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A Most Precious Treasure

Mother’s Day is awkward

  • We live in a fallen world where bad things happen—disease, accidents, human evil—all play a role in making some lives more painful and more difficult than others. And it may be that there is hardly any pain worse than when nature has denied a woman the ability to conceive and bear children.
  • Adoption is a good thing, but in many cases it simply does not touch the God-given desire to have children of your own. Nevertheless, Christians still have to emphasize what is true and right regarding God’s intentions for men, women and family, even when there are many painful exceptions.
  • Modern attitudes toward sexuality have almost always had a deleterious effect upon motherhood. Motherhood is downplayed and women are encouraged to think about fulfilment in other ways. Perhaps even sadder than those who mourn their inability to bear children are those who are so filled with worldly thinking that not only do they choose to avoid bearing children, they actually spurn the whole idea of family and declare they want nothing to do with it. They resent the idea of being loved or praised by a husband. They don’t want to be anyone’s precious treasure.
  • Adding to the awkwardness of Mother’s Day is the attitude that men cannot speak to women about their lives—call it sexism, chauvinism, gender prejudice, gender bias, or what you will. In practice it goes like this: “You’re a man. Therefore you can have nothing to say about abortion, or anything else that relates to women. Of course, the end result of this line of thinking is that because the Bible is written by men, nothing it says about womanhood can be trusted.
  • Actually, that’s not quite true, or not the whole truth. The true author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit, and we must not forget that God understands both sexes perfectly, since He made them both. The problem is we’ve been so indoctrinated by modern attitudes that much of what the Bible teaches sounds weird and cultic, even to Christians.
  • End result? I’ve run away from Mother’s Day more than once. For the last few years it’s been easier just to thank God for mothers, then preach about something else.


Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a capable wife? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good.12 She rewards him with good, not evil, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from far away.

15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. 16 She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings. 17 She draws on her strength and reveals that her arms are strong. 18 She sees that her profits are good, and her lamp never goes out at night. 19 She extends her hands to the spinning staff, and her hands hold the spindle.

20 Her hands reach out to the poor, and she extends her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed. 22 She makes her own bed coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known at the city gates, where he sits among the elders of the land.

24 She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts to the merchants. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom and loving instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.

28 Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her: 29 “Many women are capable, but you surpass them all!” 30 Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting,but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. 31 Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

The road to Prov. 31

  1. Reconciliation: to restore friendly relations. In accounting it means to prove or document that a reported balance is correct.

When Paul wrote that “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself.” (II Cor. 5:19) reconciliation worked according to both definitions. In Christ the imbalance caused by human sin was corrected so that friendly relations between God and man could be restored.

Question: when did man separate from God? You know the answer, with the first sin, and by means of every sin thereafter. Sin broke our relationship with God, and it also broke something inside us as well. We’re at odds with ourselves, and because humanity was created to find wholeness in the one-flesh relationship called marriage, we’re at odds with one another. However, when we are truly reconciled to God in Christ we begin a lifelong experience of harmony being restored: internal harmony, harmony between the sexes and harmony with other people. A major part of that harmony is achieved by using the Bible to learn what God thinks about life so we can harmonize our thoughts and actions with His.

  1. Separation from the world: Christians are commanded to live separated lives (separated from the world). We’re to “go out from the world and be separate” (II Cor. 6:17). We’re to live lives that are “unstained by the world” (Jas. 1:27), we’re to remember that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (Jas. 4:4), we’re “not to be conformed to this age” (Rom. 12:1); we’re to set our minds on things above, not on what is on the earth (Col. 3:2); we’re told that “if anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15); and, finally, we’re told that “whoever has been born of God conquers the world” (I John 5:4).

Christians practice separation two ways, the right way, and the wrong way.

  • Wrong way: by showing how Christians follow the world from a distance, thus preserving the illusion of separation. (Hand gestures)
  • Right way: running toward Jesus with all deliberate speed. Like Paul, continually “pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. No surprise, doing separation the wrong way has a bad outcome (comforts the world). Doing separation the right way has a great outcome (draws people to Jesus).

How do we know we are running toward Jesus? Among other things, His Word, the Bible, becomes the guide for our thinking, the basis for our world view. In other words, if we are being reconciled to God, that means accepting that His view of the world actually works (sustainable for human culture and progressively greater in benefit).

Which finally brings us back to today’s text.

  • This passage is plain, does not need expounding.
  • Instead, it needs explaining.
  1. Recognize that Bible truth, OT and NT, is eternal; it does not change with the times.
    1. The creation mandate (fill the earth and subdue it, Gen. 1:28) is given to men and women in marriage relationships. Life is to be lived as a team effort between a man and a woman in marriage.
    2. At no point does the Bible envision any other arrangement.
  1. These are the words of King Lemuel, who is laying out the world view of his mom (v1).
    1. In Prov. 31:10ff, Lemuel is recording what his mother told him about the kind of wife he should seek. He’s writing this down because he agrees with her.
    2. Note also that this is a Gentile view of marriage; Lemuel was an Arab, not a Jew.
    3. That emphasizes the universality of the Biblical message. It is for all the world and for all time. We have to understand that a widespread negative view of marriage is unique to the West and unique to the last 100 years or so.
  1. Scripture everywhere assumes the normality of marriage. Provision is made for the single life, but it seems to me that any fair reading of the Bible must conclude that singleness is to be seen as exceptional and never anyone’s first choice.
    1. From God’s point of view a young man who seeks lasting success should seek to marry a certain kind of woman,
    2. Every young woman should strive to be the kind of woman a godly, principled, Christ-focussed young man would want to marry.
  1. This text also makes it clear that women and men are to play different roles
    1. Now is the time to introduce two interesting facts today’s text.
      1. It is an acrostic poem. Each sentence begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
      2. It is also given a chiastic structure. (Called chiastic because the outline looks like one side of an X, chi in Greek)

A: High value of a good wife (v. 10)

B: Husband benefited by wife (vv. 11-12)

C: Wife works hard (vv. 13-19)

D: Wife gives to poor (v.20)

E: Prepared for winter (v. 21a)

F: Children clothed in scarlet (21b)

G: Wife wears linen (v.22)

H: Public respect for her husband (v. 23)

G’: Sells garments and sashes (v. 24)

F’: Wife clothed in dignity (v. 25a)

E’: Prepared for the future (v. 25b)

D’: Wife speaks wisdom (v. 26)

C’: Wife works hard (v. 27)

B’: Husband and children praise wife (vv. 28-29)

A’: High value of a good wife (vv. 30-31)


Teaching found in this structure

  • Notice the way praise is heaped upon this woman, this wife and mother. Nowhere in Scripture is man praised so extravagantly. (Patronizing?)
  1. The wife is involved in every sort of human endeavour—teaching, manufacturing and sales, business, and administration. She is involved in arts and crafts and everything else that makes life rich and worth living, but with a focus on succeeding in all these things in and through her home, through her children and through her husband!
  2. Look at what is found dead centre in this chiastic structure—her husband is publicly respected and involved in governing the city (v.23). Everything in this poem flows toward this point and then flows from this point. The long-term goal of this ideal wife and mother is to help her husband achieve his maximum potential. (Patriarchal?) This is built on the foundation of God’s Word.

Gen. 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.”

Eph. 5:33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

  1. The linkage between Prov. 31:23 and and Eph. 5:33 is not accidental. The sense Scriptures intends to convey is that God approves of the woman who is for her family and for her husband. And the funny thing is, if mom does her work properly her husband will be respected, but she’s the one they’ll love and praise.

Closing thoughts

  1. If Scripture teaches anything it is that man needs woman and woman is for man. When life is lived as God intended (full reconciliation with God, with His word, with ourselves, with one another) then both sexes will rejoice in the role God assigned them at conception.
  2. Living as Biblical Christians always calls for a costly commitment, but nowadays the cost is higher than ever. Except when you consider that we have not had to die for our faith.
  3. The real conflict is never about society or church, but over saving your own soul. Will you acknowledge the truth of God’s word? The question is never about what is acceptable, but what is right! Are you being reconciled to God?