Dear radio friends,
The virtuous woman is now married. She no longer displays her virtue in single life as she did, but now she has been led by God to marry. In our last sermon in this series we considered her godly role as a wife, that is, in her relationship with her husband. The woman who fears Jehovah has become the object of the work of God’s grace. The Spirit dwells in her and she seeks to do what is good in the eyes of God. For that reason seeks to do her husband good all the days of her life. She loves him and gives of herself to him to make him happy. She becomes that perfect counterpart that completes him. This we considered in connection with a godly wife.
Now, the Lord has chosen to give her and her husband children in the marriage. This makes their hearts glad because children are the heritage of the Lord to them. There is nothing that makes a god-fearing man and his wife happier than to see children in their life. Now we consider the role of the virtuous woman as a mother in the home. What is her calling in the home toward the family God has given her? We consider this subject from the point of view of Proverbs 31:27-28: “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” We concentrate in our broadcast today on the role of a wife and mother in the home among her family. What is her place and what is she called to do?
LOOKING WELL TO HER HOUSEHOLD
I. The Place of Labor
We learn here in Proverbs 31 that the virtuous woman “looks well to the ways of her household.” This, of course, makes the place of her labor as a wife and mother the “household.” The household—that term in the Hebrew, in its basic meaning, refers to the house itself. This already defines for us that the main work of this mother of Zion was in the place where she and her family lived. The context shows that this does not mean she did not do anything outside of her house. She worked in her field and traveled to the marketplace to buy and sell her wares. But the point of the verse we consider is that she did this in order to look well to the ways of her house. Her labor centered in her house. That was her workplace, so to speak. And this is supported by Scripture too. We read, for example, in Psalm 128:3, 4: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.” In the New Testament this is confirmed when instruction is given to younger women in the church in I Timothy 5:14: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Or again when God speaks to elderly women in the church in Titus 2:4, 5: “That they (aged women) may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” In a day and age when having children is considered by many as a strenuous burden, in society given over to the pursuit of comfort and entertainment, Scripture tells us that God wills “that younger women marry, bear children, and guide the house.” So, Scripture indeed emphasizes that the place of a virtuous mother of children is in the home, busy with the care of the home and children.
Neither is this place of labor degrading for a woman. Over the past three generations since women entered the work force after World War II, more and more a woman who is a homemaker has become an object of mockery and scorn. She is said to be the victim of male chauvinism and a slave to her husband and children. She is said to be a menial laborer who is unable to think for herself, brainwashed by antiquated mores that no longer fit our modern society. Or, on the other hand, she is accused of the easy life. “It would be nice to be able to stay home, but I have to work for a living. Most of us women are not as fortunate as you!” Oftentimes my wife has been asked: do you work? Meaning, a homemaker does not really work. The Bible, on the other hand, speaks of mothers in the home in the most glorious terms. Without disparaging the place of the single woman in the church or those wives from whom God withholds children, the Bible does speak of the work of a mother in the home in the most noble manner. In other words, the place of a mother in her house laboring among her family is an honorable job, highly esteemed by God. It is the best job a woman can have. It takes a highly intelligent woman, a skilled woman, a motivated and zealous woman to fill the requirements of a virtuous mother. And it takes a woman with scads of energy! When a woman who fears Jehovah fills these qualifications, then God is pleased with the work she performs because it is performed on His behalf.
Now that the place of her labor is established we must turn to those with whom she labors. The term “household” here in our text implies more than just the house where she labors. It refers by implication to the family that is born and raised in that house. From this verse it is evident that this wife and mother actually looked out for the welfare of her children as well as the maidens that helped her in the house. Yep, this virtuous woman did not do the whole task by herself! She had maidens in her home to help her. Of course, we must remember that this instruction was passed on to Solomon by his mother who was a queen in a palace. She had the wealth to hire help. That would be nice, wouldn’t it, ladies? But we cannot afford that most often. This is why it is necessary that the husband and children help their wife and mother in the home. We will speak of that in just a little while.
What is on the foreground, of course, is the need of a mother to be with her children while they grow up in her home. If there is one thing that ought to stand out in the account of Proverbs 31 it is the great amount of work a godly mother has in her own home. You see, God created Eve for Adam because it was not good that man should be alone. God created woman a help for him. A man needs help. He needs another to bring forth the next generation, but he also needs help in raising that next generation of children. The responsibility falls upon him. But a father needs help to raise them. He is called by God usually to go outside of his home and labor to earn money to raise the family. While he is gone his children need him too in order to grow up in the fear of the Lord. They need training. But the father cannot properly do both. For this reason God gives to him a wife who can be busy in the house raising the children.
The labor of a virtuous mother therefore is to be busy with her children. This idea is expressed when we learn that the virtuous woman looks well to the ways of her household. That little word “ways” refers to the manner of life that goes on in the home. She looks to the way her children must live—their manner of life. She attends to the lives of her children. They need to be fed and clothed. They need the love, care, and attention of their mother and father. During the daytime when father is gone, mother is able to provide this for them. Her children need to be instructed and disciplined. They need to be taught how to behave in society. They need to be taught orderliness, respect for authority, and self-discipline and obedience. Likewise, they need to be taught their responsibilities toward God. They need to be carefully nurtured in the things of God’s kingdom. They must be shown their sin and then taken to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Children need their mother’s tender touch and her compassion when they are hurting or struggling with the difficulties of their own lives. They need to be comforted. Likewise, they need to be disciplined when they are walking in a sinful manner. While father is gone mother is there shaping and molding their children to behave properly and honorably. As she shapes them, so also will they grow up to be when they become adults. All of this belongs to the task of a mother—a full-time job I would dare say. But then also she is a keeper of the house too! A man’s home is his castle, so the saying goes. Well, it is true: that is where he wants to be when he comes home in the evening—with his wife and children. But that means his castle must be clean too. It is a house, after all. It is not a barn. These menial tasks also are placed upon a mother. She looks to these tasks. They are a part of her sphere of labor. Husbands, children, do you know the amount of work your wives and mothers are called to do? I can understand the saying well: “From morning unto setting sun, a mother’s work is never done!” I pray that we are not so unthankful or callous toward what our wives and mothers are called to do in the course of day to think we do not need to help them in their work. Oh, that is a woman’s work! Really! Where does the Bible say that this virtuous woman did all the work in her home and family without the family itself assisting her in as much as possible? The place of labor and the sphere of labor that is given to a virtuous mother is a great one—an important one. Never may her family take her labor for granted.
II. Her Labor
Solomon also describes for us how the virtuous mother performs her labors. We are told she looks well to the ways of her household. That does not mean that she does an excellent job in looking to the ways of her household, though this is true too. But it means she watches carefully and assesses with close observation the ways of her household to see to it that they are carried out in a godly manner. A mother is an overseer of her home. She watches the home and the affairs of the house carefully. She does this to keep out the enemies of God’s people. She keeps the evil influences of sin away from her home. She punishes sin when it appears.
But more, she is the keeper of the home. She guides the home and family. She sets the spiritual tone for the family. She sees to it that the family is an organized and orderly unit that runs according to routine and schedule. That is what lies behind that word “looketh well.” Again, what a difference a virtuous mother can make in the home and in the conduct of her children. Not even the father’s job outside the home is as important for the church of Christ as that of a godly mother in the home.
The wife and mother, in this way, becomes the very hub around which the family turns. Once in a while God reminds us of that too when He lays our wives and mother’s low with sickness or affliction or takes them away from us in death. The whole family runs smoothly when a godly mother is there looking well to the ways of her household! The observer, the guide, the guard of the home!
Solomon further describes the labor of a virtuous woman in the last part of verse 27, “she eats not the bread of idleness.” A virtuous woman is not lazy. Idleness is doing nothing when there is much to do. A person is idle or lazy when he or she sees work to be done but walks right by it leaving it undone simply because he or she does not feel like doing it. That is idleness. A virtuous mother is not lazy! She does not therefore eat mere bread as a result of laziness. She eats well because she and her husband labor hard! You know, many think that a mother in the home who is not in the work force has a life of leisure. She lies around all day with little to do. She is out visiting and having a good time with others. And it is true too that, if a mother is not self-motivated, she can be like that. She can sit around her house with clutter piling up and her children running loose while she pursues her own interests. But that is not true of a virtuous mother. She is always busy with her work. You may not weary, mothers, of the labors God has given you in your family. It is a noble work you do!
You must discipline yourselves therefore to be organized and energetic in your work. If you were sitting at a desk in an office or teaching in a classroom or working with the accounts of others, do you think you could allow yourselves to be undisciplined and disorderly? That would probably result in your getting fired! Well, you cannot get fired as a mother. But you can fail in your task. You may not therefore eat the bread of idleness but must be busy in the most honorable of work: raise your children in the fear of the Lord in a home where is peace and safety. Make your homes such! That takes work!
III. Her Payment
The financial returns for your work are meager. The position of a mother in the home does not earn money. But you do receive a payment. It is a payment that is more valuable than money. It is more worthwhile than a six-figure paycheck. We read of it in verse 28: “Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” I cannot imagine, women, working in a home without the praise of husband and children. I know the work you do is for the Lord. But to work in a home where children and husband just expect you to do things for them or to wait on them hand and foot, and then walk away with no thanks, is unthinkable. Husbands and children, do we understand the importance of a wife and mother in our lives? I pray we are not so callous that we do not care when we hurt her with our remarks or our disobedience? Do we ever take the time out to give our mother a hug and a kiss and tell her how much we love her, how much she means to us, how much we appreciate what she does for us day and night? That is her pay, you understand! That is the only remuneration she receives for her labors! If a man does not receive enough money for his work, he quits and goes somewhere else to work. A mother cannot quit! But let us hope that her wages are not so meager that she loses all joy in her work.
Her husband and children rise up and call her blessed. That simply means they tell her what a blessing she is in their lives! They tell her how thankful they are for her hard work and attention. They not only thank her but they thank God for her when they pray! Husbands, do you take time out to thank God in your family devotions in the presence of our children how thankful we are for our wives and mothers? There is nothing worse than a home filled with ungrateful men and children who never think about their keeper of the home. But this praise goes beyond words too.
Do we think that what a mother does in our homes is exclusively her work? Husbands come home from work and ignore the work of the family staring them in the face. We are not the only ones who work, men! Children, when told to pick up, when told to wash up, when told to clean the house or wash the dishes, you must do it. You do not think it is your job? You think you can have a free ride without having to work in your home? You are lazy? All you do is play and not work? Then you are not praising your mother in deed, even if you do it in word.
Mothers need us to be ready and willing always to pitch in and help. Husbands must reveal this to their children by means of example and enforce it when they are home. Children must know that to declare their mother a blessing means they show she is a blessing by lending a helping hand when necessary. That is the payment a mother receives from her family. That is what makes a home a happy home. We may not forget to rise up and praise mothers and wives for what they do for us. Thank you, wives. Thank you, mothers. What a blessed place you have in our lives—and in our hearts.
Dear radio friends,