It seems that women are very much in the news these days:
- Leading marches in order to demonstrate their political power and influence.
- Standing up to and denouncing predators and abusers.
- Championing the rights of woman to compete fairly in every area of business, politics, sports, entertainment, etc.
On the face of it, it would be hard to find fault with any of these individual initiatives and objectives. Women's vote should be considered crucial by politicians and women should be judged on their skills and training and not their gender when it comes to employment and opportunity for advancement in any area of endeavor. And we, as a society, should never enable, ignore or defend predators or abusers, no matter how rich or famous or talented they are.
All these issues are logical and just but I cant help but think that the ultimate goal of these and other movements headed up by women is to erase any difference there may exist between the sexes.
I would go one step further and suggest that there may be some that are hoping that the women's movement will ultimately lead to a society where women dominate men. I have no idea of exactly how this would work but I am fairly confident that if dominance is the goal, women will eventually be guilted of the same kind of cruel and unjust actions that abusive men have made who sought the same kind of power.
In today's society it seems that men are encouraged to become more like women and women are demanding to be treated more like men. In addition to this, young people are told that they can explore every shade of gender identity until they find a sexual personification that they fell comfortable with. And we wonder why, according to Psychology Today, the suicide rate among young adults (millennials) has tripled since the 1950's. And suicide is the second most cause of death among college students.
In answer to this worrying trend and confusion over what is male and female the Bible makes a clear and defining statement: "God created man in His own image, male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). There are only two sexes, they are different and they are meant to be different. As the French say concerning men and women, "vivre la différence!" (long live the difference).
Since I began this lesson referring mainly to women, I'd like to focus on the female gender in defining some of the important characteristics that defines, not just a women, but what defines a Godly women. You see, there is nothing wrong with a women who desires political and economic opportunity, and refuses to be victimized by some abuser. These are all well and good - it's just that these goals belong to the world and are appreciated only here below.
What I desire for women is that they aim higher, for goals that are above, that belong to the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of darkness here below. For this reason, I'd like to share with you the portrait of an ideal woman designed by God and revealed some 3,000 years ago in Solomon's book of Proverbs. In this passage, Solomon indicates some of the qualities possessed by the ideal women who is pleasing to God.
Description of an Ideal Woman – Proverbs 31:10-31
At the end of the book of Proverbs there is a beautiful acrostic poem extolling the virtues of the ideal woman. Acrostic poems are those where each line of poetry begins with subsequent letters of the alphabet. In this poem the writer begins his description by saying one thing about the virtuous woman - She is rare.
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Not every woman is like this, he says; just like not every piece of jewelry is precious - pearls are precious because they are rare and hard to find (all jewelry shines but not all are valuable). A virtuous woman (inner strength) is hard to find, even harder to find than precious Jewels.
What makes her so valuable? – vs.11-12
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
The writer summarizes her value in describing her relationship to her husband - she is trustworthy. The author tells us that the innate quality that this woman possesses is her trustworthiness. Not just to her husband but as an essential quality that she has as a person (with or without a husband, she is trustworthy).
When you have found a woman like this, you have found a precious stone.
Outward Signs of Inward Qualities – vs. 13-24
In the following verses the author goes on to describe the outward signs that reveal that precious inward quality of trustworthiness.
She is a good manager and hard worker
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
The author gives several examples of her hard work and good management.
- vs. 13 - Cheerful in her work. She doesn't complain or see her work as a burden.
- vs. 14 - She uses imagination in preparing food and is a wise shopper, careful with her money.
- vs. 15 - Manages her responsibilities well in her home. She is "on top" of the situation concerning her affairs.
- vs. 16; 24 - She has good business sense and knows how to turn a profit. Without sacrificing her home, she is able to use her business talents to the advantage of her home. She doesn't ruin her home with outside work She builds it up.
- vs. 17-19 - She is not afraid of hard work and does not waste her time at home. This is a woman who knows the difference between leisure and laziness. She demonstrates that a well managed home is profitable enterprise.She understands that "time" is "money" even for the woman who is at home and uses her time at home profitably. A well managed home is like a second income.
- vs. 21-23 - By her work at home she contributes to her family's and her husband's reputation in the community. Her children are clean, well fed and mannered, as is her husband and this is a reflection of their home, of which she is the manager.
If marriage is a partnership the woman that the author describes here is a good partner to have. So in describing the outward signs that point to the inward quality of the ideal woman the author begins by describing the things that make her a good manger and hard worker.
Good Character and Reputation - vs. 25-27
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
The second outward sign that reveals this trustworthiness is her good character and reputation within her community. Says 4 things about her character:
- vs. 25 - Kind and generous. James tells us that benevolence to the poor and homeless is the sign of true piety (James 1: 27). She is truly a spiritual woman with a Godly character. She has confidence. She is not afraid of the future (near or far) because her faith and good works cover her with honor and power. She is a person who is at ease in her conscience because her heart and hands are busy doing what is right. She is not guilt ridden or depressed because she is busy giving herself away to others she loves.
- vs. 26 - She is wise. Her tongue is not for gossip but rather for edification. This is one of my own mother's qualities and one I have also found in my wife. Both never use their words to destroy always to build others up beginning with myself and our children and then others. This is wisdom from above and the woman of the poem demonstrates that she has this.
- vs. 27 - She is concerned, but her first and primary concern is her home and family. It is not that she isn't concerned with the problems of her society (She does help the poor etc.) but the concerns of her home are first. When we take care of our own home first there are usually less problems in the world. She is aware of the needs of her family and the community and concerned about fulfilling them using all of her skills and qualities refined through years of service and practice.
Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that the man is the head of woman and consequently the head of the home but Lemuel, the writer of this material, balances out this picture by showing us that the woman is the heart of the home. When the head and the heart are in union with Christ as the Lord of the home, what a wonderful place that home is.
The Rewards of the Ideal Woman – vs. 28-31
In the last few verses the author describes the rewards awaiting such a person and clear signs that she is a virtuous woman. She has this trustworthiness demonstrated by Good stewardship of her home and a Godly character and these bring her rewards:
1. Her family praises her
28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 "Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all."
Her children are thankful that they have a mother like her - what a reward for a mother, grateful children. Her husband sees her as the best of all women. Suggest his absolute fidelity and devotion. I read this passage to my wife on our wedding day and it continues to be true of her to this day.
2. Her community praises her
Her neighbors, friends and community see her as a woman of value and character.
In the end the author summarizes the true essence of the value of this person.
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.
Her motivating factors are not beauty or charm (social acclaim) She is a person that fears (respects /obeys) the Lord - this is what motivates her. Her desire to work well, to serve others, to develop a good character are inspired by her basic faith and desire to obey God, who wants all of his daughters to become women of value.
Notice some of the things that were not mentioned here:
- Her looks (skin, hair, weight, height, figure)
- Her independence (Not even a question for her)
- Her knowledge / education
These were not mentioned not because they are not in themselves important but rather because they did not make her more valuable one way or another.
Notice however what was mentioned as important:
- Her work concerning her responsibility towards her husband, family, community (N.T. times = church)
- Her attitude of kindness and wisdom
- Her confidence and lack of guilt
- Her reward of praise from the three groups that she serves: Family / Community
And of course God Himself praises her because she serves Him and He wrote this poem in her honor.
- We have extremes in recognizing woman in or society. Either we have a day that honors only those women that have children (Mother's Day) or the various organizations that promote those women who see themselves as feminists.
- I want to encourage those women who work hard in raising children but I want to include all those women who are striving to become women of valor in our society, regardless of their status. - and who are these women in our day?
- Women who are resisting the pressure from the Media and society to work only on the outward beauty but through patient obedience to Jesus Christ are creating a beautiful inward person.
- Women who, in a thousand ways, every day serve their husbands and / or families, church and school and community and do so with a smile, sincerity and diligence.
- Women whose strongest desire is not to be free and independent but rather desire to be useful, kind, and generous to those who are in need.
- Women who are keeping themselves pure and ready for the return of Jesus Christ.
We have many such women in our congregation and our young men should take careful note of this lesson and review it seriously because I think that many times their criteria for finding wives is based more on worldly ideas hatched in Hollywood than Godly ones found in scripture.
For these women, whether they are married or widowed or single; with or without children - I pray that God will bless you as true women of valor. I also pray that as the precious jewels that you are, you will shine forth among all others and receive the reward of praise that you so richly deserve.
For those women who want to be come the virtuous women spoken of here:
- First step is to give your life to Jesus in repentance and baptism. In so doing you become pure again, no matter what you've done and special in Gods sight.
- If you've gone away from Him and not been the kind of woman God wants you to be, repent and come back to him for forgiveness and restoration.