She’s Not a Real Person

Ana Jarvis, founder of Mother's Day. Image credit

Ana Jarvis, founder of Mother’s Day. Image credit

It’s that time of year again. It happens each year in May. It’s a day that some look towards with great love and expectation and a day to which some dread and just want it over with. And no, I’m not talking about Star Wars Day (May 4… as in May the fourth be with you… get it… fourth, force… yeah.. bad pun and that’s for a whole ‘nother post). It’s Mother’s Day.

There’s much I can go into about Mother’s Day, but I think this blogger says it best here. I’ve even quoted some of what she’s written on Mother’s Day because I think it speaks volumes. I’ve met a number of women over the years that just don’t like Mother’s Day. I know that some look forward to it. Many have had great moms and to them it’s a day to honor them. And that’s awesome. I just know that for some it’s to them a reminder of their infertility, a day that tells them they are less than a woman because they don’t have children. It’s a day for children to relive bad memories of bad moms. It’s a day where moms miss their children gone too soon. And it’s a day of guilt because they’re told what a great woman and mother should be like and they feel judged and found wanting.

And this is a day in which some wonderful male pastor gets up and preaches from Proverbs 31. No, not from Proverbs 31:1-9 (I wrote about that a bit back…and it’s about a mom giving the advice to a king to give out free beer). Nope. It’s a focus on Proverbs 31:10-31. It’s all about the wife of noble character (Proverbs 31:10). It’s all about the perfect wife. It’s all about what the perfect woman should be like… granted in the Ancient Near East a few thousand years ago, but still… And there’s also a whole ministry to busy women called Proverbs 31 Ministries (granted, I know nothing really about this organization… and it can be great because it’s a ministry to busy women… but as I read the memes produced through them and what I’ve seen on the website.. it’s almost a guilt trip for not being good enough.. of course, I’m a guy so I don’t know much about it I guess… carrying on).

It seems each year this passage is preached on for Mother’s Day or something akin to it.

And it needs to stop.

She’s not a real woman. She’s not even a description of what a woman should be like. No one… and  I mean no one (including a woman from the Ancient Near East when Proverbs was written and that cultural context) could do what is described here. Notice, it does say that

A wife of noble character who can find?” Proverbs 31:10

Who can find a woman like this? No one. She doesn’t exist. Nor should she in this way.

A few months back, I came across the idea from a Biblical scholar who focused on Proverbs (I’m not in my office and so can’t really look it up but I think it was either Leo Purdue or Claus Westermaan or Von Rad)  that the wife mentioned in Proverbs 31:10-31 is no real woman at all but in fact Woman Wisdom (dude… mind blown yet? If not, just wait).

In the beginning chapters of Proverbs (chapters 1-9) the father instructing his son speaks of two woman in this world–Woman Wisdom and Woman Folly. In Woman Folly there is only death. Woman Folly is like a hooker with a bad business model. She leads men astray. She destroys one’s respect for God, for other human beings, and creation itself.

Woman Wisdom on the other hand is one who offers hospitality to all who seek to grow and mature. Woman wisdom is the one who teaches and instructs, who nurtures growth in people as a mother might. She states that she was created when God created the world itself. In fact, Woman Wisdom was the first thing created by God according to Proverbs (see Proverbs 8:22-29). Woman Wisdom is described as a mother figure. The wisdom which Woman Wisdom says is available from God is described as something to seek and obtain at all costs. Woman Wisdom has built a house, prepared a feast, and calls all who seek wisdom to join her (Proverbs 9:1-12).

This is at the beginning, the first 9 chapters of Proverbs.

And then we look at the last few verses and chapter in Proverbs. Once again, a woman is described as one whom men should seek and want in their lives. The wife of noble character can’t be found. Instead a wise woman can–Woman Wisdom. A lot of what is described in what the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 does (like involved in commerce) wasn’t allowed in the Ancient Near East. But Woman Wisdom is involved in all aspects of life which includes both business and home and hearth.

Wisdom is what we are to desire and seek–both men and women. The wisdom of God is what we are to desire and make part of our lives. And in doing so, we ourselves grow in fear and respect and knowledge of God and in His wisdom which he gives freely and generously.

So this Mother’s Day, lay off of Proverbs 31:10-31. Try look at vv1-9 instead if you want good and wise advice from a mom.

Oh, and remember, even the founder of Mother’s Day wanted it gotten rid of (check it out here).

Wisdom is to be sough by mothers, by fathers, by children, by all…and the one who seeks the wisdom of God begins to know what it means to truly be wise in life itself without guilt or shame or feeling less of a person.

Please remember this next Sunday

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