Motherhood: God’s Plan (Proverbs 31: 1, 11-31)
A Wife of Noble Character
1 The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him. Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship bringing her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is energetic and strong and a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fibre.
She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm (scarlet) clothes. She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
Her husband is well known at the city gates where he sits with the other civic leaders.
She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.
She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world but you surpass them all!”
Charm is deceptive and beauty does not last but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Ladies… when you heard today’s Bible reading, did you think: “Horrors! I can never live up to that ideal!”
Husbands… Did you think: “My wife falls a long way short of that description!”
Children… Did you think: “Eh! Is that my Mum!”
Don’t despair! There is hope for all of us! Read on…
Who is your favourite mother? Is it your own or someone else’s!
- Most people say, “My Mum!”
- Some people say, “Mother Teresa” or “Mary, mother of Jesus”
I can’t pretend that my mother was the ideal Mum!
- But she was my birth mother, so deserves some respect
- After she disappeared off the scene, my aunt became like a mother to me … and my Dad remarried a lovely lady, who became my step-mother, though I was an adult by that time
- Did any of my three “mothers” live up to the ideal woman described in Proverbs 31? Of course not!
There are 3 basic points to note about motherhood:
- There is more to being a mother than bearing a child!
- Occasionally, I see young mothers with their babies, treating them like another ‘accessory’ or a trophy to show off and put on display!
- Incidentally, why do a minority of young fathers look and behave like overgrown adolescents and not like men?
I’m exaggerating a little… but I think you’ll recognise the picture!
- Most women/parents are devoted to their children and willing to sacrifice a great deal to ensure their safety & wellbeing…but having a lovely baby does not automatically produce a good mother (or father)
A former colleague of mine was telling me that his daughter was a strong feminist and into “women’s rights”… He was quite anxious when she married and had two children… but he said she’s become a ‘wonderful Mum’ and her whole attitude has been transformed!
- Mothers do their best but fall short of perfection!
- My mother failed quite badly … but while she was around, she was hard working, clean and tidy… and taught me a lot… She looked after me well so, like all of us, she had strengths and failings
As parents, we are all acutely aware of our shortcomings… but be encouraged because God works everything for good in those who love Him and try to keep His commands… despite their weaknesses
- And there’s another reason for mothers to be hopeful…
- When all is said and done, every Mum is “the best”
- Just like every baby is the best to his or her parents!
- My Dad used to say that he wished that he could have done so much more for his mother but he was never in a financial position to help her until it was too late.
- Even into his late 90s, he would refer to his mother in glowing terms as “the best”
- And Mums, despite your failings, long after you have taken your final breath, your children will be saying the same about you!
And to those ‘children’ whose parents are still alive, I say: “Cherish them. You won’t have them for ever!”
So what does the Bible say about being a mother?
- A mother should have a husband…
- It is often the case today that women live with a ‘partner’ before having children… and may (or may not) subsequently get married
However, in Genesis 2: 24, we read that the creation of Eve was to be a wife for Adam: This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
- Sometimes, a baby is born ‘out of wedlock’… it has happened down the centuries and about half of all babies are born that way today! However, the enormous rise in the number of “single Mums” has led to many children being raised without a Dad or a stable male figure in their lives (e.g. street in Wales without one male)
I have heard people say: “Children were without fathers during the War and they seemed to survive okay”… But families were much more closely knit and usually lived within walking distance of one another, so there were other male role models around.
The single most important reason for marriage between a man and a woman is that it forms an integral part of God’s plan for the human race
- The church is described as ‘the bride of Christ’.
- Some ministers refuse to marry a couple that are living together… Although I respect that point of view, I believe that it is a mistake… Marriage is an integral part of God’s plan and purpose and should be encouraged, even if the circumstances are not ideal.
- A mother’s primary duty is the care and nurture of her children and supporting her husband… helping him to be a good father and a successful head of the family
- We men need your encouragement and trust…
- I once heard a woman respond to this point by saying: “If you think I’m going to spend my time massaging his ego, you’ve got another think coming!” How foolish!
But Paul explains that both wife and husband have serious responsibilities in a marriage:
- The woman to support her husband… the husband to love his wife
- And remember that the husband being described as “head” of the household does not indicate ‘superiority’… it is primarily about sacrifice and serving!
Someone has amusingly summarised the situation as follows: ‘Happy wife; happy life’
Mothers have a tough job… They normally have the main responsibility for looking after the children, organising the household and supporting their husbands… and many have to go out to work, too!
- Husband… Are you appreciating your wife? Are you ensuring that you are playing your part in demonstrating your love for her by encouraging her and putting her needs before your own?
It is my strong and genuine impression that the vast majority of Christian women do a marvellous job… every mother deserves a medal!
- But no one gets it right all the time! We need to walk in close communion with God and take advice from more experienced ladies, including our own mums, who have been there and done it!
- A mother must provide spiritual guidance, as well as practical help…
- Sticking plasters on damaged elbows and drying children’s tears are important aspects of motherhood … but mothers who demonstrate trust in the Lord, the power of prayer and a loving concern for others set a strong example for children to follow.
We read about Timothy in the NT, whose mother and grandmother were powerful spiritual influences on him.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1 v 5…
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
- How wonderful! What a legacy those two ladies left the world!
Helping children and young people towards a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ is a delicate task and responsibility…
- Parents can sometimes be too eager to see their children follow Christ … but better to be too eager than to neglect our responsibility to “teach our children the way that they should go”
Proverbs 31 was written by a man… but he was repeating the advice given to him by his Mum! The introduction to Proverb 31 states that these are “the sayings of King Lemuel — an oracle that his mother taught him.”
- So blame the mother, not the son!
An oracle was a female priest who gave wise but often mysterious advice from “a divine being”… In this case, from the One True God, Jehovah
- The ‘perfect’ woman described in the proverb had many qualities: family centred; good businesswoman; great cook; generous; well organised; discreet; praiseworthy; wise and beautiful.
- However, there are three other key qualities mentioned in the proverb: kindly; assisting the poor; and trusting God for the future.
You might feel in despair because you fall short of the ideal woman… Well, here’s the good news! None of the mothers in the Bible were perfect … but God brought about good, despite their imperfections
To underline the point, let’s look briefly at the most famous mother in the world: Mary, mother of Jesus (later, mother of other ‘natural’ children)
Mary did well in coping with many difficult challenges in her life as a “young Mum”…
- She believed what God told her through the angel
- She accepted God’s will for her life
- She coped with having to leave home and live abroad for a time
- She nurtured Jesus and gave Him a spiritually secure upbringing
BUT Mary was not the perfect person that many people revere…
- She failed to grasp who Jesus really was and His mission on earth
- She doubted His sanity for a time and tried to persuade Him to “come home” and end His ministry
- She tried to dissuade Him from pursuing the road to Calvary
Nevertheless, after all these ups and downs…
- We find Mary in the right place… at the foot of the Cross
And whatever our situation or status…mother, father, male, female, married, single, young, middle-aged, senior, parent or childless… Mary’s example, being “at the foot of the cross” is the one we need to follow…
- We have all fallen short of God’s standard in our lives…
- But the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin and God knows your heart
Happy Mother’s Day!