Summary: How many times has God given us the right lenses to see what we need to see through His Word? Proverbs 31 is a text that can be eye-opening.
REFLECTING HER NOBLE CHARACTER
Text: Proverbs 31:10 -31
How well perceive things spiritually can help us to see how we might have missed the bigger picture. Consider this story …
“A man went to his doctor in an acute state of anxiety. “Doctor, you have to help me; I’m dying,” he said. “Everything I touch hurts. I touch my head and it hurts. I touch my leg and it hurts. I touch my stomach and it hurts. I touch my chest and it hurts. You have to help me, Doc; everything hurts.”
The doctor gave him a complete examination. “I have good news and bad news for you,” he said. “The good news is you are not dying. The bad news is you have a broken finger.” (Craig Brian Larson, Phyllis Ten Elshof. gen ed. 1001 Illustrations That Connect. [David Holdaway, Kincardineshire, Scotland]. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008, p. 157). Much like the man is this story, there are times when we misunderstand.
How many of you have ever had your eyes checked? How many of you found out that with the right set of lenses you could see things as they really are? How many times has God given us the right lenses to see what we need to see through His Word? Proverbs 31 is a text that can be eye-opening.
HOW CAN PROVERBS 31 BE EYE-OPENING?
It seems odd to use Proverbs 31:10 -31 as a lectionary text does it not? The easier thing to do would be to avoid this part of the lectionary because of how it seems out of place. Normally, we see this text being used on Mother’s Day or in the context of a funeral. Another United Methodist minister (Kenneth H. Carter) of Providence UMC in Charlotte NC put it this way: “ …like Psalm 23, this is a text for the living, and it should not be confined to memorial services or eulogies”. (David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. eds. Feasting On The Word. Volume 4. Kenneth H. Carter. “Pastoral Perspective”. Louisville: Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008, p. 74). To think of it this way helps us to see how we can miss some very important ideals that Proverbs 31 talks about. How well do we match the character of the noble wife in Proverbs 31?
How well or how poorly does our environment shape our perception? Consider this story about a house with an unusually unique design. “There is a house in New England where the owner designed a unique feature. The owner of the house often took visitors to the tower and would ask them to look through one of the windows. Each of the four windows was different. The red-tinted window could make it look like a hot summer day. There was a blue-tinted window that could make it the outside appear like that of a cold winter’s day. A third window had a brownish-tint and gave the beholder an outdoor view that would appear like fall. A fourth window had a greenish tint that hinted of spring. Bishop Ernest A. Fitzgerald who tells this story said of the tower in that house “What the visitor saw in the world depended on the window through which the world was viewed.” (Bishop Ernest A. Fitzgerald. Keeping Pace: Inspirations In The Air. Greensboro: Pace Communications, Inc., 1988, p. 200). This story helps us to see how our point of view depends on which kind of window we will use.
HOW DO WE COMPARE TO THIS NOBLE WIFE?
How often have we thought about Proverbs 31: 10 – 31 though the gender lens only? Did God intend for us to see Proverbs 31:10 – 31 only through the gender lens? When we look at this text through the gender lens only, what do we miss? As someone put it, Proverbs 31 praises the place that godly women have in Christian homes. However, he also pointed out how these same women who have these places of honor, at times seem to be slighted in other ways. The point that he (H. James Hopkins) seems to be making is that although the character of this text is labeled as a noble wife, the text is about far more than gender. (David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. eds. Feasting On The Word. Volume 4. H. James Hopkins. “Homiletical Perspective”. Louisville: Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008, p. 77). How is this text about more than gender? It appears that this text is about character. Character goes beyond gender. Paul illustrated how character exceeds all other distinctions. Paul said In Galatians 3:28 that there is neither male nor female, slave, nor free, Jew nor Gentile for we are all one in the Body of Christ.
What can we borrow from the gender angle of this text? Perhaps the most obvious thing that we could borrow from the gender angle this text is to think about how the church is the bride of Christ. Someone (Tellford Work) points out how this noble wife is a type for the Lord’s bride. He then goes on to say that the haunting question is “who can find?” (David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. eds. Feasting On The Word. Volume 4. Tellford Work. “Theological Perspective”. Louisville: Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008, p. 76). Obviously, no one person could be 100 percent in sharing all the qualities that this noble wife has.