Apples of Gold

apples

“She opens her mouth with wisdom,

And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

Proverbs 31:26

We have all conversed with different types of people who exhibit various styles of communication.  Some we enjoy listening and talking with and others we cannot wait to end.  There are many reasons we enjoy sharing and talking with some people and not with others.  Some people only talk about themselves or their children and their accomplishments.  They like to show off their status or maybe they frequently drop names of people they have been with to help boost their self-image.  At the other end of the spectrum are those people who are good listeners.  They ask questions about how we are doing and what is going on in our lives.  We can tell they are truly listening because they ask appropriate questions based on what we are telling them.  We could identify people that fit into both of these categories.

Our virtuous woman is a good listener and when she speaks, it is a “word fitly spoken like apples of gold in a setting of silver. “ (Proverbs. 25:1).  “She opens” in Hebrew has a fascinating meaning.  It means to plough or engrave.  A farmer ploughs his field preparing it for planting.  The better the farmer does at ploughing and preparing the better his production of crops.  A woman with her words can prepare the heart and soul of her listener with words of wisdom and kindness.  Ploughing turns the soil over loosening and exposing different parts of it.  When we as women interact with different people, the words we say can loosen hearts and minds and cause a sensitivity to God and His word that would not have happened if the words had been harsh, quarrelsome, or fretful.  A woman with her words may not always say things that are positive, but she knows how to be constructive and speak a word at the appropriate moment that will sit well with the listener.

The other meaning of the word open is to engrave.  Engraving is a permanent etching into something that is extremely difficult to remove.  Our words are engraved on the hearts and minds of those who listen.  We can all remember one word or phrase that someone has said to us that was hurtful and unkind.  It resonated through our soul and came back to our minds over and over causing repeat pain.  Before we speak, we must carefully consider our words.

If we choose to speak a word of criticism we must have carefully cultivated the field by investing into the relationship with our time, prayers, and frequent kind and encouraging words.  When this is done the field will be ready for the word of criticism, but it will be a “word fitly spoken.” (Proverbs 25:1).  We must also be careful not to speak kind words that are not true or disingenuous.  We can see through these words and they can also cause pain.

We must carefully consider our words, not only what is said, but also when it is said and the tone of voice it is said with.  What we say is engraved on the heart of our listeners and no matter how many kind words are said they may never erase the unkind or hurtful words.  As a listener we need to be wise and discerning in what we hear and not disregard every word that is spoken to us.  Was the word, though seeming unkind, said in a humble and loving way?  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) or “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

Below is a comparison between words the virtuous woman says and those that the foolish woman says.  Carefully consider your words as you read this comparison.

Virtuous woman’s speech Foolish woman’s speech 
Builds her house (Prov. 14:1) Tears her house down (Prov. 14:1)
Wise words wins favor (Ecc. 10:12-14) Foolish words consume, are evil madness, and are many (Ecc. 10:12-14)
Considers and holds back words (Prov. 29:11) Foolish give full vent (Prov. 29:11)
Wise words bring healing (Prov. 12:18) Rash words are like sword thrusts

(Prov. 12:18)

Know what is acceptable (Prov. 10:32) Perverse (Prov. 10:32)
Spread knowledge (Prov. 15:7) Loud, seductive, & knows nothing

(Prov. 9:13)

Precious jewel (Prov. 20:15) Quarrelsome and fretful (Prov. 19:13; 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15,16)
Gracious, seasoned with salt (Col 4:6) Idlers, busybodies, gossips (II Tim. 5:13)
Quick to listen & slow to speak (James 1:19) Evil (Prov. 15:28)
Restrains words (Prov. 17:27)
Ponders answer (Prov. 15:28)
Appropriate words at appropriate times

(Prov. 15:23)

Consider one last verse.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul, and health to the body.”

(Proverbs 16:24)

Questions:

  1. Are you working harder at preparing the soil or planting the seed with your words and actions?
  1. “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply” (Unknown).  How does this quote resonate with you?
  1. How does Proverbs 15:1 fit with our discussion in this lesson?
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Do You Laugh?

fall 001

“Strength and dignity are her clothing,

And she laughs at the time to come.”

Proverbs 31:25

There are many different kinds of women with many different kinds of ideas on what an ideal woman would look like.  Some women think the ideal woman is one with the nicest figure, expensive clothes, and nicely manicured nails.  This woman’s priority is her outward appearance.  Others, according to Cindi Lauper, “just wanna have fun.”  Still others are hardworking and want to be able to compete in a man’s world putting in 60 hours each week so they can climb the corporate ladder.  Others want to climb the social ladder and will do what it takes to accomplish this.  Still others are stay-at-home moms.  I believe each of these woman would say they have one common trait, strength.  Their definition of strength may be different, but in their sphere of influence they desire strength.

Strength in the original Hebrew can be defined as boldness, might, or power.  Figuratively, the virtuous woman wears her strength.  It does not say here that she puts it on, or she struggles with acquiring strength.  Strength is integral to her character.  She cannot be separated from her strength.  It is who she is.  This strength is not just physical strength which she certainly possesses, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” (v. 17).  This strength is an internal power that comes through living and learning and leaning on God when difficult situations arise.  She does not run and hide when life gets difficult.  With God at her side she faces challenges head on and then uses these situations as stepping stones in the character of her life.  She does not view these difficult situations as God and the world being against her.  She takes them in stride knowing they will strengthen her character.

Dignity and honor also characterize the virtuous woman.  As women, one of the major struggles we deal with is verbalizing thoughts that should have never even come into our heads.  Proverbs 15:2 says “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright:  but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.”  Or Proverbs 20:15 b says “The lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.”  Many times my prayer to the Lord is Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Our dignity can quickly be squashed with inappropriate words that show the true quality of our heart.  The virtuous woman does not get up each day and put dignity and honor on like a dress.  She is known by it at all times in her life.

This strength, honor, and dignity that characterize the virtuous woman provide a solid foundation in her life that will not cause her to hide from her lifestyle or choices she has made in the past.  “She laughs at the time to come.”  In other words, she is not worried about the future because she consistently makes wise decisions that cause her no regrets. As ladies, we must strive to be diligent, say kind words, be encouraging, be pure in our relationships with both men and women, look for ways to be gracious to all, and give to those in need.  No one ever regretted a good deed, but many have regretted an ill-spoken word or a hurtful or disgraceful action.  Each day we should focus on living life with no regrets so we can laugh at the time to come.

Questions:

  1. What type of strength do you have? Mental strength?  Physical strength?  Spiritual strength?  How did you obtain your particular strength?
  1. As you evaluate the last question, you must realize that any strength we have comes through challenges. We become mentally stronger through learning.  Physical strength comes through physical exercise or physical labor.  Spiritual strength comes through the discipline needed to walk with God every day no matter the hardships of life.  When any of these challenges meets you what do you do?  Run or meet it head on?
  1. Is your tongue a major test of your strength? Do you struggle with letting your words be pleasing in God’s sight?
  1. Read Mark 12:34 and Luke 6:45. Where do the kind words or the caustic words come from?
  1. How do we either change or maintain our words to be pleasing to those who hear and to God who judges? Let’s look at it in steps or stages.  Record what each verse says or how it applies to our initial question:
  1. Romans 10:9
  1. Proverbs 4:23-27
  1. Philippians 4:8, 9
  1. Luke 6:45
  1. As you can see, what we need is a pure heart. The springs of life flow from our hearts.  In order to laugh at the days to come we must be connected consistently to the well-spring of life – Jesus.  We must seek Him with all our strength and love Him with our whole being.  In doing this, we will gush forth with strength.  Seek God with your whole heart and let Him melt away the pain or bitterness you hold onto.  In doing this your strength will be renewed, and your words will be a flood of refreshing spring water. (Isaiah 40:31).

Cottage Industry

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“She makes linen garments and sells them;

She delivers sashes to the merchants.”

Proverbs 31:24

It all starts with an idea about something we are familiar with.  Susan Walvius and Michelle Marciniak were women’s basketball coaches when they stumbled on the idea of making bed sheets from the same material athletic wear is made. Walvius stated she liked the feel of her comfortable running shorts and thought that the fabric would make excellent bed sheets. Marciniak agreed and their business SHEEX offering performance bedding was born.  It is now a multi-million dollar business and it all started from the comfort of a pair of shorts.

Another fascinating idea is Angie’s list.  Angie Hicks got the idea when business partner Bill Oesterle, her mentor from her time as a college intern at a venture capital firm, had trouble finding a contractor for his home. The pair figured there should be a better way for consumers to share information. They went on to found Angie’s List in 1995.  Today the company covers more than 200 markets and has roughly 750,000 members. The business has received more than $50 million in investment capital from several sources, and it was named to the Inc. 500.

These companies and many others started out with an idea a woman had and it turned into an extremely lucrative venture.  This is what our virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 has done.  She has taken what she knows and is familiar with and turned it into a source of extra income for her family.

As we have seen in previous verses, the virtuous woman takes great care to buy flax (v. 13) and make fine clothing for her family and herself (v. 19, 21, & 22).  She then takes this fine material that she has made and uses it to turn a profit.  She may set up a booth at the local market and sell the linen garments that she has made, and she also sells her sashes to merchants so they can also sell her wares.  The word merchants is also translated several times in the Old Testament as Canaanites.  These men would travel around so not only was her merchandise sold locally, but it was also distributed in far off lands.

We must take notice that this comes toward the end of the chapter helping us to see that her priority was her family.  She made sure her family’s needs were taken care of before she sold her goods to those outside the home.  Her first priority was her family and then as she had time she sold the extra she made to the merchants.

As we read this description of this virtuous woman it is easy to be overwhelmed with all that she manages to do, and think, “of course, ‘she rises early’ (v. 15) and her lamp does not go out at night’ (v. 18),  she has so many responsibilities and irons in the fire there is no time for sleep.”  Or we may think “she has servants to help her get things accomplished and be so productive, but servants today are not common among the average middle class.”  We have many modern day conveniences these days that she did not have: dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, vacuum, oven, stove, refrigerator, etc.  Yet why do we feel as if we could never accomplish all this?  It seems the spirit in many Americans these days is a spirit of entitlement to entertainment and down time. Maybe we need to reprioritize our thinking, and lose the sense of entitlement many of us have.  Rather than sit and watch the latest TV program we should sit with a pad of paper and a pen and brainstorm small business ideas that can take what we are familiar and good at and turn it into a way to make money.  We cannot succeed at anything if at first we don’t try.

Questions:

  1. Is having a small cottage business something you are even interested in?
  1. Do you have a small business idea? If so, what is it?
  1. There are not many entrepreneurial stories in the Bible in regards to women. Read Acts 9:36-43 and record the details of this story.
  1. The Proverbs 31 woman and Tabitha/Dorcas in Acts 9:36-43 both have the same entrepreneurial idea. What business venture where they both involved and why would this be what they were involved in?
  1. Who went to get Peter in Acts 9:38?
  1. Who was standing beside Dorcas when Peter arrived? (Acts 9:39)
  1. Who did Peter call once Dorcas was raised to life? (Acts 9:41)
  1. What was the result in Acts 9:42? Do you think this was in part to Dorcas’s reputation?
  1. How does James 1:27 relate to Dorcas?

What is Happening at the Gate?

city gate

“Her husband is known in the gates,

when he sits among the elders of the land.”

Proverbs 31:23

This portion of Scripture, Proverbs 31:10-31, is a Hebrew poem written by a queen mother to her son.  She understood the value of a virtuous woman, and she did not want her son to be tricked into marrying or falling for a woman that did not have a virtuous character.  In order to understand women and their importance to a marriage the poem identifies the traits of a virtuous and godly woman.  Marriage was intended by God to be for a lifetime, and this queen mother wanted her son to have the best opportunity for a lifetime of happiness and not a lifetime of pain and misery.

Proverbs is full of wise sayings and wise counsel to all who are willing to read it and heed what God so readily wants to impart into our lives.  Below is a list of comparison between what Proverbs says about a woman of ill repute and the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31.

Woman of ill repute (Proverbs)                                         Virtuous Woman (Prov. 31)

  1. Adulteress (2:16; 29:20)                                             Husband trusts her (v. 11)
  1. She brings shame which is                                      She does him good, and not harm

like rottenness to his bones (12:4)                               all the days of his life (v. 12)

  1. Foolishly tears her house down (14:1)                     Diligent and hard worker helping                                                                                       her husband build their estate                                                                                                          (v. 13-19)
  1. Focuses on her selfish needs (7:10-23)                   Focuses on the needs of her                                                                                          family, the poor, and needy                                                                                                          (v. 15, 20, 21)
  1. Dresses seductively (9:13)                                          Dresses in a fashionable and                                                                                              modest way (v. 22)
  1. Like a gold ring in a pigs snout (11:22)                              Husband well known and                                                                                                     respected (v. 23)
  1. Smooth speech that is bitter as wormwood                      Kind and wise words (v. 26)

and sharp as a two-edged sword (5:3, 4))

  1. “Her feet do not stay home” (7:11)                                    “Looks well to the ways of                                                                                               her household and is not                                                                                                     idle” (v. 25, 27)
  1. Quarrelsome and fretful (21:9, 21:19, 25:24)                     Husband and children                                                                                                        praise her (v. 28)
  1. Forgets her covenant with God (2:17)                                 A woman who fears the                                                                                                    Lord is to be praised                                                                                                                (v. 30)

The virtuous woman’s husband is able to sit in the gates with the elders of the land because he has a wife at home who is caring for his home and his children and does not bring shame and embarrassment to their family.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is a chiastic poem.  Starting at the beginning and the end of this poem and working our way to the middle we come to the central thought.  “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.”  Here we have twenty verses pointing out the qualities of a virtuous woman and one verse in the middle about the husband and his standing in the community.  Ladies, one of the ways we can tell how we are doing at home is how our husbands are doing in the community.  As the saying goes, “Behind every good man, there is a good woman.”  If this husband had to make the chores of the home his priority, such as taking care of the children, keeping the house clean, making sure meals were made, children were at their activities, etc., he would not be able to be in the position he is in.

As wives we have a tremendous impact on our husbands and their position and role in society.  I wrote myself a letter the other day to remind myself what I needed to focus on.  Here is a short excerpt:

Danna,

“You are responsible for you.  You will stand alone before God.  You are responsible for yourself as a wife and a mother.  Stop thinking you have to be responsible for…, rather see yourself as God sees you…a sinner with nothing good to offer if it weren’t for the blood of Christ.”

Wives, the jobs we have to do according to Proverbs 31 is overwhelming, but God does not give us something to do without desiring to assist us.  Maybe the reason we are unsuccessful in accomplishing all God has for us is because we are seeking to do it in our own strength, instead of leaning on God to assist us.  May God bless you as you ponder these thoughts and evaluate your life.

Questions:

  1. Evaluate your life. Which list more accurately describes you?

2.   Write yourself a letter.  Sometimes it is helpful to get our thoughts back on track.