Proverbs 31 thoughts

Here’s a thought I’ve been having.

The first 9 chapters of Proverbs are a sermon (all connected) about the value of gaining wisdom. If you have wisdom, you are blessed of God and are delivered from the snares and traps of foolishness (wickedness of every kind). I preached on that theme here.

Because of the curse on the world, our default state is wickedness. We are ensnared by sin of every kind, our nature is attracted to its allure – the allure to be as God knowing good and evil. This results in the works of death – rage, reviling, fornication, adultery, covetousness of every kind, and so on…Until we find ourselves caught and unable to get free. “Not knowing that it is for our life”.

The concept of wisdom is personified as a wise woman calling from street to street – come to me and live.

The concept of folly is personified as the harlot, also seeking to ensnare and enslave humankind.

It isn’t about men versus women; it is about wisdom versus folly. Which one will you hear? Where will you turn in? Whose call will you answer?

If one has wisdom, one is protected from the woman “folly”.

(Proverbs 7:4-5) 4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding your nearest kin,

5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words.

This has far deeper application that simply keeping one from the allure of fornication.

As you read through these nine chapters, you see that Lady Wisdom actually delivers you from Lady Folly. One is the path of life and the other is the path of death.

Get wisdom.

And the wisdom of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. The wisdom of God is a person, our Lord Jesus, who call us to himself, fills us with his spirit so that the fruit of the spirit may be seen in us.

This is what Proverbs is about. Get wisdom, and your life will look different than if you remain in folly. One path ends in death and ruin. The other in life and prosperity.

So, all of that to say this: How does Proverbs end?

10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.

(Pro 31:10-11)

Perhaps Proverbs 31 isn’t about Lori Alexander at all. Maybe it isn’t even talking about the ideal Victorian “Proverbs 31 woman”.

I think that the compiler of the proverbs ended the book with this poem on purpose and that it isn’t random. Since the book opens with that sermon on the value of gaining wisdom, personified as “Lady Wisdom”; the book ends the same way. “Get wisdom. Her price is above rubies.”

As a brilliant poem, a metaphor of wisdom, with depth and beauty, the whole book is summed up. “Do you wish to be wise and understanding? Get wisdom.”

The book begins here:

13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
16 Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.
(Pro 3:13-18)

And ends here:

10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.

(Pro 31:10-11)

So the application is here – Nabal married a wise woman, but it did him no good, for he was a fool. He never married “wisdom”.

In order for you to prosper and no longer be a fool, you must marry wisdom. Wisdom will guard you from the Woman “Folly”.

So marry wisdom. Her price is above rubies.

Or, in New Testament terms – “Come unto me, and I will give you rest”.

Again, it is about Christ.

The Proverbs 31 woman is Christ. And you – whether man or woman or child – are called to marry her. The advantages are incalculable.

Of course, when you marry Christ, you begin to look like Christ. So the hard-working, kind, loving, honored, blessed, prosperous “woman” becomes your model to follow – but this isn’t just for women, for it isn’t just women who are called to follow Christ. This is for all who profess his name.

Most of the time, we need to lift our eyes a little higher. The gospel sets us free.

9 Comments

Filed under Gospel, Men and women, Wisdom

9 responses to “Proverbs 31 thoughts

  1. janetlynnem

    Brilliant!

  2. Amy

    Wow, very interesting! Not at all how I was taught Proverbs 31 as a new Christian. I never felt I could live up to that woman especially being married to an abusive man. Now I see it in a whole new light! Thank you!

  3. Beth

    Wisdom versus folly, for sure.

    But it also helps to do analysis of sexism. As a lot of what is made into religious practices is actually repackaged sexism.

    I attended a religious school as a child and the boys were largely sexist and misogynistic towards the girls. The male teacher I had clearly favored boys and saw girls as being inferior, lessor beings. Girls were to be quiet, contained, nicey-nice. The boys could do no wrong. Most of the boys displayed clear contempt towards the girls and did micro-aggressions pretty regularly. A girl felt inferior, lessor than to boys. She was more restricted and more judged. There were sex roles and it sexist practices were justified as being ‘natural’ but they weren’t natural, but rather sexism.

    I think it’s really hard for a man to know what a typical woman goes through each day.

    I don’t experience or see much wisdom in the great majority of men. I see it as a disfavor to women and girls to not talk about this reality and put the blame on sexist, misogynistic, (and thus foolish) society. Otherwise a girl who is lucky enough to grow up with good male relatives will be eaten alive by the world as an adult.

    Girls and women should be warned. Numbers and percentages say men are not that great. But for those who are male and are not predatory, sexist, violent, oppressive, jerks, then yes, they are walking in wisdom, but they are also extremely rare.

    There are a lot of sexist practices in churches, too.

    Sure analysis of wisdom versus folly is superior, but my analysis of men, oppression of women, misogyny, and sexism isn’t so terribly off, nor is it completely useless.

    I just know how bad my life has been at the hands of so many horrendous men, and I wish to warn other women and girls. Many times, those sheltered and lucky enough to be brought up in households where the men were God-fearing and not predatory, then they mistakenly believe such is normal, but it is not, because such is the exception, not the rule. Who is to blame? Innate characteristics of men? Certainly not. It’s wickedness, folly, every time and I see it more often than not, shown in men, not women.

    To say women and girls are targets is not contrary to your wisdom versus folly argument. In this world, women and girls are greater targets. Perhaps if women had all the power, women would be just as oppressive and violent and foolish. But women do not hold such power. And I just want girls and women to have better chances, to be more armed in this world.

    Just yesterday or so, JimmyHinton12 is the twitter handle, showed a clip of a pastor preaching in church, basically engaging in victim-blaming, saying how women’s dress is what causes men to rape and how women who are raped should be put in jail cells, too.

    So, my comments aren’t entirely off-based. The church has a lot of misogyny and sexism and victim-blaming (woman-blaming) in it and girls and women who grow up hearing this stuff might be all that much more prone to hate themselves rather than the perpetrator men (or boys) who victimized them.

    • Dear Beth. I am so sorry for all of your experiences. the Bible certainly teaches the total depravity of all of mankind, rather than the inherent goodness of mankind.
      It is a corrupt race from a corrupt stock, which is why Christ came into the world – to deliver us from our sin and misery.

      There is also a great deal of corruption in the visible church, as Jimmy Hinton and others have so ably pointed out.
      But the problem in the world isn’t sexism. If it were, the cure would be in education, power, and politics, and Christ would not have had to die.
      Get wisdom – means to come to Christ. In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
      It isn’t in men – power, and it isn’t in women – power, it is in Christ.
      And Christ always has his people, male and female, who ar united to him by faith and thus firstborns sons, whether they are male or female.

      Folly might manifest itself differently in men or women, based upon the power differential, but it is still folly. In the bible, folly (or wickedness) is neither a male trait, nor a female trait. It is a human trait, and it manifests itself in many different ways.

      But the fact remains that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
      The cure for sin is not a battle of the sexes. It is in Christ alone.

      • Interesting thoughts. I have often seen the Song if Songs interpreted as the relationship of Christ and His Bride, which makes an interesting counterpoint to Proverbs. In the Song if Songs, Christ is the Bridegroom, in Proverbs he is Wisdom personified as a woman – emphasizing that bothers male and female are in the image of God. I had not thought of Wisdom and Folly wholly in terms of Christ and sin, but I was aware that the song of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 was interpreted as referring to Christ, particularly in the section where it talks about Wisdom’s eternal existence with God in phraseaology remarkably similar to John’s opening words to his Gospel. Paul also makes reference to Christ being the Wisdom of God and then our Wisdom in I Corinthians 1:24 and 30.

      • (My first post was not intended to be a reply to anyone.) I just wished to observe here, as a woman, that you are right Sam, that sexism is not the ultimate problem. I work in a profession that has historically been and still is, dominated by women. The female managers still have the power to make their employees miserable and too many still exercise it. The historical structures, set up by women, of the profession make it very difficult for legitimate concerns to be heard and the average worker in the profession can frequently feel voiceless. Sin does not discriminate between male and female. Thankfully, neither does Christ.

      • Beth

        Yes, it is sin, depravity, and wickedness.

        I don’t believe in a battle of the sexes, but I do suspect separatism would probably be a good start to safeguard women and girls. There is a village in Kenya that did just that – women and girls only (and very young boys, I think). Not like the vast majority of men are about to stop being evil.

        Indeed, the Bible doesn’t teach in the goodness of men but rather just the opposite. It seems most church sermons give the exact opposite impression. I now have come to see such as being false teachings. They really mess a person’s perspective up. Just goes to show how desperately people need to do their own regular Bible reading and I don’t think a person can read Proverbs and Psalms enough.

        Things are so messed up. Happy day to you, Pastor. Thanks for taking the time to write your blog and interact with your readers. Blessed be you!

  4. Jennifer Bales

    Thank you .

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