If you have spent any significant amount of time in the church you have probably heard at least a reference or two about the Super-Mom, also known as the Proverbs 31 Woman. From women’s conferences to #hashtags, from small-group themes to New Year’s resolutions, the Proverb 31 woman has become a title loved (and hated) by many over the years. Moms all over the world encourage each other to manage their household more effectively by modeling their lives after this strange, yet successful prototype. However, in the midst of this campaign for Biblical womanhood, most have overlooked a very important detail. Proverbs 31 is about manhood. The first nine verses spell out what it is to be a man of character, and then in very purposeful chronological order, the last two-thirds of the chapter tells a man, after he has good character, what to look for in a wife. I want to take back Proverbs 31 for manhood. Here are four big ideas in Proverbs 31 that we can learn about being good men.
“The word of king Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him” (verse 1).
Almost every time I hear a reference to Proverbs 31, it is a wife or mother encouraging other wives and mothers to become better wives and mothers. That is a helpful and good use of this scripture, but let’s look at the original audience. This chapter was not written for moms or wives, but from a mom to her son (women, this also gives you permission to hold us men to a high standard). In our culture, fathers are seen as the unspiritual ones in the family, and mothers are the main teachers and spiritual leaders. But that isn’t how it is in the Bible. While this entire last chapter of Proverbs is written from a mother to her son, the first seven chapters of Proverbs are from a father to his son. Men are to lead their families, and above all, this means spiritually. And both parents are to lovingly lead their children toward good character. This is where manhood starts: at home, as a child. Dads, lead your sons; sons, obey your parents. This is the beginning of manhood.
“Do not give your strength to women” (verse 3).
Throughout history it is clearly seen that when a man gets around women or alcohol, he has a propensity to become—well, stupid. That means if you are going to be involved with either, you had better be a man of discernment (knowing yourself and your limits), and a man of character (obeying those limits). Lemuel’s mom uses amazing language: “do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.” What Lemuel’s mom teaches us is that we shouldn’t trust every pretty woman that crosses our path, but most of all, we shouldn’t trust ourselves. Think of her language, “Do not give your strength [away].” By “strength” she means the ability to control one’s self. Self-control is your man-card. Do not give it away. In Romans, Paul restates this mother’s wisdom: “You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Romans 6:16). The paradox is that while women (both real and virtual) make us feel powerful, our desires quickly turn us into their slaves.
“It is not for kings to drink wine” (verse 4-5).
As I said before, when men get around women or alcohol, they act like they just received a stupid-injection, doing things they would never do sober. I think it is silly to even ask the question, “Are you saying we shouldn’t drink?” My trump-card answer to that question is always, “Jesus drank. Case closed.” So obviously there is a more important point here. Instead, the question we should be asking is, “Why is it important to monitor how much we drink?” The answer may seem obvious, but have you ever considered a more serious reason than, “So that you do not get drunk, because getting drunk is a sin?” What I am asking is, why is getting drunk a sin? And the answer opens up a list of things we shouldn’t be doing, not just drinking too much. The reason Lemuel’s mother gives us is, “Lest you drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” They knew it then, and we know it now—getting drunk makes us “forget,” and turns us into “perverts.” The reason getting drunk is a sin is because it clouds our judgment. As men, our brain is one of the easiest things to lose, and is certainly a top priority to keep. We should stay away from anything that costs us our mind, not only drinking, but perhaps even vegging out. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
“Open your mouth, judge righteously” (verse 9).
Lemuel’s mom would even go so far as to tell Lemuel to “Give strong drink to one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress.” This may mess with your theology (it does mine), but ultimately a contrast is made here. She encourages Lemuel earlier not to give his strength to women. Now she takes it a step further and says, “Do not give your strength away, but give strength to the weak.” We should not be cowards, or passively disengaged. The instruction of Lemuel’s mom screams to our generation louder than to any other, “Open your mouth! Judge righteously!” We cannot keep our mouths shut and our hands to ourselves when our families need spiritual leadership, protection, and provision, or when our churches need good men to lead them in these dark days, or when our world is dying and going to hell all around us. “Open your mouth; judge righteously.” Get involved in your church, get involved in your community, and get your hands dirty.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).