every morning when you open your eyes that you have something to do which must be done this day, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work will breed in you temperance, self-control, diligence and a hundred other virtues which the idle will never know. And you will live longer too.
Nothing is more boring than having nothing worthwhile to do. A reason for a lot of illnesses in women of middle-age when their families are gone is that they have not learned to use their time profitably in service to the Lord and to others. Time on their hands can lead to sickness and sin, for "they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, tattling also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Timothy 5:13).
The ideal woman rises early and plans and organizes her work for the day. "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep" (Proverbs 6:10), and doing our work haphazardly, mean that we are always behind and our family suffers and is unhappy. A doctor who treats disturbed personalities has this sign on his office wall:
If you are poor, work. If you are rich, work. If you are burdened with unfair responsibilities, work. If you are happy, continue to work; idleness gives time for doubts and fears. If sorrow overwhelms you and loved ones are not true, work. If disappointments come, work. If faith falters and reason fails, work. When dreams are shattered and hopes are dead, work. Work as if your life were in peril -- it really is. No matter what ails you, work. Work faithfully and you will find it is the greatest material remedy available. It will cure both mental and physical afflictions.
The five-talent woman of Proverbs 31, though putting her Lord and family in priority, yet was in the business world, buying a vineyard and operating it, making linen and selling it, delivering girdles to the merchants (Proverbs 31:14, 16, 24). There are women who work outside the home who neglect both their families and the church. They have not learned to treasure the divine teaching that they are guardians of the home (Titus 2:5). The translation "keepers at home" is not as desirable as "keepers of the home," for there are women who do no outside work, and stay on the premises, but who neglect their families and God. If one can fully care for one's family and faithfully work in the church activities and still have time and energy to work outside the home, not to buy a third car, but to stretch out her hands to the poor (Proverbs 31:20), she is a worthy woman indeed. Philips paraphrases Titus 2:5 as "home lovers," which is a Bible idea, but the specific thought in Titus 2:5 is that Christian women are home-guardians.
One remembers that Lydia, like the woman of Proverbs 31, worked outside the home. However, she did not allow business matters to prevent her being hospitable, inviting four preachers to stay in her home. Some church ladies excuse themselves from visiting hospitals by saying, "I have to work." They had better be sure they have to work, and they had better be sure they are not using an excuse. Search your heart!
She girds her loins with strength, and makes strong her arms" (Proverbs 31:17). The only way any person can become strong and stay strong is by eating the right kind of foods and getting enough exercise and rest. The woman of worth is not out till dawn drinking, smoking and exhausting herself. "Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have of God? And you are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19). We need to imitate the admirable woman of Proverbs 31 who determined not to be weak. Caring for our bodies includes a strong faith in God and casting all our troubles on him (1 Peter 5:7). Without tranquilizers and pills the worthy woman of Solomon's time and now can have peace of mind.
"Her clothing is silk [or fine linen] and purple" (Proverbs 31:22). Since she could afford expensive materials, she was wise to buy them, for they would last longer and so be more economical in the long run. Money, which should be used for the Lord's work, but instead is spent for clothing, makes the apparel too expensive for a Christian. She budgets her money for her own body so as yet to "reach forth her hand to the poor" (Proverbs 31:20).
The worthy woman not only uses good materials, but uses patterns most attractive for her makeup. When we are told to "adorn" ourselves in modest apparel (1 Timothy 2:9), we should not overlook the word "adorn." The Greek word translated "adorn" means to set in order, to ornament, to decorate. God is commanding Christian women to wear neat and attractive clothing becoming to them and fitted for them. As the doctrine of Christ is to be "adorned" (Titus 2:10), so a Christian woman should adorn her body. Our Lord loves beauty and has shown in every flower that he wants ornamentation. God wants us to be as lovely as possible. Being mannish is not what the Lord wants in godly women.
But in making ourselves attractive we must always remember modesty. Someone said that a good rule for modesty is "Not too tight; Not too short; Not too low; Not too thin." However, the principle attractiveness of the Proverbs' woman of worth is not her clothing, that is, not her physical attire. Primary with her was the determination that "strength and honor" would be her clothing (Proverbs 31:25). That which makes her most attractive to all right-thinking people is her strength in the Lord and the honor of righteousness. And so today a Christian woman's primary adornment is not outward (as coiffures, "and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel"), but it is inward, "the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3:3-4).
In this way "holy women also, who hoped in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands; as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose children you now are" (1 Peter 3:5-6). Good works becoming to women professing godliness, such as were true of Dorcas and Phoebe and Mary of Magdalah and Joanna and Susanna, make Christian women lovely and desired (1 Timothy 2:10). We know nothing about the physical attire of Dorcas and of the other noble women, but we do know that they, adorning themselves with good works, were attractive to God and to all good people.
"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness" (Proverbs 31:26). She does not indulge in gossip or tale bearing. She has made it the law of her being that, though she may receive short and curt talk, she will not reply in kind. The Hebrew word translated "kindness" is rooted in the idea of being considerate, of leaning over to be helpful. So the worthy woman is patient and tender, treating others the way she would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
Someone has said that the law of kindness in the use of her tongue is her most distinguishing characteristic because not many five-talent people are kind. They lack patience with those of less ability. Without the milk of human kindness, no matter how capable and efficient and energetic a woman might be, she is not lovable. That which makes any person to be desired is kindness (Proverbs 19:22). Lord, help us all, in every circumstance, to be thoughtful of others and to season our words with salt (Colossians 4:6).
"Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who reverences the LORD, she shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:30). That which interlocks and supports and undergirds all other virtues is a fear of the Lord. This fear is not fright, but a humble respect such as Jesus had for his Father (Hebrews 5:7). Every attribute of nobleness in the worthy woman springs from her determination to know the Lord's will and to do it every day of her life. She is a daily student of his Word, letting it dwell in her richly (Colossians 3:16). Of her it cannot be said, "one thing is needful" (Luke 10:42). She loves God with all within her is and she loves her neighbor as herself (Proverbs 31:20). Her concern is not only with a neighbor's physical but especially the spiritual needs. Her reverence for the Lord would cause her to do her best to let others know about her blessed Master.
Physical beauty is fleeting, and really not very important, but a woman with the right attitude toward God is beautiful. Matthew Henry wrote:
The fear of God reigning in the soul is the beauty of the soul; it recommends those that have it to the favor of God, and is, in his sight, of great price; it will last forever, and bid defiance to death itself, which consumes the beauty of the body, but consummates the beauty of the soul.