Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies….
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
My wife is blessed with many gifts, talents, and abilities, but growing or sustaining green things is not one of them. While there is little chance that Marilyn would consider buying a field and planting a vineyard, the fruit of her hands is evident in many other ways. For a start, there are the five children she has raised, and two grandchildren she also pours out her love upon. Then there are the other lives she has touched in so many different ways. Most of the time folk wouldn’t even know that Marilyn is there because she prefers to work away quietly in the background. You won’t find Marilyn up on the stage at church, but you will see her serving coffee and tea in the lobby to welcome people to the morning service, and she is often busy behind the scenes in the church kitchen, or producing cakes in huge quantities for church events, and as gifts to people she loves. And she is the same outside of home and church.
The fruit of Marilyn’s hands is evident in my life too. I cannot place a value on her loving support over nearly thirty-five years of marriage. If I consider the investment Marilyn has made in being a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, then it could be compared to a field. Marilyn has taken that field and transformed it, and through the fruit of her hands she has benefited the lives of many. Without knowing it she has set an example. Without deliberately seeking to demonstrate the love of God through her life, she has done just that. Quietly, effectively, and always without seeking acknowledgment or praise.
Who can find such a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies……
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
Mother knows best when it comes to many things, with this verse one of several, beginning with verse 10, that deal with attributes every mother would like to see demonstrated in her daughters-in-law. My wife Marilyn and I have three daughters-in-law, but I’d rather use Marilyn as an example.
Now I don’t know if my mother judged Marilyn by any of the criteria listed in Proverbs 31 but I do know that after nearly thirty-five years of marriage I have absolutely no regrets that God chose us for each other. I do not need an ABC of virtuous women to tell me how fortunate and blessed I am to be married to Marilyn, who as well as a wonderful wife and mother, is also an excellent grandmother.
Thirty-five years of marriage is a long time. It is closer to forty years that we have been together, if you add in the years we spent courting. We have changed in appearance, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the heart of my wife. I look at Marilyn and I see a very special person. Someone who has not only enriched my life, but the lives of other people around her. Quite simply, I have never met anyone like her. Marilyn has, in the words of this proverb, done me good – all the days of my life. And I am truly grateful.
Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.
As the beating of cream yields butter and striking the nose causes bleeding, so stirring up anger causes quarrels. (NLT)
Some things in life are inevitable. This proverb gives two examples of the inevitable that are painfully obvious. Churn milk and you get butter. Hit someone on the nose hard enough and there will be blood. The only reason to churn milk would be to turn it into butter. As far as I know there is no way of turning butter back into milk. But why would anyone hit another person on the nose, or stir up anger in any other way? As with milk and butter, once a punch has been thrown the damage cannot be undone.
The problem is less with the inevitable and more with the consequences. Hit someone on the nose and there is a possibility that you may find that you get hit on the nose in return. Making someone angry could have the same result. It is important to carefully consider the consequences of words and deeds. Neither can be undone, and some create problems that last for a very long time. A good example is a recent parking dispute in the UK between two pensioners. After a heated argument one of these gentlemen punched the other one, who fell to the ground striking his head on a curbstone. The consequence was that one man died and the other is now serving five years in prison having been convicted of manslaughter. All because of a senseless argument.
It isn’t always possible to avoid trouble, but the advice in this proverb is that we should always avoid being the instigator. That means being careful with our words as well as with our fists.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37 ESV)
24 There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
Living in the UK means that I am not too familiar with locusts. One thing I am certain of is that the farmers I know would not be pleased to see a swarm of hungry locusts heading for their crops. My knowledge of locusts is purely Biblical, and the plague of locusts that hit the fields of Egypt when a stubborn Pharaoh refused to listen to God comes to mind. It is the swarm that strikes terror into a farmer’s heart. One or two locusts here and there are not a problem. But a group of locusts united as one body with a fearsome hunger is something to be worried about. A farmer knows when his fields have been visited by a swarm of locusts.
What about the church? The church is a diverse body split into denominations, with each denomination split further, and individual congregations comprised of people of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and mindsets. While I feel certain that God celebrates the diversity of His Church I wonder what God thinks of a church that allows differences to become disputes to the extent that the body becomes divided instead of diverse.
The challenge for any church if presented in the language of this proverb is the wisdom in being united. A church that is united in its diversity and outward-looking ought to be making a noticeable difference in its neighborhood. People know that the church is there. If a church is divided and inward-looking then it is more than possible that all that is visible is a building.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:3-5 NIV)
Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
Equally amazing is how an adulterous woman can satisfy her sexual appetites, shrug her shoulders, and then say, “What’s wrong with that?” (NLT Life Application Study Bible).
No-one seems to know much about Agur, the writer/compiler of Proverbs 30. One thing that we do know is that Agur was not a scientist (Proverbs 30:18-19). When Agur watched eagles in the sky and snakes on the rocks he was amazed by their movements. Agur couldn’t understand how a ship could be navigated across the ocean without GPS, and he wasn’t too sure about matters of romance either. But all of these mysteries paled into insignificance when Agur considered how people could do something that crossed the boundaries of behavior laid down by God and then ask, “What did I do wrong?” Although Agur used an adulterous woman as an example, the same principle applies to many other scenarios and situations, as it has since the day that Adam and Eve shared forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
If Agur lived today he could read books or watch television documentaries to gain an understanding of eagles and snakes, ocean navigation techniques, and love. But Agur would have been absolutely stunned to discover that adultery and the like have become completely acceptable to so much of society. As it was in the days of Noah, so it is now. Men and women do as they please, eat and then wipe their mouths and ask, “What did I do wrong?” We see it in our politicians, in our workplaces, in our churches, and even in our families. And no-one is amazed anymore. Now that is amazing, especially when history records the rise and fall of societies, and the reasons that they fall.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. (Matthew 24:37-43 NIV)
There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
They look proudly around, casting disdainful glances. (NLT)
I remember driving one of my children to a soccer tournament at a private school. Leaving the road there was a long private driveway leading up to the school where parents of children belonging to the school were directed to a tarmacked/asphalted area close to the playing fields to park their Range Rovers, Mercedes and BMWs. Those of us from the state schools were pointed in the direction of an un-surfaced car park at the rear of the school. During the tournament the parents of the private school kids stuck out a mile. They were easily recognizable by the way they dressed, the way they spoke, and to be honest – the names of their children. They did not mix with the rest of us, and most of the state school parents concluded that these people were looking proudly around, casting disdainful glances at us. Consequently, much pleasure was derived from the fact that our team won the tournament.
Pride and arrogance are often attributed to the wealthy and those who consider themselves to belong to a superior social class. On this occasion that is just how it seemed, but in hindsight I would say that we state school parents also had an attitude problem. Just as we felt we were being judged, we also judged. And that is the danger with lofty eyes. Any human being can fall into the trap of looking down on others. Jesus had strong words for the religious leaders of His day on this subject in Matthew 23. There is always danger in considering ourselves better than someone else, and that is surely why such a warning is included in Proverbs.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2: 1-8 NIV)
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (NIV)
Matthew Henry noted the similarity between these verses and the Lord’s Prayer in respect of ‘lead us not into temptation’ (Matthew 6:13) and ‘give us today our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). While it is easy to see that giving into temptation is going to damage our relationship with God (and possibly family, friends, colleagues, etc.) the problems associated with wealth are less visible, especially to the wealthy. When a rich young man wanted to follow Jesus he was instructed to sell all that he had and give what he raised through his high class garage sale to the poor. The rich young man couldn’t part with his money and lifestyle. Consequently he walked away from Jesus and the greatest opportunity he had ever been given.
The whole wealth thing troubles me. I have never aspired to be a wealthy man, and there have been times when I have struggled financially. There have also been times when I have not struggled. But if I look back on my life so far I could honestly say that without having prayed that God give me neither poverty nor riches, that is exactly what He has done. There have been exceptionally good times, and there have been exceptionally difficult times, but I have never gone hungry like many others in this world, or been in a position where I have had to consider stealing just to survive. I’m not sure how I would react if it was the only way to feed my family. One thing I do know is that this proverb is an excellent prayer, so good that Jesus included its words in the prayer He gave His followers:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV)