She was a new member of the church and asked me how she could get more involved.
I mentioned several things including women’s ministry, and when I did her countenance changed and she said, “I just cannot take another Proverbs 31 study!”
Why did she feel that way?
I think it’s because we have often treated Proverbs 31 like a gospel-less job description, but that is not how it functions at all in the book of Proverbs.
In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified and folly is personified as well. They are voices calling out, competing voices, voices that echo all the way back to the Garden of Eden. In the garden, God spoke to his image bearers, but a competing voice spoke as well and said, “Did God actually say?” (Gen 3:1). After Adam and Eve listened and obeyed the serpentine voice of folly, God spoke good news to them; he promised that there would be a seed born of woman who would crush the head of the serpent.
Throughout redemptive history, God continues to speak wisdom and the serpent continues to speak folly. In 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, the apostle Paul contrasts what he refers to as “the word of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18), which is “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:20-21, 24, 30, 2:5, 7), and the “the wisdom of the world,” which is folly (1 Cor 1:20-21, 1 Cor 3:19).
Paul explains, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” and “Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor 1:24b, 30b). In Colossians, Paul asserts he wants the church to know “the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2b-3). Jesus is the good news, and Jesus is our wisdom.
The most important thing.
Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Prov 1:7 explains, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sin, then who could stand? But there is forgiveness that you may be feared.”
The real Proverbs 31 mom does not read the description of “an excellent wife” (Prov 31:10) as a performance list to earn God’s favor. She is not building a spiritual resume to be proud of, because her only hope is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no good news or wisdom apart from Jesus.
If Proverbs 31:10-31 is not a list to evaluate your performance or to cultivate a spiritual resume, then what should we learn from it?
A Proverbs 31 mom seeks wisdom not wishing.
Notice that the Proverbs 31 woman is busy living the life she has in the fear of the Lord, which is in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She is not sitting around wishing she had someone else’s life. The list of activities the text describes her being involved in is very mundane. It is a list of daily, ordinary things that she does for her husband (31:11-12), household (31:13-19, 27-29) and community (31:20-26). If we were to translate the descriptions in contemporary language, it would sound something like:
- Making, repairing or buying clothes
- Buying groceries
- Bargain shopping
- Working in the home
- Working outside the home
- Helping neighbors
- Helping needy people
- Speaking well of her husband
- Making phone calls
- Checking on others
- Reminding, supporting and encouraging her husband
- Reminding, supporting and encouraging her kids
- Teaching her children
- Teaching her children the Bible and the gospel
- Teaching practical theology
- Praying for others
- Up early and late feeding infants
- Staying up with sick kids
- Potty training
- Comforting frightened children
This is not a performance checklist of all the things a wife and mother ought to be doing.