Okay. SO I was focused in church last week and something the pastor said in passing got to me. He was expounding on the Proverbs 31 woman in light of Mother’s Day, and for the first time I realized that contrary to public perception, that verse isn’t just about the Virtuous woman, but also talks about the Man, as he’s meant to be, in the position God meant for him to occupy. I know that virtually all women who have stepped into the hallowed halls of a church have come across this passage at some time or the other and would agree that it’s a standard worth living up to, but most men usually gloss over it at the starting, or only read it at some time or the other to point out what some female in his life lacks. Today we’re turning the tables, and our Bibles, to a new take on Proverbs 31.
Now, just as the Bible was revealed and written for all Mankind, this passage is no exception. The second part is actually the part which focuses on telling all and sundry (including – or maybe especially – men) how to identify the Proverbs 31 woman by her multitude of virtues, while the first part addresses men, giving us a glimpse at what is expected of the Proverbs 31 man.
These are some of the important lessons I learnt from the Proverbs 31 man:
King Lemuel, the originator of this particular chapter, in no small part, learnt these nuggets of wisdom at his mother’s knee. It painted a picture of a powerful ruler who did not forget the wise words taught to him by his mother when he was yet a child. This tells me that:
- A man has so much to gain when he submits himself to counsel from his seniors. I can just imagine little boy Lemuel struggling to understand the words his mother was telling him, wondering why she was talking so much about things he could barely understand at that point, but he still sat there long enough to imbibe that wisdom. A truant child wouldn’t have sat still for that length of time to even listen to wisdom, thoughtless of remembering and cherishing it long enough to pen it down later years after so that it can be a blessing to all of us still in this age!
- A child could have decided not to pay attention to the import of concepts he barely understood anyway then, but Lemuel still internalized those words until a time later when he could express and apply them to his life. Sometimes wisdom may seem to be ‘aimed’ at a vague someone else not present so it’s easy to shrug it off until something more ‘more tailored’ to you comes along. The thing about Life, however, is that you never know what piece of knowledge you come across will become relevant to you someday (Proverbs 4:7 – “…in all your getting, get understanding…” – it did not specify ‘which’ type of understanding to get 😉 ) Don’t back away from ‘difficult’ concepts.
She refers to him as her “…son, whom [she has] dedicated to the Lord”. A Proverbs 31 man should be dedicated to the Lord.
‘Dedicate’ (verb) devote to a subject, task, or purpose
It really doesn’t make sense for a Proverbs 31 woman to find herself linked to a man who doesn’t have the capacity to nurture her and cause her to be the best version of herself that she can be. Ask as many married couples as you can – you’ll come to realise that a man dedicated to the Lord can never fail to be dedicated to his wife and family. New wine in old skins will cause it to burst – a Proverbs 31 man has the capacity for a Proverbs 31 woman because he has dedicated himself to the Lord.
I find it particularly interesting that her first piece of advice to her son was, “Give not thy strength unto women…” Someone once posited that if a man were to fall, it would be through one of the 3 W’s – Wine, Wealth, or Woman – of which Woman is the most deadly. A woman is one of, if not the most powerful determinant of a man’s course on earth here, second only to God.
Because she’s also human, however, and exercises free will – herself also being made in God’s image – she can be either a blessing or a curse to said man. There’s no middle way. Keeping this in mind, a Proverbs 31 man has to be careful of the women who he spends his time with and how he deals with them. Character, position, money or ‘game’ may cause women to be attracted to any man but the Proverbs 31 man is called to exert self-control and wisdom in his dealings with them.
Now, imagine my surprise when the queen mother makes an impassioned plea in verse 4 against alcoholism, “…it is not for kings, O Lemuel, to drink wine and whiskey”. At the risk of alienating a number of friends of mine, I’d like to throw my weight behind this particular one. “Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted”, she continues. Being a Proverbs 31 man sets you up in a position of authority and stewardship. Your responsibilities and dependants grow exponentially as you progress in life – you cannot afford to mess up. There’s virtually no way you can expect to be a ruler for real, and a slave to the bottle at the same time. The Proverbs 31 man is a Ruler who cannot in any way be a slave to anything so potentially damning.
The Proverbs 31 man is called to stand always in defence of those who cannot defend themselves. It’s not enough for him to not be the direct cause of the distress to the downtrodden, but he also has to be interested in getting them justice. So folding his arms and looking the other way is never an option either.
One other interesting thing that recently dawned on me was that the description of the Proverbs 31 wife starts with her discovery by a man….hopefully a Proverbs 31 man.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” (NIV)
“If you can find a truly good wife, she is worth more than precious gems!” (TLB)
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” (KJV)
“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.” (NLT)
The fact that the word ‘find’ is used in every instance is not lost on me. A search is implied, which indirectly tells me that she is not easily attained. It almost feels as if King Lemuel’s mother was giving her son a cheat sheet on finding the right woman to be his wife because she knew what sort of feat it would turn out to be when the time came. Any man can marry a woman really, but only a truly blessed man finds a wife – and that, is the Proverbs 31 man’s aim.
Sad that it should be said but, not every woman is suited to be a wife, and definitely not for the Proverbs 31 man. A wife is a blessing to him, just as he becomes a blessing to her as he is utterly convinced that she is good for him and loyal to him through thick and thin.
In fact, in the true nature of a Proverbs 31 man, he nurtures her, encourages her, and “…praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
The Proverbs 31 man is never intimidated by his wife’s shining star because he knows that the extent to which she will go to shine is all for his own good. Her success is his success, her achievements are his achievements, her glory is his glory. He doesn’t feel any lesser than her because he brings home a smaller paycheck because he knows that a person’s true worth has nothing to do with the bottom-line of his bank account.
Probably one most pertinent reason why he has to find her in the beginning, is because she’s already busy making the most of herself before he even shows up on the scene.
Make no mistake of it, she doesn’t look up to him for validation or a sense of worth though – that honour is reserved for her God.
And the last thing the Proverbs 31 man would do is anything to damage that relationship of hers with God. Priest of the family himself, he’s subject to the High Priest in every way, allowing her to provide the support she was uniquely made to shoulder.
The Proverbs 31 man challenges me as a man, and a Christian for that matter, to stand up and be counted. He’s like a mirror, showing me where I’m deficient and where I excel, coaxing me onward unto a higher plane of life for as long as I inhabit this physical world.
It’s scary at times to look at yourself through that chapter, because it shows you as you really are – flaws & all – but it’s always worth it. Man up and allow Proverbs 31 to critically assess your image today – you won’t remain the same, one way or another, I promise you.
Be a man…a Proverbs 31 man.