Mind your wife (or your mother)
- Ephesians 5:22-32
- Proverbs 31:10-31
They say it’s Mother’s day, and we need a day like this. But for the church Christ every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Every sermon should be about Him and his work of salvation. Every worship service should bring honour to God in the first instance; that’s our chief aim in life. But, even on a day like today, we want to thank God for our mothers. We want to bring Him thanks for having mothers who love, care and live by example. So wen we read Proverbs 31 about the Excellent Mother we need to look further. We might be surprised to see that mothers, how much we love and adore them (and we should!), should be loved and adored through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – the wisdom of God.
Let’s learn from a man who knew women far better than anyone on the face of the earth. We can say this because all up he had 1,000 of them – 700 wives in his harem, and another 300 as concubines, more or less the slaves of the wives he had.
(Was he really wise having a thousand? Must be; there are times I yearn for more wisdom to really understand the one I have! Not really, she is a gift from God, and I truly love and adore her.)
Solomon wrote the best part of Proverbs and has quite a few things to say about a wife:
A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. (Proverbs 12:4, NIV) He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22, NIV) Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. (Proverbs 19:13–14, NIV)
There are also a few negative things about a wife:
Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9; 25-24, NIV) A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; (Proverbs 27:15, NIV)
So, Solomon makes it very clear that we need to be careful when it comes to the the choice of who we marry: is it God’s choice for us? Further, how we live with them. It is of the outmost importance to make sure that we marry within the will and providence of the Lord. It flows then that a man needs to do whatever in his power to keep his wife happy, and (of course) vice versa – marriage is after all a partnership, requiring two people to make it work. Who wants to live on a corner of a roof instead of inside the house! Who wants to live in a house with a leaky roof in a rainstorm! We will do whatever we can to avoid it. This calls for wisdom. Happy wives means happy marriages and happy families. To be fair, the same can be said about husbands.
When it comes to wives being mothers, Solomon also had a few things to say too:
A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1, NIV) A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. (Proverbs 15:20, NIV) Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace. (Proverbs 19:26, NIV) If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness. (Proverbs 20:20, NIV)
Once again the point here is to be wise, to make the right choices and bring joy to the heart of a father and mother. The best gift any child can give their mother is to be wise and to follow the Lord with a complete heart. Yes, sending roses and cards, buying gifts and making telephone calls are all important.
To tell our mothers that we love them is of utmost importance, but to tell our mothers or wives that we love them because we love the Lord would be the best news.
There are many mothers who weep for their children – the children of the verses we heard today: they are foolish, they set their hearts on the wrong things, they chose bad friends and put their hopes on the things of this word. When evening comes the mother would open her heart and pour out her grief before God for a child who lost direction. Many mothers fear to openly move around in their circle of friends because of ridicule for her son’s bad life-choices.
How many times have I sat and prayed with mothers who weep for their wayward children. How many times have I listened to the heartbreaking story and hurt of a mother who can’t sleep out of concern for her children.
Today is perhaps just the occasion to make things right between you and God and then tell your mother about it. Confessing towards God and then confessing to mother (and dad) for despising the teaching and example they set. Or perhaps today might be the best day and opportunity, if she does not know the Lord yet herself, to tell her about Christ, pray for her and with her.
The excellent wife
Let’s now turn to Proverbs 31. I look at this chapter and I remember my mother. Mom was not perfect, but to us she was a gift from God. She was indeed noble, and a woman of strength. Let’s go quickly through this chapter again:
This wife’s husband had confidence in her. This was not only a “for-better-and-for-worse-thing”. This word expresses that sense of well-being and security which results from having something or someone in whom to place confidence. It conveys something or reliability. some place it is translated as “hope”. It is that sense of “all is well”, the feeling of being safe or secure; trust; contentment, fulfilment. Something in the original verse speaks of no need for plunder – take what belongs to others. The truely happily married husband has no need to wander into the paddock of his neigbour – his own wife is all-satisfying. His wife greatly enriches his life. The noble wife supports her man who manages the land. He is well-known in the gates of the city among the civic leaders. She spurs him on to serve in his community with integrity. She brings him good: her love and companionship is to him a recompense and reward. Where this word is used elsewhere in the Bible it is contrasted with harm. If conveys the nurture of a mother who breastfeeds a baby up to the point when she weans it.
She is wise, industrious, and clever. She works hard and provides for her family like a lioness looks after her cubs. She gives instructions to her servants – she has everything in control as she plans the day. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker (she girds her loins with strength, an expression which is through the Scriptures reserved for soldiers.
When she speaks, her words are wise, she gives instructions (torah) with kindness. She carefully watches over everything in her household. She is not lazy in her care and provision for her family. She inspects a field, she acquires it with the fruit of her hand (actually, palms). She complements her food she grows and prepares with wine.She makes sure (tastes) her business dealing are profitable.
She is a discerning and wise women. She spins wool for clothing for her family – she provides clothing for her family. When she is done with the care of her own family her care spills over into the community. She cares for her community and the poor. Her family is looked after in cold weather. the reference in verse 21 to scarlet scarlet is reference of well-being and with luxury. There is something in the original that talks about double layered clothes which protects against the cold of winter. There is more than enough from the clothes she makes so that she can trade with it. She herself is clothed with dignity, she laughs without fear of the future.
She knows well charm is deceptive and beauty does not last. The fear of the Lord surpasses them all, and that is what instills in her family: true values that will last. She makes her children happy, and they called her blessed for it. They return her dedication with likewise love and dedication. She is their tree of life. She is best of the best: the best wife, the best mother, the best friend, the bast companion.
This is the woman we want to reward her for all she has done. Her deeds publicly declare her praise. We thank God for our mothers.
Mothers as wisdom examples
Maybe somewhere through this chapter some mothers here today felt a bit like the boy at the funeral of his father. In the eulogy his father was praised for all the things he did and how well he did it. In reality he was a lousy husband and father. So this little fellow poked his mom and said, “Let’s go Mom. I think we are at the wrong funeral.”
Let’s face it, not all mothers can ever display all the qualities of Proverbs 31. And if you feel a bit guilty about certain things you don’t do or never achieve as mother, for a moment just sit back and relax.
I believe this chapter tells us something very important: mothers can be a wonderful example of wisdom – that wisdom which is also described as a woman in Proverbs. By living out the fear of the Lord and knowing Him and following Him, being satisfied in Him, expecting all good from Him, looking up away from earthly wisdom and riches, the wise mother exemplifies wisdom and attracts her family to wisdom which became her only goal and purpose in live. This same applies to the menfolk as husbands and fathers. Of wisdom is said about the same which is said about the excellent and noble wife of chapter 31.
Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. (Job 28:18, NIV)
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 3:15, NIV)
… for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:11, NIV)
So, in the final analysis, our mothers are not the measuring stick or the benchmark of what is perfect life. Like we heard last week:
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. (Proverbs 4:6–8, NIV)
To despise wisdom is to love the other woman, the bad one with loose morals. She is also dressed in fine linen; but she looks and acts like a prostitute. She destroys and her paths lead to death.
Wisdom will reward us in the same way as our mothers do when we put our minds and hearts to loving wisdom and be wise. We will be looked after, we will be clothed and fed, we will be satisfied and safe when we are wise and love Gods’ wisdom revealed in his Word and made know to us by his Son. This is the ultimate lessen of Proverbs 31.
We follow our earthly mother’s example to love wisdom. It this, the calling of a mother is extremely high. But ultimately we hear the call of wisdom which leads us to God. We hear the call of the Gospel of Christ which leads us to God. We follow Him who makes us wise to now live as wise people to please God, glorify Him and think his thoughts after Him. We listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit who takes the Word and writes it in our heart so that we will know to turn from the folly of the world and set our minds on Christ.
The church as the bride of Christ
Just a final thought: the church is the bride of Christ. Our relationship with Him will be consummated at his coming when we will live with Him into all eternity. But it seems reasonable to think that the perfect wife of Proverbs 31 should also apply to the church: our example of service to our Lord, service to our community, hard work and integrity, our dependence upon Christ, and making his Name great in this world, living wisely making clever choices, should be as attractive to those living around us so that they will be drawn into a relationship with Him who call us his bride.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:21–33, NIV)
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:1–7, NIV)
Make God give us the wisdom to live like his church bride on earth. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 10 May 2015