Proverbs 31:10-31

by Dr. Mike Shaw
First Baptist Church
Pelham, Alabama

 Key verse: "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." v.30

In all of literature, one of the greatest tributes to women is found in the thirty-first chapter of Proverbs. This beautiful acrostic poem is attributed to King Lemuel, and was taught to him by his mother. Duane A. Garrett tells us that King Lemuel is "unknown." 1

Much of the Old Testament has to do with God working in the lives of men. Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, and Deborah are some of the prominent women in the Old Testament, but this tribute was written in honor of, or in memory of, some beloved wife and mother who will always be unknown. Her deeds and her spirit were obviously more important to the writer than her name, because nowhere in the text is found any evidence of a name given by the author.


"She is worth far more than rubies." v. 10

She is valuable to her husband. She is not only his helpmate and the mother of his children, but her actions show how much she means to him.

He trusts her - "Her husband has full confidence in her" v.11
He benefits from her - "lacks nothing of value" v.11
He is affirmed by her - "She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." v.12
He praises her - "and he praises her" v.28

She is valuable to her household.

As a mother - "she provides food for her family" v. 28
As a model - "and portions for her servant girls" v.15

Dr. Robert G. Lee worked on the construction of the Panama Canal to earn money to enable him to attend Furman University. He wrote the following lines to his mother on June 10, 1908 from Bas Obispo, South America:

"My dear and honored Mother:

I think you have been the best mother and the best woman in the world. I think often of all the years you have toiled so faithfully, and loved us so tenderly.

I think of the years you have toiled in the fields; of the nights when, after the day's toil was over, you watched by the cradle of your babies, and now, we have grown big and old. Only God knows all you did for us.

We children owe you more than money, mother - more than honor and love. We owe you ourselves - our lives. Even now, mamma, I remember how I used to say my prayers at your knee, and now since I have gone out into the world, and have learned of its awful sin, I wish sometimes that I could always be a child." 2.

One can only imagine how thrilled a mother would be to receive such a sweet letter from a son hundreds of miles away from home.

She is also valuable to the homeless. "She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." v. 20 This busy and industrious worker also had a heart of compassion for those who were unable to accomplish all that she was doing in providing for her household.


"A wife of noble character who can find?" v. 10

"The good wife described here has every virtue wisdom can offer. She is diligent, has a keen sense for business matters, is compassionate, is prepared for the future, is a good teacher, is dedicated to her family and above all else possesses the primary characteristic of biblical wisdom, the fear of the Lord."3

Her virtue shows as she shuns sinfulness.

"and does not eat the bread of idleness" v.27

In his famous sermon, "Payday Someday," Dr. R.G. Lee reminds us to "Search the pages of the Bible all you will; study history all you please. And you will find one truth that stands out above some other truths. What is that truth? The truth that the spiritual life of a nation, city, town, school, church, or home never rises any higher than the spiritual life of women. When women sag morally and spiritually, men sag morally and spiritually. When women slump morally and spiritually, men slip morally and spiritually. When women take the downward road, men travel with them. When women are lame morally and spiritually, men limp morally and spiritually. The degeneracy of womanhood helps the decay of manhood.

Yes - we ask again - who can so degrade a man as a woman of wicked tendencies and purposes? Is not a woman without spiritual religion and love of God in her heart like a rainbow without color - like a poisoned well from which the thirsty drink - like a heated stove whose heat is infection - like kissing lips spread with deadly poison? 4

Her virtue shows as she speaks sweetly.

"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." v.26

Her virtue shows as she strives steadfastly.

"She gets up while it is still dark" v.15
"She plants a vineyard" v.16
"She sets about her work vigorously" v.17
"She makes linen garments and sells them" v.24

Dr. C.H. Toy writes that "this description, the alphabetic ode or 'Golden ABC' of the perfect wife, is notable both for what it includes and for what it omits. She is the industrious, sagacious business manager of the house, a kindhearted mistress, the trusted friend of husband and children, honored in her own person for what she does.5


"a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" v.30

A Vision of Faith - "a woman who fears the Lord"

Dr. Lee reminds us that as evil women bring men down, so in like manner, do righteous women bring men up. "Let me say, incidentally, if women have mastered men for evil, they have also mastered them for good - and we gladly make declaration that some of the fairest and most fragrant flowers that grow in the garden of God and some of the sweetest and most luscious fruit that ripens in God's spiritual orchards are there because of woman's faith, woman's love, woman's prayer, woman's virtue, woman's tears, woman's devotion to Christ."6

A Vision for the Future - "she can laugh at the days to come." v.25

All that she does through her work and her diligence are to insure that her family will not suffer in the future. Clothes, food and shelter will be provided by her hard work, but she also realizes that there are other needs for the future in addition to material security.

A Vision for Her Family - "she watches over the affairs of her household." v.27

Dr. R.G. Lee was preaching at Founder's Week services at the Moody Bible Institute when he told this story about a mother who had a vision for her lost son:

"I remember down in Memphis I preached one morning with my heart in agony. If a preacher can have a broken heart or have a soul in agony, I had it that morning. There was a boy there whom I had been wanting to win to faith in the Lord Jesus. He was there with his little mother. His mother had called me to the house one day, a cheap shack of a house, for the boy had money to buy booze but none to put new furniture in the house, money to buy booze but none to buy his mother a new dress. She said, "Pastor, I just must unload. I do not see how you have been as long as you have at Bellevue Church, it's a wonder you have not died a long time ago, the way we put all our sorrows and burdens on you. But, Pastor, I have to unload on somebody." I said, "Go ahead, dear, and unload." She began to cry. She said, "What are we going to do with my wicked boy? He comes home drunk and he bites me." She pulled up her sleeve and said, "There is where he bit me last night, and there is where he bit me and see there where he bit me when he went to work this morning. What are we going to do?" I said, "My dear, I have talked to your boy two or three times about being a Christian, and the last time I talked to him he said if I ever mentioned Jesus to him again he would beat me up. But I am going to mention Jesus to him. If he beats me, I will have to take a beating, that is no more than Jesus took for me. But right now, the only thing I know for us to do is to get down and pray God to save your wicked boy and do what I have not been able to do." We got down, and I think the greatest prayer I have ever heard was that little mother's prayer. Here is what she said. I recall it almost word for word. "O God, save my wicked boy. O Lord, if it means our house being burned down upon me to save his soul, let me get burned up in this house. But, O God, save my wicked boy. If it means my getting killed beneath an automobile to save him, then let some automobile run over me and kill me. O God, save my wicked boy. If it means my going blind to save him, then let me go blind. O God, save my wicked boy. If it means my being paralyzed to save his soul, then paralyze me. O God, save my wicked boy."

The next Sunday morning that boy was in church and I preached on the cross of gold in the heart of God from all eternity. I gave the invitation and down the aisle came this boy with his little mother behind him. He grabbed me by the hand and said, "Preacher, I have been the devil's boy long enough. I am going to be God's man from now on." And that little mother was standing there trying to get up on her tiptoe to pull him down and kiss him. She was crying and some other folks were crying. Twenty-one people came that day. One of the deacons came by and said, "Preacher, I don't care whether I get anything to eat today or not." And I said, "No, I don't care whether I eat or not either. I don't care whether I get home or not."7

That story reminded me of a poem that I had read many years ago and placed in my Bible for I too, had a praying mother.

Mother's Prayers Have Followed Me

I grieved my Lord from day to day
I scorned His love so full and free.
And though I wandered far away.
My mother's prayers have followed me.

I'm coming home, I'm coming home,
To live my wasted life anew,
For mother's prayers have followed me
Have followed me the whole world through.

Lizzie DeArmond

May God give us churches with women of value, virtue and vision, and may God help us to honor those who have blessed us through their loving sacrifice of time, toil and tears.

Written by: Dr. Mike Shaw, Pastor
First Baptist Church
Pelham, Alabama


Dr. Mike Shaw serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Pelham, Alabama. His ministry in Pelham began in May, 1979, and he has recently led the church in a relocation effort. A graduate of Samford University (1970), he holds the ThM (1973) and DMin (1976) degrees from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Mary are the parents of two sons, Scotty (25) and Jake (21).


1 Garrett, Duane A., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs in The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1993, p. 245.

2 English, E. Schuyler. Robert G. Lee a Chosen Vessel, Grand Rapids; Zondervan Publishing House, 1949, p.67.

3 Duane A. Garrett, op. Cit., p.252.

4 Lee, Robert G., Pay-Day Someday, Grand Rapids; Zondervan Publishing House, 1959, pp10-11.

5 Toy, C.H., Proverbs, the International Critical Commentary, Edinburgh; T.T. Clark, 1970, p.542.

6 Lee, op. Cit., p.12.

7 Lee, Robert G., Moody Founder's Week Conference Messages, Chicago; Moody Bible Institute, 1963, pp 157-158.