Proverbs 31 is one of those chapters that, if you’re a woman, you’ve heard taught on roughly 1.2 million times. This chapter has sparked countless Bible study curriculums, sermons, and organizations for women who are seeking to live a godly life. We focus on the characteristics of the woman listed in this chapter and how to cultivate them in our lives. So many women seek to be like the Proverbs 31 woman, which is great, but I have always been more fascinated by the origin of this particular story.
The Proverbs 31 woman is honored today because an unnamed woman taught these important characteristics to others.
“The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Do not spend your strength on women,
your vigor on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:1-9 (NIV)
Lemuel’s mother focused on three areas: who we associate with, what we’re addicted to, and how to respond to those with less than us. While she was focused on teaching the future King how to live and govern, I believe these lessons are just as applicable to us today.
Our Associations (v. 3)
It’s been said many times that those we spend the most time with are the ones we end up being the most like. We are always influencing those around us and they are also influencing us as well. This is true even in the digital age—what accounts do you spend the most time looking at? What blogs do you read? Who do you follow? It’s likely that those are the voices that are influencing who you are becoming.
Are there any life-giving associations that God might be calling you to lean into?
Or any associations he might be inviting you to gain some distance from?
Our Addictions (v. 4-7)
We’re all addicted to something (maybe even more than one something), it might just look a little different from person to person. I tend to be addicted to my work, focusing all of my effort and energy on that instead of caring for myself or connecting with people. This addiction to work, achievement, and success is something that I have to constantly keep in check or else it can spiral out of control. This workaholism isn’t fitting for a child of God, so I must choose submission instead.
Is there anything that you’re addicted to, whether socially acceptable or not, that God might be asking you to lay down?
Our Overflow (v. 8-9)
There’s always someone who has less than we currently do. Even if we’re not the richest person in the world or neighborhood, there is always something else that we can offer. There are so many different types of poverty in this world right now.
Can you offer hope or joy to the emotionally poor?
Or time to the one who is spiritually poor?
Or knowledge to the one who might be poor in understanding?
I believe that we have all have something that we can give to someone who has less than us, sometimes we just need to get creative about it.
Is there anything that you can give to someone else who has less than you?
I’m so grateful for the wisdom that King Lemuel’s mother shared with her son and with all of us. This woman, though unnamed in the Bible, has led to life-change in millions of people’s lives throughout the history of humankind. I hope and pray that all of us will be as wise as she was and freely share that wisdom with those around us.