Proverbs 31:1-31 Lessons to Learn From A GREAT Mother
One day four preachers were talking about various translations of the Bible. One said, “I prefer the King James Version of the Bible” for its eloquent use of the English language.” Another preacher said no Bible could match the New American Standard for its faithfulness to the original Greek and Hebrew text. “The third said, “I prefer the New International Version for its contemporary language and easy readability.” There was a period of silence, and then the fourth preacher said, “I like my mother’s translation best.” It was with some surprise that the others said: “We didn’t know that your mother had translated the Bible.” “Yes, she did,” he replied. “She translated it into her daily life, and it was through her translation that I came to faith.”1
I want to share with you lessons we can all learn from a great mother. Using the passage from Proverbs 31 as a template, I want us to explore the lessons that every mother teaches us. I realize that Proverbs 31 is used by many people to describe the “excellent woman.” But do you realize that the person who was teaching us about the “excellent woman” was a woman. King Lemuel may have written these words down, but they came from his mother.
“The words of King Lemuel, an oracle that his mother taught him:” (Proverbs 31:1, HCSB)
King Lemuel was most likely another name for Solomon. If that is the case, then Bathsheba was the mother who was teaching Solomon. From her personal experience, she drew out three lessons which she thought was important for him to learn.
THREE IMPORTANT LESSONS MOTHERS CAN TEACH US ABOUT LIFE
1. Relationships (Women)
“What should I say, my son? What, son of my womb? What, son of my vows? Don’t spend your energy on women or your efforts on those who destroy kings.” (Proverbs 31:2–3, HCSB)
If Lemuel is Solomon and Bathsheba is his mother, then she clearly knows about the good and bad in relationships. She knows how difficult it can be to develop great relationships. She may even be aware of the many wives and mistresses that Solomon had.
2. Distractions (Wine)
“It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers to desire beer. Otherwise, they will drink, forget what is decreed, and pervert justice for all the oppressed.” (Proverbs 31:4–5, HCSB)
The second lesson which Lemuel’s mother taught him was the lesson about focus. She warned him about distractions, like alcohol. Distractions can prevent a person from focusing on what is important. In the case of Lemuel, it was looking out for the interest of justice for those who need it.
“Give beer to one who is dying and wine to one whose life is bitter. Let him drink so that he can forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.” (Proverbs 31:6–7, HCSB)
The use of wine in biblical times, was both for intoxication and for medicinal purposes. Drinking wine and other strong drink to become intoxicated, or drunken, was condemned. But in a day when there were only a few effective medications, wine was used as a sedative to ease the suffering of the dying. It was also recommended for those who were mentally depressed. Of course, it must not have been effective all of the time, as medicine today. Addiction to alcoholic wine must have been rather common, since the Bible contains repeated warnings against its use.2
3. Influence (Wisdom)
“Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8–9, HCSB)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer considered ministry of the church to include to people who victims of violence and injustice. He quoted from Proverbs 31:8 very often. He once said:
“[The] Old Testament still demands justice from the state. [The] New Testament no longer does so. Without asking about justice or injustice, the church accepts the suffering, all who have been abandoned, all parties and classes. “Speak out for those who cannot speak.” Perhaps here the decision of whether we [are] still a church.”3
Although he never states the influence directly, Bonhoeffer was close to his mother. This compassion for the less fortunate strongly comes from her influence. Mothers can have influence in our lives and that influence is to be used to positively influence others.
Then the chapter turns from advice about life to advice about mothers. How should a mother be? Here, Solomon’s mother lists (probably from her own experience) five characteristics of great mothers.
This final section of Proverbs is an acrostic poem exalting a noble wife. Each of the 22 verses begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.4
I have used the acronym GREAT to outline them. Let me share with you characteristics of great mothers.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GREAT MOTHERS
Good relationship with her husband (Proverbs 31:10-12)
“Who can find a capable wife? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. She rewards him with good, not evil, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10–12, HCSB)
A great mother is first a great wife. This mother is able to support her children because she supports her husband.
Resourceful (Proverbs 31:13-19)
She works hard. She is able to work with many things and do many jobs.
Entrepreneur (Proverbs 31:24)
“She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts to the merchants.” (Proverbs 31:24, HCSB)
She is respected because she is able to start her own business, run her own farm, or develop her own market. She works not just at home, but in the community.
Administrator (Proverbs 31:20-23)
“Her hands reach out to the poor, and she extends her hands to the needy. She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed. She makes her own bed coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known at the city gates, where he sits among the elders of the land.” (Proverbs 31:20–23, HCSB)
As an administrator, a great shows the characteristics of a HOST:
CHARACTERISTICS OF A MOTHERLY HOST:
“Her hands reach out to the poor, and she extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20, HCSB)
She reaches out to the poor. She helps the needy. She shows hospitality to everyone in need.
“She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed.” (Proverbs 31:21, HCSB)
In my home, the mother is the organizer. She gives me a “honey-do” list every day. She organizes the clothes and has jobs for each of the children. She organizes the clothes, the food, anything that is necessary to keep the family healthy and going well.
“She makes her own bed coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” (Proverbs 31:22, HCSB)
She makes things. She is able to take what she has and put them into good use.
“Her husband is known at the city gates, where he sits among the elders of the land.” (Proverbs 31:23, HCSB)
She is trustworthy. He husband is respected in the city. Her family has a good name.
Treasure (Proverbs 31:27-31)
“She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her: “Many women are capable, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.” (Proverbs 31:27–31, HCSB)
Her family looks up to her. They see her as their treasure. She is extremely valuable to the family. You see that in the way they respect her.
In Sports Spectrum Harold Reynolds, ESPN baseball analyst and one-time all-star second baseman for the Seattle Mariners, writes:
When I was growing up in Corvallis, Oregon, there was an NBA player named Gus Williams. Gus tied his shoes in back instead of in front like normal. I thought that was so cool. So I started tying my shoes in the back. I wanted to be like Gus. He wore number 10; I wore number 10. He wore one wrist band; I wore one wrist band.
One day I was lying in bed and my stomach was killing me. I noticed that it wasn’t my sports hero, Gus Williams, who came to my room to take care of me.
It was my mother.
That’s when I began to understand the difference between heroes and role models. I stopped looking at athletic accomplishments to determine who I wanted to pattern my life after. Instead, I tried to emulate people with strong character who were doing things of lasting value.
Whom we look up to largely determines who we become. Choose your heroes well.5
1 Bill Dudley, “Preachers Only” Group message, Facebook, Internet, 5 May 2016, accessed on 5 May 2016.
2 Conrad R. Willard, “Proverbs,” in The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, ed. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 376.
3 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935–1937, ed. Victoria J. Barnett and Barbara Wojhoski, trans. Douglas W. Stott, vol. 14, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013), 433.
4 John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 972.
5 Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers & Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 466–467.