Stephanie Dozois, Minister of Youth and Families
When Pastor Tom asked me to preach this Sunday he gave me a list of three scriptures to choose from. He told me he listed them in his order of preference. This one was on the bottom. He told me I should probably stay away from it. I said challenge accepted! And then dove into Proverbs 31 with confidence that I can bring it new light.
Throughout the Bible God makes us many promises. Promises of Hope and eternal life. Promises of love and peace. First of all let me say that I don’t love this translation of this passage. I chose it because it is probable the one you hear most often, and probably why people view it so negatively. I personally like the translation in The Voice, and I will be using that most often today. I think this passage is not about God’s promises. It is about principles and values We should strive for, not just for women but for everyone.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Teach a child how to follow the right way; even when they are old they will stay on course.” Is this a promise that you child is going to be perfect and never make mistakes? NO. These are words of wisdom and a principle for a good life that we should strive to live for.
Have you ever started watching a movie in the middle of it and just felt completely lost. What happened in the beginning? Where is all of this coming from? Did I miss something important? These verses are just a piece of the story and we need the whole story to understand what God wants.
The Book of Proverbs starts and ends with passages about women of God. It starts by talking about wise woman and it ends with the virtues of a good woman in the flesh.
I’m sure most women hear the scripture and dismiss it immediately, thinking that it is sexist and demoralizing. Or they feel ashamed or guilty that they cannot do everything this woman can do Some man must have written this about how a wife should serve her husband, right? But these verses are taken out of context. I asked myself what happened in the Book of Proverbs before this scripture? Where is it coming from? Then I see that this piece of scripture is a poem from a mother to her son, a king. It is a poem telling him what to look for in a wife. How as a king, if he wants to serve his Kingdom properly, then he needs a wise woman with good morals and a good foundation.
In Proverbs 31:4-6 She tells Lemuel not to drink too much wine or whiskey. Alcohol clouds our judgement and should be reserved for those in desperation. I enjoy an occasional drink or glass of wine, as I’m sure many of you do too. When we have too much, it blurs our vision and does not put us in a good position to serve others.
The first verse we read today says “a capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” In the inclusive Bible it says “what is worth more than a strong and loving wife?” And my favorite translation of this passage I found in The Voice, “Who can find a truly excellent woman? One who is superior in all that she is and all that she does? Her worth far exceeds that of rubies or expensive jewelry. God doesn’t want us to be like everyone else. This is telling us to be set apart. In a world where every restaurant serves alcohol and we have computers and sexting, gossip, and lust, I want to be different! I want to be a ruby or an emerald. A diamond in the rough!
It goes on to say in the Voice that “she inspires trust and her husband’s heart is safe with her, and because of her he has a very good thing. Every day of her life she does what is best for him.”
How many of you have come home to find something isn’t just the way you want it? There are dirty dishes in the sink or your spouse is walking around your clean floors with their shoes on. Instead of saying “Hi, Honey. How was your day?” You immediately attack them for their transgressions against your clean floors. Our words should be uplifting and supportive. When my husband left his corporate job to pursue a career in massage therapy, I didn’t exactly understand it. But I knew without a doubt that I would support him 110%. That the more I encouraged him and lifted him up, the more successful he would be. Supporting him has made us stronger and because of it, he supports my dreams and aspirations.
Verse 13 says “she seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant girls. She considers a girls and buys it; with the fruit of her hand she plants a Vineyard.”
I know you all think I must be crazy if I think you are going to go out and knit your kid’s clothes and get up at 3am to cook them breakfast. And no, you don’t need to go get your real estate license and buy all kind of land to plant a Vineyard. God wants us to take care of our families. That might mean making sure our family is making healthy food choices or finding the right caregivers for our children. It might me taking a job that provides health insurance for your family. Let’s face it, things are a lot different now than they were 3,000 years ago. Women had a much different role in Biblical times. Every family’s dynamic is different, and that’s what makes all of us so special.
“She makes herself coverings; her clothing in fine linen and purple.” Purple clothing was a luxury. Purple dye was made from sea shells and was very expensive. I think this passage is telling us that we should always look our best. Whether we are thrift store shoppers or shop at Neiman Marcus, we can always strive to look our best.
I think one of the most important verses in this passage is verse 20. “She opens her hands to the poor, and reaches out her hands the the needy.” This person doesn’t just help people who ask her for help, they go out and find people who need help. Those of you who are on outreach, this is what you do. You extend you love to those in need.
There are so many things we could dig into here. This woman is amazing! She does it all! But we need to remember that she doesn’t do it all at once. These are principles of living a good life, and building a good life takes time and patience. Looking at this passage can be overwhelming. “we need to do all that??” One of my biggest downfalls is not knowing when to stop or when to say no. Pastor Tom always reminds me that we need to put on our own oxygen mask first. We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.
So be strong and diligent, always put your family and God first. Love everyone the way God loves us. Work hard and don’t procrastinate. (I am famous for this. I read one of those memes on Facebook the other day that said “I used to just crastinate, then I went pro.”)
And most importantly verse 30 says that “the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”. If we fear God we are wise. Doing the right thing and giving our best isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but if we try our hardest, our children and our spouse and all of those that surround us will praise us.
The first fear I had when taking on this scripture was “How can I possibly teach you all to live a God fearing life when I have so much work to do myself?” But the more I studied it, the more excited I became. I can strive to be this woman. I can work hard to love and support my husband and my family. I can take care of myself while also helping others in need. As long as I do my best and keep these principles and values close to my heart, I can be a wise woman.
Dear God of principles and promise, please help us to be rare Jewels created in your image. Set us apart from others and help us strive to be our best in all things that we do. Make us wise Lord as we live out these principles. Help us set our own values and goals within our unique lives, for it is you that makes us special. It is in your name we pray, Amen.