2010 08 29
Leading Us Into Family Life
Reverend Anthony R. Locke
August 29th, 2010 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
Proverbs 31:10-31 Communion of Saints Series English Standard Version
10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than 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 harm, all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens
16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed 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; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with 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 call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
I haven’t listened to country music in a while, but I remember a funny song that had a line about going to the lost and found in a trailer park and asking if someone turned in your lost diamond ring. “They just look at you like you lost your mind and say, I haven’t seen a thing.”
Finding a virtuous woman in our self-oriented culture is about that surprising. It isn’t impossible. The power of the Gospel can still make a woman virtuous, but don’t think you will happen upon an excellent woman by accident. It’s a supernatural work of God’s Spirit.
God explains how to become a virtuous woman in our passage. Proverbs 31:10-31 is the ultimate woman who fears God. This is an ideal and therefore not meant to become a guilt trip, but rather a goal toward which ladies strive. Men are to be like Jesus and lay their life down for the bride. Women strive to be virtuous. It’s a goal, not a measure of judgment.
The woman in Proverbs 31 is a lot of things, but chiefly she leads others into the blessings of family life. Whether a woman is married or not, she has the mandate to lead the church and the community into the blessings that God reserves for people living in a family environment. More generally stated, she leads others into the blessings of God’s covenant. By this activity she shares in the mission of Christ Himself.
The New Testament is clear that by faith we become a part of the Family of God. Women in the church have no responsibility more glorious than to lead us all into the blessings connected with that spiritual family.
This church is blessed with an active Women’s Ministry. Finding an active Women’s Ministry Team is like finding a rare jewel. It’s exciting. I found a jewel once. I was panning in Franklin, NC and found a 76 carat Tiger Eye Sapphire. They called it a “whopper.” They rang a bell, took pictures and made a fuss over it. I was a teenager. I was thrilled. That’s the same way the body of Christ feels when we find women active in ministry. We can feel that God’s goodness is right around the corner.
The Hebrew word for virtuous is translated many different ways in our English Bibles. This is a woman of strength, of ability, of noble character and goodness in her soul. Which is why she is able to bless the church all the days of her life. A virtuous woman brings God’s goodness into the life of the church.
We’ve covered verses 10-12. Now verse 13-22. A virtuous woman is a hard worker. Whether it be sewing or cooking, taking care of the children or assisting in church business, Women do their fair share. Notice, they work willingly in verse 13. It is not a matter of compulsion, but compassion. These women love the Church and please Christ through their labors in the Church for the kingdom.
We all know of the tireless efforts of our Women’s Ministry. Ladies beat me to work at 7 am to water the flowers. Women come by the church late in the evening. Verse 15 rising while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. Our ladies work hard to bring the best of God’s goodness to God’s family.
And they are not motivated to serve because they are serving the minister or a special speaker. Even the servants are served by our ladies. Portions for her handmaids. The least of these are changed, fed, clothed and taught by our ladies. By seeking to be last within the family, they find themselves first in God’s eyes.
Like the merchant ship, they gather good ideas and bring them into our church. I trust them. I rely on them.
Let me express a frustration I have with the church. Verse 16-19 is hard to pull off in the life of most churches because most churches are so fearful of what Jesus meant when He cleansed the temple. But, if we don’t do verses 16-19 then we will not be able to do verse 20 as a church family. Let me explain.
Jesus cleansed the temple from false religion. Priests were rejecting the offerings being brought by families from out of town. So the family had to exchange their out of town money to purchase a preapproved animal for worship. And the temple merchants were making a fortune on the exchange rate and the inflated value of the animals they had for sale. Jesus condemns oppressive religion.
Jesus is not going to condemn our ladies for organizing a meal around their favorite foods and selling plates for a fundraiser. I think you could start a successful restaurant with the delicious covered-dish food we eat around here.
Verse 16. If Women’s Ministry had the resources they could buy land, hold it for a few years, and sell it at a profit. Well, maybe not in this market. But Jesus wouldn’t condemn them for trying. They could plant a garden and sell the fruit of their labor. They could plant a vineyard. LOL Well, maybe not a vineyard. We don’t want to compete with Chateau Elan.
My point is that our ladies need to have the freedom to show their skill and craft, their discernment and wisdom when organizing church activity. There really isn’t any limits on what they can do. The goal is to lead the church family into the blessings of God’s goodness.
What if only a few of our ladies want to start a preschool to teach Christian principles and provide Christian education for the local community? Our elders would ask a bunch of questions. The congregation would be allowed to vote yes or no. But this would be a good example of reaching out in mercy.
These opportunities and many more are open to excellent, strong, noble and able women.
Verse 23. The ministry of our women should have a wow effect on others. I think we are already there. I was wowed by the August 8th installation. Our ladies led the church family into God’s goodness. The luminaries for the foot path around the back of the church was the extra mile. It was the wow. The lima beans were the best my mouth has ever tasted. Not an exaggeration. The deserts were so delightful. The decorations, the planning, the table set up and extra chairs which were ordered, the whole spirit of the event was awash in the gracious service of excellent women.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Did you know that the women do the bulletin boards? I think they show skill and creativity, love and compassion to keep those up for us. Our church is beautified at Christmas and Easter. They maintain the kitchen. They show God’s love by cleaning up our messes.
The ladies sustain the classy habit of sending snail mail letters to those going through trials. They remember birthdays. Serve refreshments at special events. Serve meals after a funeral or during a protracted illness.
Every Wednesday they organize a meal after our Bible Study. They find a substitute teacher when I can’t be here. The ladies in our church do all of this.
They maintain our church history. The flowers outside the church and the special occasion flowers in the sanctuary are done by industrious women.
Our ladies are so industrious that they provide gifts and crafts to the Bonclarken Gift Shop so they can make a profit and support the ministry. That’s wisdom in action. Maybe someday we can hold a church garage sale and let people bring items they would have given to Goodwill, and we can have a huge church sale to fundraise a ministry project. This is a good use of our collective relationships and a great way to meet people in the immediate community.
I got on a rabbit trial, back to verse 23. There is a wow factor that our women can create. Like when a home is organized around godliness, good works and piety. It is the women who create a spiritual family atmosphere. Within the church, our women take the practical leadership when shaping a church culture. And it has the potential to make others ask, “There must be something special here, just look at the love these amazing women have for this place.”
My wife does this for me every day. People meet her and are so impressed that they think I also must be worthy of respect. People think, “If she married him than there must be more to him than meets the eye. That’s what verse 23 means. It’s the wow effect.
And the virtuous women serving in our midst makes outsiders curious about the glory of Christ. Their love for the church makes the community wonder what is so special about this place.
Verse 26. If my life is entering a difficult spot, and I needed God’s wisdom sprinkled with kindness and love, I certainly would not hesitate to go counsel with our elder ladies. We have many verse 26 ladies here at this church. They have the experience, wisdom and common sense to lead the church into the goodness of God’s covenant faithfulness.
Verse 27. Our women look well to the ways of the church. The elders are commanded to know our flock. Our ladies are so diligent in their efforts within the church that they are the first to know about issues that the elders need to address. The ladies know first who is sick, who isn’t doing well in Sunday School, who is having marriage trouble, job trouble, family or relationship trouble. We men can’t lead the children of God without the good counsel of the women.
I think it is appropriate to stand up and call them what they are. They are blessed. We have verse 28 women here at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker.
Ladies, I praise God for you. I praise you before the community. I brag on your excellent spirit. Most civic organizations and community groups utilize the skills and gifts of women, but the women in the church excel them all. You are filled with God’s Spirit to do what you do. Saved, baptized, spiritually gifted and filled to lead us into God’s blessings.
Why? Because God has made you virtuous. You are enabled to love without failing. You are filled with good works. You don’t grow weary in well doing for your faith knows that the time is short. You are a channel of God’s love to the rest of us.
You are all beautified by many things, but your greatest beauty is your fear of the Lord. It is the beginning of your wisdom, it is a safeguard from sin and it is the way of understanding. There is no greater lesson we can learn from the ladies than to fear God.
Ladies, you “wow” us with your commitment to Christ. May the disciplines you maintain in your prayer life, your Bible reading and worship be a lesson for us all as we fear God in a society and culture that has no fear of God. Your rewards will be great.
We are not the only ones who will bless you. The groom of the Church, Jesus Himself will rise up and call you blessed. He will praise you for bringing the church family into God the Father’s richest blessings. He will thank you for giving a cup of cold water in His name. He is keeping score. He remembers every act of kindness you bring to His children.
There is a day when we will stand before the glory of the Son of God, and He will reward us according to the works we have done, whether they be good or evil. Jesus will give you the rewards that your works deserve. The fruit of your hands will be rewarded. Your teaching, serving, feeding, cleaning, creating, selling, buying, your industry that leads us into a confident joyful expectation of a secure future will all be rewarded by the heavenly Father.
No doubt about it. God appreciates what you do for His family. No work is so small that God doesn’t take notice and prepare a blessing for you in return. I know you believe that.
We sure thank God for you. May you continue to lead our church into the family goodness of the covenant blessings God reserves for His people; until Jesus comes.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.