Saturday, January 08, 2005

Advice to a young man: Proverbs 31

Context is everything in scripture, and Proverbs 31 is one which is almost always presented out of context. People also love to read their own cultural ideal of womanhood into the text...whether it is the always submissive, homemaking, helpmeet, or the feminist, multitasking achiever. I must confess to reading both of these things into the text myself at different times.

Reading it again this morning and trying to put it into my own words has given me a different perspective again. It seems to me it is actually royal, motherly advice to a prince to guide him in all the choices he makes. This wise woman reminds her son of the responsibilities and advantages he has as a ruler and urges him to work for justice in the world. The temptations to carousing, drunkeness, and cheap women are not simply a rite of passage...they are a dangerous detour away from his calling as a wise and noble ruler. Instead he is to live a life of character and to seek a woman who is his equal.

Here is my paraphrase...which is definitely colored by my perceptions of womanhood and some of my own personal dreams of what I would like my life to look like.

Proverbs 31--the teaching of a queen to her son the prince to guide him in his life

Don't chase women
and spend your energy on tawdry affairs which ruin your reputation.

Don't spend your time in the bottom of a beer keg or emptying wine bottles.
If you get drunk you might forget what's right
and take advantage of your position to deprive others of what is coming to them.

Leave the drinking to those without a future hope,
those with suffering, those with crushing poverty that is unbearable.

Speak up for those who are silenced and without a penny or a friend.

Speak up and do the right thing with the advantages you have.

Defend those who are can't pay you back and protect their rights.

Who can find a woman who will be equal to your character if you live this way?

She would be worth more than any kind of worldy treasure.

The man who marries her has nothing to fear and has everything he needs.

She brings good things, things to build up her man and not to harm him, all her days.

She is hard working. She can work with her hands, she can trade and do business.

She does what it takes to provide for her family and the people who work for her.

She's a wise investor and entrepreneur.
This woman is strong and diligent.

She makes sure that she makes a profit and works late into the night.

She knows how to make things happen.

But she also is hospitable and generous in practical ways to those who have less.

When times are tough, she doesn't worry because she has already provided for her family and those under her care.

She cares for herself as well and carries herself with pride.

Her husband earns the envy and respect of other men because of his wife's fine work.

She makes money creatively and is a productive business person.

She is strong and proud and faces the future with joy.

She is a wise, good teacher and oversees all of her personal and business affairs without laziness.

Her children appreciate her as does her husband who can't stop singing her praises.

"There are lots of great women in the world, who do important and worthy things, but you are by far the best."
Charmers can lie to you,
and a beautiful face and body don't last for long,
but a woman who fears God is one worthy to be praised.

Give her what she has earned and let everyone know so that she can get the accolades for what she has done so faithfully and consistently over the years.



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