Saturday, October 31, 2009


“This is my mom’s advice,” writes Lemuel, the king of Massa in Northern Arabia, an area thought to be settled by the Ishmaelites, He is the author of the famous chapter 31 of the book of Proverbs in our Bible.

We don’t know the name of the king’s mama, but she was very specific and wise in spelling out the best qualifications for the wife her son should look for. My question is, was she realistic?

The description of the ideal woman has long been held up as the high standard toward which we, as handmaids of the Lord, should try to attain. Translating it into modern terms, she seems to be a super woman who combines being an ideal wife with a large family and a career plus a business, no less. Add charm and beauty and faithfulness and godliness—whew! Yes, and she does it all without the gadgetry, technology, and modern appliances we have at our disposal. She even does her work by lamplight after the kids are in bed. Gosh! Then she gets up while it is still dark and makes the oatmeal for breakfast and goes to the Health Center to pursue an exercise program to boot!

She is a shrewd shopper with an eye for quality bargains. She goes to great lengths and great distances to get just the right items, particularly imports. She makes fashionable clothes for herself as well as for her children. The kids don’t follow other trends in their dress; they set the trends at school. Her designer clothes are so much in demand that she started a garment company to supply chic merchandise, particularly gold-studded belts, for export. Did I mention that she has a real estate license? She turns such a profit from her businesses that she invests in property to plant a vineyard with an eye to eventually building a winery. Imagine—she still has time for philanthropic involvement in charitable works especially for the poor and needy.

Apparently she is an expert in time management and human resources. Because of how generously she treats her household help, people clamor to get hired for work at her house. Would you believe, she sets aside hours in her Day-Timer for mentoring younger women who come to her home for advice. They spread the word about her wisdom and teaching so that there’s always a waiting list for counseling.

Of course, it’s a given that she has ideal husband! According to the grapevine, he comes straight home from work because he doesn’t have any reason for a wandering eye—look who he has at home! He trusts her implicitly and never worries about where she is or what she’s doing. (She obviously doesn’t have time to get into trouble anyway!) Probably she meets him at the door after she’s all showered and perfumed and dolled up and hands him his slippers and newspaper and a cold one. Evidently, her husband is prominent in the public arena and is well-known among his contemporaries in politics and affairs of state.

You should hear her kids talk about their mom around the neighborhood. They are echoing their dad who is always bragging on mom: “There are a lot of women out there, but she is the best!” Dad and the kids even organized a “surpraise” party for mom inviting hundreds of relatives and friends to laud and applaud her at a festive banquet in the City Gates Hilton. (v. 31)

So then—If you’ve been holding your breath throughout this description, it would be a good time to exhale. If you think I’ve been exaggerating or fictionizing, read Proverbs 31:10-31 for yourself and put it into the context of our modern times.

But don’t miss the punch line—read the second half of verse 30. She was above all a woman of faith in God. Her faith permeated her character and her work, all of what she was and did. Without her faith foundation and God’s enabling, she could not have been that capable. Her faith made it possible for her to “laugh at the days to come” (verse 25), or in another translation, “smile at the future.” The note explaining that verse says, “anticipates the future with gladness free from anxiety.” That is the focus of it all, literally the bottom line, and the touchstone of the life of this marvelous real-life woman.

(Let’s hope that King Lemuel found that special woman who fit his mom’s qualifications. May they truly have “lived happily ever after.”)

Where does that leave us women of the third millennium? Let’s be realistic. We are not all as gifted and skilled or capable, proficient, competent, and accomplished as the Proverbs 31 woman seemed to be. It would seem to be an impossible dream. Jesus gives us hope. He explained that some are given ten talents (measures of money or other gifts); some received five, some were given one. They are given. We are not responsible for what we have not been given, only for what we have received. God expects good stewardship of whatever resources and opportunities He Himself has granted us.

Faith in God is our foundation too. All else we build upon it. And as we build upon it a “gold and silver and precious stones” superstructure of life, (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) we too can “smile at the future” in confident trust in God. Moreover, we will find God smiling at us with pleasure and satisfaction and declaring, “Well done, good and faithful handmaiden! Enter into the joy of the Lord!”


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