Mother’s Day Sermons – the right way to preach about the Proverbs 31 Woman

[From the archives. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I’m really hoping someone will preach along the lines of this post. If you hear that sermon, please let me know!]


Proverbs 31 – The Woman Who Never Existed

There is a lot of wisdom literature in the Bible about work and families and parents caring for children. But when it comes to working mothers, the person who gets the most attention is the Proverbs 31 Woman. If you give the passage even a cursory glance, you can see why some people mistakenly look at her as the ideal for all women. “Biblical womanhood” some call it: There she is, the Proverbs 31 Woman: now go forth and do likewise!

What a load of hogwash.

Some people seem to read Proverbs 31 as a biography of the woman every woman should emulate. I have some news for you: The Proverbs 31 woman never existed. She’s not a real person. She’s a personification.

The Book of Proverbs begins with a call to Wisdom, personified as a woman. It then goes back and forth in comparing this woman Wisdom with another woman, Folly. After this there are a few chapters of wise sayings and insights on life and faith. Chapter 31 comes along and the wise sayings and insights come to an abrupt halt. The first 10 chapters and the last chapter are like bookends to Proverbs, and (like other parts of Scripture) constitute a chiasm.

The Usefulness of Chiastic Structure

This chiastic structure demands that we read the last chapter in light of the opening chapters: Proverbs starts with a call to follow the woman Wisdom and avoid the woman Folly, and ends with warnings against foolish behavior.

It then provides an example – through the person of the Proverbs 31 woman – of what wisdom in action looks like. That personification is a literary device to give us an idea of how someone can live out the wide range of wisdom found in the middle portion of the Book of Proverbs, wisdom that includes work and families and parents caring for children.

Working mothers and working fathers certainly need wisdom in caring for their children. We can look to God’s word, of course. Even more, we who belong to Christ have the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide us.

So if you are a parent who works in the home or whose job takes you out of the home, you can rest in knowing that God cares about your work, your family and how you care for your children. And He is with you always.


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14 Responses to Mother’s Day Sermons – the right way to preach about the Proverbs 31 Woman

  1. Pingback: Mother’s Day Challenge | PRESSING ON TOWARD THE GOAL

  2. Anonymous2 says:

    Have you ever noticed that no one who touts Proverbs 31 women seems to have read Proverbs 31? The woman described in those verses is a powerhouse. She runs a manufacturing concern, does import/export, and is a financial whiz. She’s far more capable than the average man. It doesn’t say she’s meek and sweet and submissive. She is respected because she’s incredibly resourceful and has a great business mind.

    • Tim says:

      If she were a real person rather than a personification of wisdom, preachers should be encouraging women to take over all financial aspects of the family. But too many complementarian/patriarchal teachers insist that men are in charge of money matters and the women have to submit in that area even if it leads to bankruptcy.

    • Rev. Carlene Appel, MDiv. says:

      Yes, I have preached on that and brought out the same things and more such as the fact the last had SERVANTS. Man, the things I could have time to accomplish too if I had SERVANTS.

      Add to that the fact that women of that stature during that period of history had wet nurses and nannies. So they didn’t even take care of their own kids.

      Despite that this woman is hardly home, except perhaps to spin in her spare time– HER HUSBAND AND CHILDREN STILL RISE UP AND CALL HER BLESSED. Amazing!

  3. All I know Tim is when I realized I more often than not I spend way too much time working in the dung factory to ever even pretend I had a wing and a prayer of looking like a Proverbs 31 man, I became ever so thankful for new grace each moment. Upon that realization, suddenly instead of trying to make my wife into a Proverbs 31 woman, she suddenly became someone I had much to learn from.

  4. Pastor Bob says:

    Every time I have heard the message based on this passage it has not been predictive or extolling, but instead that of appreciative and supportive. Or put another wau, not what she should do, but appreciating all that she has done.

    I would prefer this as opposed to the message I heard based on this:
    hint; called “The Job of South America” – story involves close family (tears come to me now)

  5. Pingback: Biblical Femininity Is A Lie | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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  7. Pingback: God’s Praise for Working Women – the true story of Proverbs 31 | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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  9. I’m looking for other options for mother to preach about on mother’s day. I’m a mother and s pastor. I have used this text, Proverbs 31 a number of times. I like your interpretation of it. Thanks for sharing. Vivian

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