Whenever church ladies gather for conferences, classes and conventions one of the big three usually headlines: marriage, motherhood and something in the realm of domesticity like being frugal, homeschooling or knitting sweaters made of dryer lint.
But here’s the thing- not all women are married. Not all women are mothers. And if you are anything like me, you know not all of us are the homesteading, butter churning type. I do love you prairie women. You carry me through all sorts of my feminine deficits. I am just not cut from that cloth.
When those topics pop up the single women check out. The infertile women are stabbed. And we less-than domestics are reminded of all of our less-than qualities.
So when I was charged with teaching Proverbs 31 to a broad audience of women who I didn’t really know, I thought, I have got to broaden the scope of this. I do not want any women to check out, be hurt or walk away feeling less-than anything.
So, “The Marriage Lesson That’s Not Just For Married People” was born.
The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him.
O my son, O son of my womb,
O son of my vows,
do not waste your strength on women,
on those who ruin kings…
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life…
Her husband is well known at the city gates,
where he sits with the other civic leaders…
Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!” from Proverbs 31
If you are familiar with this passage, you know that the wife stuff usually begins at verse ten. Most bibles put a little header over that verse, separating it from the first nine verses. But God didn’t really put the chapter breaks or the subtitles in our bibles. This passage in Proverbs 31 really starts in verse one.
This passage is not a man describing his over-achieving wife. This passage is a son relating the things his mother taught him about the kind of woman he should marry. That’s pretty earth shattering to me. I always thought I had to BE the Proverbs 31 woman. But I don’t. And here’s why. God’s women can be a:
- Barren old woman like Sarah
- Widowed prophetess like Anna
- Prostitute turned Jew like Rahad
- Assylum seeking Moabite like Ruth
- Unmarried pregnant girl like Mary
- Woman divorced five times like the woman at the well
I might not have to be the Proverbs 31 woman, but I do have to see what’s in this piece of scripture for me. Whether you are married or not, there is something in this passage for all of us. Remember, this is the teaching of a mother to her son. This is a woman relating her wisdom to someone younger. This is a woman honoring the marriage of her son who wasn’t even married yet. This is about honoring the idea and the institution of marriage.
This is how.
“Don’t waste your strength on women, on those who ruin kings.”
Don’t mess with those nasty girls because they are dangerous. They will kill your body and your soul. Proverbs 7 says the immoral woman will lead you to your grave. That’s why this mother encouraged her son to stay pure. Stay as far away from sexual sin as possible (2 Tim. 2:22).
In our culture that is a colossal mission.
We promote dating between hot to trot teens and singles. Alone. The wisdom of boundaries, discretion and appropriateness has fallen by the wayside.
Hosea said he put hedges around his sexually immoral wife to keep her pure (Hosea 2:6). Yet, we put two people, who have no right to each other’s bodies out-of-wedlock, in situations where about a hundred hedges of protection have been cut down. Dating the way most Americans do it is a near guarantee to sexual sin.
Our pop culture has annihilated our ability to be ashamed. The KJV says that women should adorn themselves with shamefacedness. That means be shy about your nakedness. Be embarrassed by expressions of sexuality outside of marriage. When we watch TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and old Friends reruns our hearts don’t care about fornication. We don’t care about keeping sex inside of marriage. When we find entertainment in something that actually mocks the sacredness of God ordained marriage… that is bad.
Before and after, in or out of marriage we have got to promote purity of body and mind. That’s how we honor marriage.
“Her husband can trust her”
We need to teach, advocate and nurture the quality of trust. We need to foster truth between spouses.
Keeping secrets for married people, privately messaging married people on Facebook or talking about your husband or listening about someone’s elses husband is bad, bad, bad! Don’t wink at secret shopping. Don’t harbor women who undermine his leadership behind closed doors.
We need to grow women whose husbands trust them to be honest, to stick with him even when he messes up and to always, always have his back.
“She will greatly enrich his life.”
Girls, we get enriching confused with controlling. When I asked that room full of women to raise their hand if they struggle with control issues it looked like… well it looked like this.
Did you know our control issues were born from sin? Our desire to know everything, speak on everything and influence everything is a consequence of sin. “And you will desire to control your husband” (Genesis 3: 16).
Let’s be less control and more enriching.
Make Men Look Good
“Her husband is well known at the city gates.”
Stop making fun of him. Stop dogging him. Stop making him look like a moron. Stop bossing him around. Stop telling your mom, your sister or your best friend about how mad he made you. And stop listening to it from other women.
Speak highly of your husbands, fathers and elders. Trust their leadership. Respect their decisions. Find comfort under their protection.
So you see, Proverbs 31 isn’t just about being a good wife and having a good marriage. Proverbs 31 is about honoring marriage. It is about protecting other people’s marriage. It is about glorifying God by respecting his boundaries he has placed on us to keep us pure. It’s about being trustworthy women. It’s about enriching lives. It’s about exhaulting men to their proper place of leadership.
Now, go bless some married folks today.