God Has an App for That – Part 2
Well, as I’ve stated before, we do our best here to be known as a church that is full of truth and full of love. Sometimes telling the truth doesn’t seem loving, but ultimately there is no love without truth. So, we are compelled to speak the truth even when it is hard to hear. That means, as the Bible would teach, that we preach the Word of God in season and out of season. We commit to speaking the truth when people want to hear it, when people don’t want to hear it.
And I find myself this morning compelled to teach some truth, compelled to share some information with you that I failed to share with you last week in the sermon. As you may recall, at the beginning of last week’s message I shared with you several of my favorite apps stored on my iPhone. I talked about what they did, how useful they are, and how much I like to use them. But what I didn’t tell you is that I also have some apps on my phone that are great apps, apps that would be extremely beneficial for me, and yet apps that I don’t use.
For instance, a couple of years ago I was determined to lose a bunch of weight and to begin exercising on a regular basis. I was determined to get into shape. So I researched and then installed an app called “My Fitness Pal.” My Fitness Pal is a great app. I mean, it has everything you could possibly need to start and maintain an effective fitness routine. It gives you all the right information: personalized training schedules… There are daily workout routines. There are diet and hydration plans from nutritionists. This app has all the information you need to lose weight, exercise right, and get in shape.
And yet, here I am a couple of years later, still overweight and out of shape. So what was the problem? Well, my problem wasn’t an information problem. My problem was an application problem. Right? I had all the right information but unless you put it into practice there is really no point in the app. The app is called an app because it is meant to be applied. If all you do is study it and learn from it, then it misses the point.
So what we’re doing as we study the Word of God in the Book of Proverbs is that we are being reminded…we are learning that the Word of God is not just information that we learn from but rather it is application that changes us. And should we approach the Word of God as if it were nothing more than a textbook or a subject to study, we miss the point. But rather we study God’s Word, and we apply it to our lives, and we are changed by it. And the Book of Proverbs very beautifully shows the truth of God’s Word when it intersects with our life. So, this wisdom that we are studying is meant to be applied.
As a church we’ve committed to going through the Book of Proverbs together. The challenge for you is each day throughout this series to read the corresponding chapter in Proverbs. So for May 9th you read chapter 9, for May 10th you read chapter 10. If you’re not doing that, we’d love to encourage you to jump in and do it with us—either on your own or as a family. But we’re going through Proverbs and we’re just seeing how God’s wisdom makes so much sense today. It shows us the best way to live.
If you have your Bible go ahead and turn to Proverbs. If you turn towards the center of your Bible and go to the right just a bit, you’ll probably hit Proverbs. And we’re going to be studying Proverbs 31 today. Proverbs 31 is the last chapter in the book. We’re jumping to the end of it because it has special relevance on this Mother’s Day in that Proverbs 31 lists the characteristics, the qualities of a godly wife and mother. It honors godly women. So, we want to study this on this Mother’s Day weekend.
Now what I know is that for many, maybe even some in this room, Mother’s Day is not necessarily a day of celebration. For many it is a day of frustration as they are reminded of the child they want to have but have been unable to conceive or the marriage that just hasn’t happened. It’s a day of bitterness, I know, for some moms and for some children because they’re reminded of the woman in their life who is technically called a mom but really hasn’t acted motherly at all. I know for many it is a day of disappointment because they had these hopes and dreams of what kind of mom they would be and what their children would become and how they would turn out and it just…it hasn’t come together. Or maybe they didn’t know a lot of what the Bible says concerning parenting when their kids were young, so there are moms who feel a lot of regret today. They wish they could hit rewind and go back and do some things over.
So what we want to do as we study Proverbs 31 is we want to honor moms by holding up the ideal, but as we do so we want to do so gently, understanding that in one degree or another everyone in here has a little bit of disillusionment in this area. It is consistent with Scripture. If you study Scripture, you’ll find Ruth who is childless and widowed at a young age. You’ll find a number of women, like Sarah and Hannah, who struggled with infertility. You’ll find Eve, the first mother in the Bible, who lost a child through horrible circumstances, and some of you know the pain of that and Mother’s Day is painful because you’re remembering a child that you’ve lost. So, we want to honor mothers, but we want to do so with gentleness; we want to do so with understanding.
And I know that for many moms this day is kind of a reminder of how tired they are, how exhausted they feel, and they’re really not sure where they’re going to find the strength to do it again another year. Maybe you’ve got a special needs child and you’ve just found that it has taken everything you have, and you just don’t feel like there is much left. So I pray that you’ll be strengthened today and encouraged today as we study Proverbs 31 and we study this godly woman.
What many of you know, though, who have been around church for awhile… A lot of you church ladies, you know that Proverbs 31 isn’t always the most encouraging, right? Some of you really don’t like the Proverbs 31 woman. You don’t care for her very much because she reminds you of like a Stepford wife meets Denise Austin meets Martha Stewart meets Oprah…and it just seems to add more pressure and seems to add more stress. And you’re doing everything you can, and you’re already worn out, and then you read Proverbs 31 and instead of it being encouraging it is discouraging.
The problem is that when we read this text in Proverbs 31, we don’t…we don’t understand the genre of literature that it belongs to. Oftentimes this text of Proverbs 31 is read, or it’s taught as if it’s a memo—a memo that is being circulated around the office saying, “Here are all the things you need to do. Here are all the things that you need to change.” And that is not very encouraging.
Or it is read as a job description: that if you want to be a godly mother then make sure all of these things describe you. And it’s read as a report card by clueless husbands—Right?—who read Proverbs 31 and they somehow think it is their job to give their wives passing or failing grades. That is so J.V. That is not going to work for you. But that is how a lot of husbands approach it. They’ll read it and think, “Well, she matches up here but not here.” So oftentimes we read Proverbs 31 and the unintended message that we send to mothers and wives is, “Yeah, you’re not cutting it. Better luck next year.”
That’s not the intent of this. Instead, this passage—this is important—is to be read as poetry. That is what it is. It is poetry.
The best way to understand the intent of Proverbs 31 is, in fact, to read it as a Mother’s Day card. When you get a Mother’s Day card, that card brings out the best in you. It honors you by saying, “Here is what is appreciated. Here is what is valued.” Mother’s Day cards don’t give honest assessments of how you are doing, right? It’s meant to bring out the best and to honor what is going well. And that is what is happening here in Proverbs 31. It is meant to honor, to value and to esteem godly women.
Now here is what we know by way of background: Solomon didn’t write this chapter of Proverbs. He is more of an editor here, and he includes this as the closing chapter of Proverbs. It is credited to a guy named Lemuel. Now we don’t really know much about Lemuel, but he is the one credited as writing this. But, in fact, if you read about this, it was his mother who taught this poem…this poetry to him as a child. So isn’t this interesting that this passage that is often read as a job description…as a memo by…you know, a man who doesn’t get it was actually the words of a Jewish mother who was teaching her son a poem so that her son would know what to look for in a woman? So these are the words of a mother to a son, saying, “This is what you should value. This is what you should honor. These are the characteristics that you should esteem in women.”
And it is written as an acrostic. Do you remember an acrostic? This one is written using the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. So you’ve got the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and each letter represented in each verse gives a corresponding, praise-worthy characteristic or value of a godly woman.
So I would encourage some of you to do this on this Mother’s Day: to come up with an acrostic. For some of you it won’t work so don’t try it. It will just come off wrong. But even if it feels a little cheesy, come up with an acrostic of just pulling out the attributes that you value in your wife or in your mother. Don’t use the Hebrew alphabet. That will make it too much of a challenge. Go ahead and use the English alphabet. There are twenty-six letters. You don’t have to use them all. Don’t end with “Z,” right? Because you don’t want to end with “Zippy.” That’s not…that’s not going to close the way you want to. And you don’t have to use “X.” But just go through and choose some of these letters. I think that is a great thing to do for our wives and for our mothers to honor them. Maybe that is an idea for you.
But when you do that, you’re going to bring out what’s beautiful, right? It’s not the opposite. You don’t say, “‘A’ is for your attitude problem early in the morning.” Right? You don’t say, “‘B’ is for the boxes you still haven’t put away.” “‘C’ is for the cat that you ran over when I was a kid.” You don’t bring out the negative. You value…you honor the positive. And that is what is happening here as this mother teaches her son, “Here is what is valuable.”
And in verse 10 it says that this woman she is describing is “more valuable than rubies.” Other translations say “diamonds” or “pearls.” The Septuagint translates it literally as “precious stones.” So the idea is that this woman being described is more valuable than anything that this world says is of value. So we honor mothers with this passage. This passage is not meant to be ammunition against them; it’s meant to be a bouquet of flowers that are gathered and given as a gift honoring the godly woman, the godly wife and mother.
And what we want to do is we want to hold up some of these pearls. We want to hold them up and say, “This is what is of value.” This will teach husbands and it will teach children, “This is what you should honor in your wives and mothers.”
But also, as we study this, it is a message to our daughters: “This is what true beauty looks like.” It is a message to our sons: “This is what you should value in women.”
So what I want us to do is just look at some of these pearls of the godly woman in Proverbs 31, because there are a lot of imitation pearls out there. Up on the screen is a picture of a genuine and an imitation white pearl side-by-side. At first glance, if you had to choose which one was genuine and which was an imitation, it would be difficult to do. In fact, what is interesting is the real pearl is not as perfect as the fake pearl. The real pearl is not as rounded. It’s not as smooth. So it’s easy to confuse these. It’s easy to think that the imitation pearls are the genuine pearls and that the genuine pearls are not worth keeping.
What I want us to do is compare what the Bible says about women, the genuine pearl, to a lot of what our culture says about women, so that we can identify what is of true value, what is of true worth and what should be honored.
Recently I stood in front of a magazine rack and I just took notes on the different women’s magazines on display. There are a lot of women’s magazines it turns out. And I just wrote down a number of the headlines in these magazines. Headlines like “329 Beauty Secrets.” There was “Bombshell Glamour.” There was “Flat Abs in Six Minutes.” There was “Get Summer Sexy in Seven Steps,” “Age Defying Secrets,” “Cosmo Cover Hair,” “Flaunt Your Best Feature.” Seventeen Magazine said, “Look Hot in a Bikini.” And you just go through these different magazines and what you find is that our culture values things in women. It says, “This is how a woman’s worth is defined.” But it is very different from what the Bible would teach. So let’s compare these for a few moments together.
I. VALUE SPIRITUAL DEPTH OVER PHYSICAL BEAUTY.
As we look at the Proverbs 31 woman and we compare her to the Cosmo woman, one challenge for us is to value spiritual depth over physical beauty.
If you read through these magazines there is an absolute obsession with the outward appearance, on youth. The pictures that are on the front and the articles that are inside communicate that, “This is how a woman’s worth is determined. This is how she is appraised. This is how her value is decided.” And as a result, what you have is many young women…many women in America…feeling this tremendous pressure to look a certain way, and they begin to think that their value and worth is based upon what they see in the mirror.
So our cosmetics industry in America is a $49 billion industry. It is one of the few industries that is considered to be recession proof. Why is that? It’s because we’ve said, “This is what matters. This is what is important. This is what brings value.” So young men are taught, “If you rate a woman, you rate her based upon what she looks like on the outside,” and it objectifies women.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against…I’m not against cosmetics. Right? When we lived in Tennessee, I was taught the Tennessee proverb: “If the barn needs painting, you paint the barn.” That’s the Tennessee proverb that I was taught. So I am not against…I’m not against cosmetics. I think that we should do our best with what God has given us, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be attractive.
The problem is that that is how we’ve begun to ascribe worth and value. And so much of what the culture says is valuable and so much of the outside that is held up as worthy…it’s not even real. It’s imitation. It’s designed so that women in America are never really content with how they look. If tomorrow morning every woman woke up and liked what they saw in the mirror, our entire economy would collapse. That is what would happen! And so just understand that we are being fed this gospel that says, “This is where value is. This is where worth is found.”
But Proverbs speaks differently of a woman’s value and worth. Proverbs 31 does not give us a physical description of this woman; instead verse 30 reminds us that “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting….” It doesn’t last.
This mother, writing to her son, would say, “If you’re going to find a wife based on physical appearance and outward beauty, understand that that value is a depreciating value. That it doesn’t last. It’s fleeting. And that charm is deceptive. This outward beauty can make you think there is something beautiful on the inside when, in fact, there may not be. So be careful with this. Don’t ascribe too much worth and value to it.”
In 1 Peter 3:3-4, Peter reminds women…he says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.” He doesn’t say there is anything wrong with that. He says that is not where your beauty should come from. “Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” God says, “This is really valuable.”
Proverbs 31 does speak a little bit of what a woman wears. In verse 22 it says, “…she is clothed in fine linen and purple.” So she cares about how she looks. She wants to be attractive, but that is not what defines her. It’s not how her value is determined.
Verse 25 speaks a little bit more about what she wears, but the focus is not on fashion. Listen to what this mother would say to her son: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Literally it is, “Strength is wrapped around her.” So she is described as a strong and capable woman with a joyful heart, that she can laugh at the days to come.
I love that description. If you had a mom…or if you have a mom…who is optimistic and joyful, then you value that in her today, because too often there is a tone of criticism and negativity and complaining. Yet this woman is described as a woman who has this joy, and it sets the tone for the house.
Some of you know that. There is an old Iowa proverb that you might have heard. “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Do you know that Iowa proverb? There is a lot of truth to that. That in large part, moms are the thermostat that sets the temperature for the home. If there is negativity and criticism, if there is this tone of harsh words, then it is cold; but if it is gentle and kind and encouraging, then it is a place of warmth and a place of peace and joy.
Verse 26 says, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
So she is not someone who is just pleasant to look at but impossible to carry on a conversation with. No, when she speaks, she speaks wisdom. So we value spiritual depth over physical beauty.
II. VALUE THE FEAR OF THE LORD OVER THE PRAISE OF PEOPLE.
As we compare the Proverbs 31 woman to this Cosmopolitan woman, a second challenge for us is to value the fear of the Lord over the praise of people.
Look at verse 30 again in your Bibles. It says that “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but (What does it say?) a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” A woman who lives for the audience of One, a woman who is living her life for God not for the praise of people.
I think there is a tendency… And this is true for all of us…certainly not just women or mothers and wives. There is a tendency to evaluate how well we’re doing by comparing ourselves to others. So, for many women their homes and their husbands and their children and their careers—they can become accessories to the outfits. You know, they want to make sure they look right and look good to other people, but it’s a much different story when people aren’t watching.
But when we compare ourselves with one another, it leads to the wrong conclusions. For women it adds a lot of pressure…a lot of pressure when they compare themselves to others…and a lot of insecurity.
Here is what women will do. (And I didn’t just make this up. I’ve talked to actual women.) Women will oftentimes compare themselves to people in their lives, and when they do, they compare themselves to the best attribute or characteristic of these different people. So, a woman will look at one of her friends…one of her girlfriends…who is especially organized and say, “Well, if I could just be organized that way…” Another friend who is really disciplined and takes good care of herself…and the woman will say, “Well, if I could just…if I could look that way, if I could take care of myself that way…” Or they’ll look at another friend who is, you know, especially laid back and patient and just fun-loving, and they’ll think, “If I could be that way with my kids…” They’ll look at another friend who is a great decorator and really successful and think, “Well, if I was…if I could just be that way…” And they’ll compare themselves to kind of the best attributes or characteristics in the people around them, and it leads to lots of pressure because there is a competition. They’re comparing. It leads to pressure; it leads to insecurity.
Now, guys, we don’t understand this, and here is why: We do the opposite. We compare ourselves, but instead of comparing ourselves to the best characteristic, we find the worst in our friends and think, “Well, I’m doing pretty well, really!” So, I look at my buddy and say, “Well, he doesn’t take his wife out on a date ever. I take my wife out, you know, every other week. I’m doing pretty well.” Or another person might look at a friend and say, “You know, he’s kind of let himself go, but I work out every day.” So we look at ourselves and we compare ourselves by choosing a lower characteristic or quality. And what’s that lead to? It leads to pride and it leads to passivity, because we think we’re doing quite well, really.
So, women will compare themselves to other women—not all the time, but oftentimes—and it leads to pressure and insecurity. Men compare themselves to other men. It leads to pride and passivity. The solution here is that we don’t compare ourselves. We’re not living life as if it were a competition; instead, we’re living for the glory of God. We’re living out of a fear of the Lord. We’re honoring Him.
There are a number of women in Scripture who compare themselves and it just…it doesn’t work. As we see Leah comparing herself to her sister, Rachel, and her beauty, and Leah can’t find any joy. We see Sarah comparing herself to Hagar and Sarah becomes bitter and she becomes angry, because she can’t conceive a child and Hagar can. And when we compare ourselves with others it just leads to the wrong conclusion. So, this mother is holding up a woman who is not caught up in the drama of keeping up with the other women in her world, but is, rather, living her life to honor God, living her life out of the fear of the Lord.
III. VALUE SERVING OVER SELF.
Here is a third challenge we see as we compare the Proverbs 31 woman with the Cosmo woman: It is to value serving over self.
To value others over self.
If you read through Proverbs 31 there is a significant amount of real estate in this poetry that shines a light on this woman’s hard work, what she does for others and how she sacrifices her time and energy for family.
Look at verse 15. It says, “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.”
So before the day begins, before anyone else is out of bed, while she would rather be sleeping, she gets up and she begins to go about the work of the day preparing the day for everyone.
And if you read through this chapter she is described as an economist, an organizer, an investor, a planner, an administrator. This is a very capable and strong woman. Now I can hear some of the ladies, when they read this, thinking, “Okay, this is what I was afraid of. Great. You know, now my husband and children don’t think I’m a godly woman if I don’t get up before the sun rises.” That’s not the point, right? This is poetry. It’s an expression of the deeper truth that a woman who works hard and manages well should be valued and should be honored. Besides, this was written in a time and place where there was no electricity, so the family bedtime would be like seven o’clock. When the sun would set, they would go to bed. If we all went to bed at seven o’clock, you would probably get up before the sun rises. It was a different situation. But the point is that she works hard, and she manages well and she is strong and capable.
Verse 21 says, “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”
So the children are not worried about the fact that when it gets cold they won’t have warm clothes to wear. She has thought of things that the husband…it’s not even crossed his mind, right? She has already prepared.
I am amazed at how quickly things fall apart when my wife goes out of town. Just…it is staggering really. And I would encourage some of you men…in fact, I would encourage all of you husbands…find some time this next year to send your wife away for four days for some rest and relaxation! Finally, some women are taking notes! “Yeah, that’s great!” And, you know…if you don’t get anything else I say, get this. Send her away for some rest and relaxation. Don’t do it for more than four days. It’s just…it isn’t wise. I’ve learned this the hard way, so learn from me. Four days is probably what you want to shoot for. I am a fairly optimistic person, so on day one I feel pretty good. I’m like, “Yeah, I got this. I’m doing just fine.” And by day three all hope is lost. The house is a wreck, I’m hungry, the animals are hungry, clothes haven’t been washed, and I’ve entered into, you know, this survival mentality. All I want to do is survive. And I try to communicate this to the animals: “Look, we are in survival mode. If we are all living when she returns, mission accomplished!” And you start to realize how much you take for granted and how much service takes place behind the scenes that isn’t appreciated, and gratitude isn’t expressed.
Verse 16 says, “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”
Another translation… “She searches Craigslist for the best deal. She makes a purchase and she sells it for a profit on eBay!” That is the description we have here. It’s of this woman who is very capable. It doesn’t say her husband bought the field. It says she bought the field.
Verse 17 says, “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms (Here is the word again.) are strong for her tasks.”
So, what you’re hearing is a mother described a woman to her son who can be trusted.
In verse 11 it says, “Her husband trusts her completely….”
When a mom or wife cannot be trusted…huge, huge, huge deal…big problem. When a mother or wife can be trusted, more often than not it is overlooked and undervalued. And I was convicted this week as I studied how much I just take this for granted. I trust my wife. She walks in the door and she is carrying bags from the store. It doesn’t cross my mind, “Did she buy something she shouldn’t have? Did she spend more money than it was worth?” No, I trust her. She’s going to do better than I do at that stuff. When our kids were still living at home, it never crossed my mind, “Are the kids going to have food to eat?” Right? I mean, she takes care of so many things that I don’t even think about. It never crosses my mind while I’m at work, “Is my wife taking care of things that she should be taking care of? Do I need to check in on her?” No, not at all. I trust her wisdom and I trust her completely.
And some of you husbands who have never trusted your wives and you’ve been controlling… You’ve controlled the money and you’ve controlled the time and you’ve controlled the schedule. Let me tell you how it often works. Your wife will live up or down to the level of trust that you have in her. And the more that you can express trust and the more that you can convey that you have confidence in her strength and in her wisdom, the more likely she is to rise to that level. But the opposite is also true. So, this woman is described as someone who can be trusted.
Verse 20 says, “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
So there is this compassion for the hurting. There is a desire to help others.
Now, as you read through this, what you find is that it just stands in stark contrast to these magazines…stark contrast. Because these are all about putting yourself first. In fact, one of the magazines…it’s called Self. That’s the name of it. They just go ahead and put it out there. It’s all about making yourself the center of your world, making sure that your needs are taken care of, making sure that you’re going to be happy.
So what we have…what we have…is when we compare the woman of our culture, this Cosmo woman, to the woman of Proverbs 31, we have two different gospels. One gospel says it’s all about you and you be the center and make sure your needs are met and your needs are taken care of. And we see this reflected in reality TV shows, in the “real housewife” reality shows. It’s “Me first.” But the gospel of Proverbs 31 is reflected in Luke 9 where Jesus says, “If you want to follow Me, then you die to yourself. You take up a cross. You follow Me.”
Which gospel will we choose? There is an interesting paradox. When we choose the gospel of our culture, when we say, “I am going to put myself first,” we think that will lead to happiness and joy and pleasure. It doesn’t. It doesn’t. Instead, it leads to frustration. You’re lethargic. You’re not motivated and not passionate. But when we live the gospel of Christ—we follow Him, we die to ourselves, we serve others—it is life-giving. It is energizing. Jesus says in Luke 9 that if you want to save your life that you give it up.
And that is what we see in Proverbs 31. Here is a woman who puts others first. She lives by a different gospel than the culture.
If you look at verse 28 her husband…it says a word to husbands and children. It says, “Her children stand and bless her, and her husband praises her…” (NLT).
And that’s what we want to do. We want to honor, and we want to praise the mothers…the wives in our lives for their hard work and value.
Now listen. What I know is that in this room…you read through Proverbs 31 and it is full of wisdom. It helps us realize what we need to do. But do you know what else? It also shows us where we’ve got it wrong. It shows us how we have messed up. Now it is certainly not just for wives and mothers but for us husbands and children. Absolutely. So really what Proverbs does is it doesn’t just give us wisdom about how we should live but it points to a Savior. It reminds us that we need help, that we can’t do this on our own, that really the application that makes all the difference is Jesus because He is the One who saves, and He is the One who redeems. He is the One who restores and rebuilds.
So no matter where you’re at in this, my prayer is that you would turn to Him for strength and you would turn to Him for grace and forgiveness, that your joy would be found in Him. Because all this advice, as great as it is… You can work at it, you can put all of your effort into it, you can even treat this poetry like a checklist if you want to, and you’re going to fall short. You’re going to fall short. What we need is a Savior and the Holy Spirit to just strengthen us.
Don’t leave here feeling weighed down and burdened by all the pressure, all the things you haven’t done right and all the things you need to be doing right. Instead leave here allowing Jesus to lift that weight off your shoulders, to take that off of your family, and with a commitment to follow Him and find your strength in Him.
First Church of Christ
May 9, 2021