Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me! I promise this isn’t about what you think it is.
For as long as I can remember, Proverbs 31 has been used to teach about the “wife of noble character.” In fairness, that’s what verses 10-31 are about. So I can’t really be mad about people using scripture to teach what the scripture says. It’s a good thing.
The first nine verses of Proverbs 31 are quite clearly directed to a man. A king—King Lemuel. “An oracle that his mother taught him… (verse 1b)” Yet for some reason, in our reading, we direct our tone specifically towards women once we get to verse 10.
Let me reiterate: Proverbs 31:10-31 clearly describes the characteristics of the type of God fearing woman King Lemmy’s mama wanted for him. It’s a great model to follow! But there are directives for men in here that tend to get overlooked.
First off, if you read verse 2 through different eyes, it kinda seems as if lil’ Lem-Lem is getting sonned by his mother. She literally hits him with the “Oh no baby, what is you doin’?!”
It suggests, to me, that at one point—maybe when he was still just a prince—Lemmy wasn’t quite living up to the standards the queen oracle had raised him by. So now, as a king who has learned the value of his mother’s teaching, he pens these words for us to learn and live by.
Here are 7 characteristics of the type of man who is fit to be king and worthy of the woman described:
Self Controlled & Discerning
Proverbs 31:3 | “Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings.”
Men should exercise self control and discernment. It’s fair and reasonable for men who desire to have a wife to be men who like women. If you want a wife, please like women. But our appetite for women should not be so out of control that we give away our strength and wealth to just any and all women. Know your worth, king!
A godly woman probably isn’t going to want a man who has been with or thrown dollars at every-female-body. Save some of that energy for your wife.
And this isn’t just about the type or number of women we entangle ourselves with. This is about the company we keep too. As men, we must surround ourselves with the right kind of relationships.
Sober-minded & Socially Aware
Proverbs 31:4-5 | “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.”
We already know that the Bible does not wholly condemn drinking alcohol. What we need to consider, for ourselves, is what is reasonable. If we “crave” alcohol, then alcohol has a hold on us. The caution here isn’t so much about the drink as it is the effects.
When we’re not sober-minded (or simply sober) the likelihood of us losing sight of what is right increases. When we lose sight of what is right, we tend to go left. When we lose sight of what is right for others, we become selfish and self-centered. Then we grow more inclined to deprive those who carry less privilege than us their rights.
The ESV says “…pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” Perversion comes in more than one form.
Proverbs 31:8-9 | “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.”
Men who follow Jesus should be advocates for those who have less of a voice than we do (or no voice at all). When you have access or advantage, leverage it for those who do not. That’s what Jesus did! We are only able to access the throne of grace with confidence because of the access He granted us (Hebrews 4:16).
Jesus is our great high priest! Prior to Jesus, and in all of the Old Testament, only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies—the inner-most room of the Tabernacle and Temple. This is the place beyond the veil. When Jesus died, the veil was torn—granting access to all who would come through Jesus: the new and great high priest.
The Proverbs 31 man tears down barriers and grants equitable access to those who don’t have it.
Proverbs 31:11 | “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”
The ESV says it this way: “The heart of her husband trusts in her…”
Where is your heart? As men, we need to have a level of security in our hearts that allows us to trust others; especially the woman we call wife. Trust does not withhold. Trust grants access and gives freely. The dictionary says that trust is a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone…” Trust and confidence are built on belief.
What do you believe about women? What you believe about yourself and about women will inform how you present in society and in relationships.
Proverbs 31:23 | “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”
Have some business. I didn’t say have “a” business lol you don’t have to be self-employed or somebody’s boss. But have some business tho… And handle your business well.
The way cities were constructed in the region and during the time period these scriptures were written, the business of the city was conducted in the gates. There were seats at the gates of a city where the town elders would sit and make judgements on civil issues.
The reputation we build in our own circles and places of business is our responsibility. Men desire to be respected in our homes. Before we ever have a home to be respected in, we’ve got a reputation in the streets. Handle that.
honoring & Affirming
Proverbs 31:28-29 | “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'”
Men carry the responsibility of demonstrating honor in our homes and to our families. While every woman’s love language may not be Words of Affirmation, the kind of man King Lemuel’s mom told him he should be is one who affirms his wife. The kids do because he does.
If you’re churchy, you know some modified King James version of Psalm 34:1-3. C’mon, say it with me…
“…I will bless the Lord at ALL times and His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make BOAST in the Lord; the humble shall hear it and be blessed!”
“…OH MAGNIFY THE LORD WITH ME…LET US EXALT….”
I knew you were churchy.
That “make boast” is the same word (in Hebrew) used in Proverbs 31:28 for “praise.” The P31 woman has a husband who makes boast of her!
Please Note: The word “wife” and “woman” are often interchangeable in the Old Testament.
Supportive, Not Suppressive
Proverbs 31:31 | “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
There was a time, not so long ago, that women could not open bank accounts in their own name. They couldn’t make a withdrawal without their husband’s consent and authorization. In order for a woman’s word or work to have any worth, it had to be co-signed by a man. We gotta keep that trash in the past!
A man who is fit to be king and worthy of the proverbial wife of noble character is one who doesn’t suppress women, but supports them. So what if she makes more money than you. Who cares that her chosen profession resulted in her having more degrees than you. Don’t nobody care about you paying the setup costs for her LLC. Support that woman and let her shine!
In the words of Sean “Puff Daddy aka Diddy aka Puffy aka P. Diddy” Combs (or Jadakiss):
“The sun don’t shine forever, but as long as it’s here then we might as well shine together.”
It is a good and great thing to encourage, teach, and inspire women to follow the biblical model of the Proverbs 31 woman. Let’s just be sure we don’t get so caught up in telling women what to do that we fail to become the Proverbs 31 son.
Keith Goosby II is the founding minister of NET Church. He has served in ministry for over 20 years, in various capacities–including music, social media management, teaching, preaching, consulting, and leadership. Keith’s first church experience as a child was a home church. Since then, he has attended and served at churches sizing from just a few to over 10,000–of various denominations and affiliations. As NET Church is being planted, Keith continues to serve at his Dallas home church, Golden Gate MBC, in Dallas, TX, under the leadership of Minister Vincent T. Parker. Keith is married and currently lives in the Dallas area with his wife and three sons.