Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 14, 2006
The Characteristics of a Godly Woman
Happy Mothers Day to you. We are glad that our society has designated a day to recognize the importance of motherhood. Perhaps that is even more important in an age when political feminism belittles motherhood and what is actually feminine on a daily basis. They disdain those whom who focus their attention and place their priority on their children and homes. Such women are failures in their eyes, though I have seen articles by feminists in recent years in which at least a few of them finally understand the major flaws in their philosophy of life. They have entered into their 50’s with solid careers behind them, but with great loneliness and sense of failure. They have either never been married or only had a string of failed marriages behind them. In addition, they often do not have any children, or if they do they are often estranged from them because feminism teaches selfishness and independence both of which eat away at the parent / child relationship. From my own point of view, they could not be too happy about the overall damage they have done to our society.
Feminism may have failed to recognize the importance of motherhood, but we have not. The family is foundational to society and through their influence on their children, mothers set and keep the culture for a society.
He governs land and sea;
He wields a mighty scepter
On lower powers than he,
But mightier power & stronger
Man from his throne has hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world”
Now simply having children does not necessarily make a woman a mom any more than a man fathering a child makes him a dad. There are certain elements that must be present to gain those precious titles from children whether they be our own or those we have adopted. There are also certain characteristics that mark the good mom as opposed to the bad mom, the godly mom as opposed to the ungodly mom. This morning I would like to talk about the characteristics of a godly mom but these are also the character traits that should mark any godly woman. So whether you are a mom or not, these are qualities you want to be developing in your life. That is an important point to emphasize. If your life is not yet characterized by one or more of the particular qualities that I will be talking about this morning, that is not to be a point of discouragement, but rather an area to work on. I liked what Reinette Mullenix said a few weeks ago in her testimony that her goal is to become and be known as a godly woman. That should be true for each of you.
Men, this sermon is also for you. If you are married, then you need to be giving active consideration in how you can help your wife develop these characteristics. She needs your encouragement and support, not your condemnation. The same is true for your daughters. If you are not married, then you also should be encouraging and helping your sisters and your sisters-in-Christ develop these characteristics. They are also the characteristics you should be looking for when giving any consideration of a potential wife.
There are a host of Bible passages that describe various aspects of a godly woman. Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks of her submission and respect for her husband. In the context of the passage such submission is possible because she is walking wisely with the Lord so that in placing the Lord’s will as above her own she is also willing to give greater preference to her husbands will over her own. In Titus 2:3-5 Paul talks about the older women being reverent in their behavior and not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine. They are to be teaching what is good to the younger women. They in turn are to learn to love their husbands and children while being sensible, pure and workers at home and subject to their own husbands that the Word of God may not be dishonored. 1 Peter 3:1-6 adds to this speaking of a woman’s her chaste and respectful behavior even if her husband is disobedient to the word. Such women are also to be more concerned about adorning themselves with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit rather than the perishable qualities of external beauty. Sarah and her relationship with Abraham is given as an example in that passage. There are of course many other women that are mentioned as good examples of certain characteristics.
Paul mentions Lois & Eunice in 2 Timothy 1:5 because of the sincere faith in them that they instilled into Timothy. Priscilla, also called Prisca, is mentioned along with her husband Aquila in several places in scripture because of their willingness to risk their own lives for Christ (Rom. 16:3) as well as their humility in taking aside someone like Apollos and teaching him more thoroughly so that he could be better rather than seeking the prominent positions themselves (Acts 18:26). There is Mary who desired to be and lived her life as “the bondservant of the Lord” regardless of the personal danger (Luke 1:38). She, along with several other women, are the ones that stayed with Jesus while he was being crucified even though all the disciples except John had fled (John 19:25). There is Abigail who proved herself to be wise though her husband, Nabal, was wicked (1 Sam. 25). There is Deborah who proved herself not only to be wise, but also brave even when the around her refused to do what they should have done without her (Judges 4). There is Ruth who had the faith to abandon her own people in order to go to the land of Israel with Naomi, her mother-in-law, and follow the true God. She proved herself to be humble, a hard worker and a godly women. There are many other women mentioned in the Bible that we could learn certain lessons from. However, the most extensive passage in the Bible that lists out character traits of a godly woman is Proverbs 31:10-31. Please turn there in your Bible.
As we begin our study please note two things about this passage. First, according to verse 1, this passage occurs in a section spoken by King Lemuel according to what he was taught by his mother. (“The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him”). She had quite an impact on him and through him the world because what she taught him was written into the Scriptures.
Second, Proverbs 31:10 -31 is a poem. It consists of 22 stanzas (each verse) written an alphabetical acrostic. Each stanza begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. That is why some similar ideas are repeated within the poem.
Lets read through the poem and then come back to look the particular characteristic noted in each stanza. Prov. 31:10-31 10 “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. 13 She looks for wool and flax, And works with her hands in delight. 14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. 15 She rises also while it is still night, And gives food to her household, And portions to her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, And makes her arms strong. 18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. 20 She extends her hand to the poor; And she stretches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells [them,] And supplies belts to the tradesmen. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband [also,] and he praises her, [saying:] 29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, [But] a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. 31 Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.”
VALUABLE (Vs. 10)
“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” The expression is a wish. It is an expression of desire that all men could find such a valuable treasure as an excellent/virtuous woman. This is the idea of moral goodness and propriety combined with the idea of fine manners and culture. This virtue is an outgrowth of her godliness.
The writer expresses here that such a woman is hard to find for there are few women that achieve the high qualifications needed to be considered virtuous or excellent. This is one reason why this woman is so valuable. She is of high quality. The other reason is that she is rare and therefore precious just as are jewels. Jewels are not valuable just because of their beauty, but because of their rarity. Quartz is a very pretty crystal, but because it is so common it is not valuable. Diamonds on the other hand are very rare and therefore very valuable. Marble is very pretty, but because it is common it is not considered valuable. Other rocks and minerals which are not any more lovely than marble are valuable because of their rarity. So it is with the virtuous woman. She is marked by such beautiful character qualities that she is rare and therefore extremely valuable.
The reference to her worth being more than jewels or “rubies” may actually even be a reference to the type of dowry that would have to be paid to acquire such a woman for a wife. In ancient Israel a suitor could not just ask a girl to marry him. He had to pay a dowry price to her father. Abraham did this in getting Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. Jacob had to earn the dowry to pay for both Leah and Rachel.
TRUSTWORTHY (Vs. 11)
“The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.” The word “gain” comes from a word which means, “spoil of war,” and signifies the profit which she brings in. He can trust her wholly for she is seeking what is best for the family and not just herself. He has no fear of her pilfering from the family or squandering finances on herself. Instead, she actually brings profit into the family. To put it in modern terms, she can be trusted with the credit cards. She will not bring the family into debt but will instead increase its wealth. We will see how she does this in later verses.
Too many husbands fear that their wives will bring them down into debt through careless and frivolous spending. (Although actual statistics show that it is the husband that usually brings on family debt. He buys big items and takes the family into debt in leaps, while she will buy little items and take the family into debt slowly). Trust is important. It is an aspect of love (1 Cor 13).
We may also surmise that her husband is in some important position in the community since he “known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land” (vs 23). It may well be that because he is able to trust in her that he is able to pursue this calling to community leadership. He would not have time to be involved in such a thing if he had to constantly be watching over what his wife did. This is a woman who is trustworthy and so is a blessing and a profit to the entire family.
CONTINUALLY GOOD (Vs. 12)
“She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.” Her love is not dependent upon her feelings or the personal gains she may derive from her husband. This is the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 that is based on deep moral grounds of self-sacrifice for the good of the other person. From this she obtains the ability to remain constant and pure. No wonder the heart of this man can trust her for she is consistently good to him.
INDUSTRIOUS (Vs. 13)
“She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight.” Part of the gain that she brings into the household is her industrious nature. We are not told specifically why she looks for the wool and flax. Perhaps to make clothing for her family? Perhaps to make something to sell? Perhaps both as indicated later in this passage, but the emphasis here is on here industrious spirit. She does not wait around until something has to be done or until someone tells her to do it. She goes out looking for the materials that she will need for whatever project she is working on. And please note her spirit while doing her work. She does not have the complaining, grumpy attitude that seems to affect so much of our society. Instead, she finds joy in doing work. It is “work her hands delight in,” and she is “active with her hands’ pleasure!”
Work is a good thing. The Old Testament story of Ruth is a good example of such a woman. She is one that Ecclesiastes 5:18 would describe as enjoying herself in all her labor in which she toils under the sun during the few years of life God has granted to her. This is her reward.
PRUDENT (Vs. 14)
“She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.” In the care and advancement of her family this woman will go out beyond the nearest circle to be more prudent in her business. In other words, she does not shop at stores just because they are convenient, but she sacrifices her own comfort to get the best value in both what she buys and what she might sell. Again, we find that with qualities like this that it is no wonder that she is valued so highly. She extends herself to find the better goods and the best value.
DILIGENT (Vs 15)
“She rises also while it is still night, And gives food to her household, And portions to her maidens.” The care of her family is more important to her than her own comfort. It is easy to stay in bed and let those that have to be somewhere else early get their own breakfast, but this woman desires to be part of meeting the needs of her family. She is not lazy, for her life is caught up with her concern for others instead of her own comforts and convenience. The phrase “portions to her maidens” is thought by some to mean the daily work to her servants in which case she is also a diligent household manager.
ENTREPRENEURIAL (Vs 16)
“She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.” She is entrepreneurial. She has a head for business and knows how to increase her profits through diversification. We have already seen in verse 13 that she may have some sort of business dealing with wool and flax, and in verse 24 we will find that she is making things for sale. It is from the profits of these things that she launches out into real estate and farming. She is very intelligent and wise for she adds to the wealth of her household not only through her own manual labor and manufacturing, but by wise investment in other interests. Paul’s comment in Titus 2 that young women are to be “workers at home” does not exclude this, it only sets the priority. Home comes first and outside work and investment come later. The Proverbs 31 woman demonstrates those priorities. It should also be noted that what any particular woman does will depend on her particular abilities. The principle here is simply that she is entrepreneurial.
STRONG (Vs 17)
“She girds herself with strength, And make her arms strong.” She is not afraid of physical labor. She is not lazy. You may be getting the idea that this lady would have to be strong to carry out all she does anyway, but there is more.
ATTENTIVE (Vs 18)
“She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.” She perceives, she senses, literally, she “tastes” that her profit has been good from her industry and enterprise. She is attentive to the outcome of her labor and investments. “Her lamp does not go out at night,” does not mean that she labors all night too. If that were true she would not be human. But she is no couch potato. She is busy during the evening and attentive to the needs of her family to make sure the lamp does not go out at night. She anticipates what could happen and plans accordingly. She has checked the oil to make sure there is enough to last the night.
HARD WORKER (Vs 19)
“She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.” This woman is a hard worker and here we find her busy about the activity of spinning wool or flax. This may be why verse 13 notes she was looking for those items. She is preparing material for either sale or for making clothes for her family, or both.
COMPASSIONATE (Vs 20)
Beyond being a hard worker, we also find she is compassionate. “She extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy.” She meets not only the needs of her family but in compassion she also reaches out to the poor to assist them. The idea here of extending her hand and stretching her hands goes beyond just the idea of providing them with some material thing. It includes reaching out with a tender touch to comfort, counsel and encourage. She may not need to be compassionate to the poor to please her husband, but she does need to have this quality to please God. The desire to please God is the foundation upon which all her other character traits are built.
CONFIDENT (Vs 21)
All her diligence in labor and watchfulness over her family gives her confidence for what the future may bring. “She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.” The has anticipated the future and worked hard so that not only will her family have warm clothing for the cold months, but they will be clothed well in scarlet. She has prepared clothes that will both protect them and look nice.
ELEGANT (Vs 22)
She herself is also clothed well, in fact we could say she is elegant. “She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” She used the colors available to her to make fine clothing of contrasting colors. She uses white linen and a purple colored material. These would be materials imported from Egypt and from Tyre. Both would have been expensive. Purple was the color for royalty because of its expense. She wears fine clothing as a result of her industry. That is important to remember because it is not the clothes that make her a virtuous woman. It is her virtues that have enabled her to gain such fine clothing for her apparel.
ADMIRABLE (Vs 23)
“Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.” As I mentioned earlier, because of her excellence, her husband was freed up to be involved in the public affairs of the land. While he may get much of the public attention, the real honor goes to her because without her he could not do what he was doing. A man can only accomplish the extraordinary if he is backed up by such an excellent woman. I may be the one in the pulpit this morning, but anything I do must also be attributed to Diane’s excellence in her role as a wife and mother. She is to be admired. Without her I could accomplish very little.
CAPITALIST (Vs 24)
Next we find the entrepreneurial theme repeated again. “She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.” She is an entrepreneurial capitalist. Contrary to media language and politically correct speech, a capitalist is a good thing. Her industry and spirit lead her to have a business of making linen garments. These were most likely the articles of clothing worn as an undergarment or by itself in the summer as light clothing. She also had a belt manufacturing business and she sold both of these items. The belts were specifically sold to international traders, probably the Phonecians. They would also be the ones from whom she got her own clothes and special things for the family mentioned earlier.
DIGNIFIED (Vs 25)
All of these are wonderful characteristics, but the most important ones are found in the next two verses and in verse 30. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.” She may wear elegant clothes, but her real beauty is her personal dignity. If she did not have dignity, then she would be as the woman in Proverbs 11:22 – a well adorned pig. “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.” Based on her strength and dignity she smiles at the future for she has nothing to fear. Arnot said it well, “If honor be your clothing, your suit will last a lifetime; but if clothing be your honor, it will soon be worn threadbare.”
WISE (Vs 26)
We also find that she is wise, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” A fitting ornament is her wisdom and especially in its expression of kindness in her teaching. And what is wisdom? It is the practical application in life of the proper fear of God. Foolishness is living as if there is no God. Wisdom lives life mindful of the Lord. This woman is wise and a reflection of that wisdom is a kind and gracious tongue.
WATCHFUL (Vs 27)
Her wisdom is also seen in her watchfulness over her family. “She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.” She keeps watch over the activities of the home and directs for the work to be done. She is not someone who folds her hands and watches others work. She is involved in what occurs. The household runs well because of her organization and management. Her watchfulness also protects her from idleness which leads to all sorts of evil. Paul pointed out to Timothy that the widows the church was to help were those who needed the help and proved to be good workers throughout life. The church is not to support those who would be idle gossips and busybodies (1 Tim. 5:10-14). Arnot put it this way, “Empty hours, empty hands, empty companions, empty words, empty hearts, draw in evil spirits, as a vacuum draws in air. To be occupied with good is the best defense against the inroads of evil.”
HONORED (Vs 28)
The result of all this that “Her children rise up and bless her . . . ;” These children are not forced into this. It is the natural reaction of children who are well reared. They have been taught well so they know how to think wisely and properly. They realize how good of a mother they have and so they bless her. We increasingly see children in our society who curse their mothers instead of blessing them. That is a revelation of the child’s character and a reflection of the mothers’. Proverbs 15:20 says, “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother.” Proverbs 10:1 adds, “but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” 17:25 adds, “and bitterness to her who bore him.” Many are reaping the bitterness and grief of their own failed character which is then reflected in the curses of their children. The virtuous woman receives the blessing of her children’s praise.
GODLY (Vs 30)
Her excellence of character is not a fleeting thing, for it is based in the inward quality of godliness that dominates her life. That is the basis of the praise she receives. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Charm is deceitful because flattery is used to manipulate people to doing what you want. Beauty is vain because it is always fleeting. At best is only lasts the few years of your short life. The characteristics that mark this excellent woman rise from within because she has the proper fear of the Lord and seeks Him with all her heart.
ACCLAIMED (Vs 31)
Finally we find that she is acclaimed by the rest of society as well because of what she produces. “Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” She has brought much blessing to others by what she has done for them. They in turn give praise for it. Her godly character shines in all that she does including the products of her hands. Thus, she is acclaimed.
These various characteristics presented in this passage describe the virtuous / excellent woman. It is an impressive list. Perhaps it may seem impossible to attain, and in fact it is impossible to attain if you strive to do it in your own power. The only way these things can become true of your life is if you lay the same foundation this woman did and let everything flow from that. You must lay a foundation of godliness from which wisdom, dignity and strength of character flow. All this woman’s other attributes arise from these. If you want to gain the qualities of the virtuous woman, then it must start with the proper fear of the Lord. Your relationship with Him is the starting point of all the other characteristics described.
If you have seen yourself falling short of the example of this woman, then seek after God to have these qualities instilled in your life. This woman was not born with these qualities and they did not appear by magic. They started with her desire to please the Lord and from that she changed and developed all the other characteristics. You can develop them too. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Strive for excellence. Strive to be as virtuous a woman as you possible can. You can be a godly woman.
And a final reminder to you men. If your wife, daughter, sister, girlfriend falls short, then don’t point out her faults and berate her. You will not help her that way. Give her praise in all the areas where she is doing well and encourage and support her in the areas she still needs to improve. It is wise to treat her the way you would want to be treated for not only does our Lord command it (Matt. 7:12, but on Father’s Day we will talk about the qualities that a man should have, and she can probably find a lot more things wrong about you than you can find about her, so treat her the way you would like be treated. If you have an excellent woman in your life, then be sure to follow the example of verses 28 and 29 and bless her.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “woman” is mentioned 2) Talk with your parents about the qualities that characterize a godly woman.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What does the feminist movement not understand about motherhood? What is the value of moms to society? What does it mean to be feminine? How did God us your mother in your life? What is the origin of Proverbs 31:10-31? Women: examine your own life in relationship to the various characteristics described in this passage (and listed above) and then develop a plan of action for growing in those areas that need improvement. Share your plan with your husband or a friend for accountability and encouragement. (Remember that you do not have to be perfect to be loved and used by the Lord, but He does desire for you to reach your full potential). Men: If you are not married, describe the characteristics you would desire in a wife and then compare them to this passage. If you are married, be sure to praise your wife for the areas in which she is doing well, and then develop a plan of action in how you will encourage your wife to grow in the Lord in these areas of character without becoming critical of her (treat her the way you want to be treated).
Sermon Notes – May 14, 2006
Characteristics of the Virtuous Woman – Proverbs 31:10-31
Continually good (12)
Hard worker (19)
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