I was going to save this one for the end, I really was. I wanted it to be sort of a "save the best for last" sort of thing. But something was given to me last night that I am bursting to share.
In all of the verses we've already looked at, we see how hard this Proverbs woman is working. She's taking care of her husband, her kids, the people she works with. She's adding to the GDP and using her skills.She's got her heart open to the needs of the needy (v20) and she makes doing good look good by taking care of her own personal appearance (v22). I'm not finished looking at the Proverbs woman yet, but before taking a break for the weekend, I want to leave you with something valuable that was given to me this week.
If you're like me, you might have glanced over Proverbs 31 in the past and thought, "Ugh. It's her again. I don't want to read about her!" Or maybe you know a Proverbs 31 woman personally and you hesitate to grow in relationship with her because she intimidates you. Why do we feel like that? I confess that in the past the reason that I have skimmed by the Proverbial women in my life- both figuratively and actually is because I feel intimidated. I know they're up to things that I feel like I cannot do or that I know that I'm not willing to do. What I want to talk about briefly today is freedom from that kind of thinking.
First of all, if you're reading Proverbs 31 as a check-list or to-do list, you're bound to leave it feeling either drained or puffed up. What's changed in my life that makes the Proverbs woman approachable is the reality that the purpose is not about who she is as a woman- it's who she is as a worshiper. She's not giving of herself and taking on every task and opening her arms and her heart to those around her so that she can earn a coffee mug that says "World's Best Mom" and get taken out to brunch on Mother's Day. She's not striving at work so she can get promoted. She's not taking care of her husband's every need so that she can boast to the other wives about how her man would never dream of leaving her. The only reason that she does all that she does the way that she does is because she is not worshiping any of those things. She's not beholden to them. She's beholden to God alone.
Read verse 30.
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Why does she do what she does? How does she have the strength and dignity and love she needs to accomplish so many tasks? Because she doesn't worship her tasks. She worships Jehovah.
This is what I want to share with you today. It's a challenge to look at your life and consider what or who you worship other than God. If you think, "I am a Christian. Of course I worship the Lord," please think again- solemnly. The Israelites thought they were worshiping Jehovah throughout their history but they constantly created other idols to worship in place of Him or "alongside" Him. The reason that I am so passionate about this is because I've seen the grievous repercussions of what happens when you worship other things- people, tasks, etc. instead of the Lord. But... let Him tell you.
"Of what value is an idol, since man has carved it?
Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation;"
"The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary."
"The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
eyes but cannot see,
they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who put their trust in them."
The reason that I'm writing this now is because Psalm 135: 18 haunts me, warns me, breaks my heart- for myself and those around me. Because idols are NOT a thing of the past. Nor are they just the materialistic things "spiritual" people like to think don't apply to them. Our hearts are made to worship. It's in our DNA. We are worshiping something. But, I look around me and see few people living the abundant, joyful life that the Proverbs woman had and that Jesus is offering. It's not a problem with our to-do list. It's a problem with our hearts.
The real question for us, women, is not what am I doing and how can I do it better? But, who am I worshiping? So I'm going to close out this blog with some questions. I've answered them and been deeply convicted. But I'm also now swimming in freedom. Because the result of worship is that we become like the object that we worship- do you see that in Psalm 135:18? When our worship is focused on things- even good things like spouses, children, good works, etc. we become like them- which is not what God made us for. We end up focusing too much on ourselves and one another, our hurts and wants and needs. We devour each other, spoil and ruin one another. But when we focus on the Lord, we are like a well-watered garden, a spring whose waters never fail. Because He is unfailing. He is the eternal source of all good.
So, please consider these questions seriously, if you will. Following the questions is a list of common idols that people- especially Christian people- have a tendency to worship. It was created by Tim Keller and given to me by the Austin Stone. Please read through them prayerfully and seriously. If you find that something else is stealing your heart, your worship- I urge you to repent. Read Ezekiel 14:1-6 for further insight. And, dear Proverbs woman, go in freedom into the weekend and further still.
a. What is your greatest nightmare?
b. What do you worry about most?
c. What, if you failed or lost it, would cause you to feel like you did not even want to live?
d. What keeps you going?
e. What is your greatest joy?
f. What do you rely on to comfort self with when things go badly or get difficult?
g. Who do you turn to in times of need?
h. Who do you turn to in times of excitement?
i. What/who do you think most easily about? Where does your mind go to when you are free to think?
j. What/who makes you feel the most self-worth?
k. What/ who are you the most proud of?
l. What do you really want or expect out of life?
m. If someone gave you $1000, what would you do with it?
n. What would make you really happy?
Idolatry adapted from Tim Keller:
Power idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if I have influence over others."
Approval idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if - I am loves and respected by _______
Comfort idolatry: life only has meaning/I only hae worth if - I have this kind of pleasure experience, quality of life.
Control idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I am able to get mastery over my life in the area(s) of ________________
Image idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I have a particular kind of look or body image
Helping idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- people are dependent on me and need me
Dependence idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if someone is there to protect me and keep me safe
Independence idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone else
Work idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if - I am highly productive and getting a lot done
Achievement idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- I am being recognized for my accomplishments
Materialism idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom and/or very nice possessions
Religion idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- I am adhering to my religion's moral codes and am accomplished in its activities
Individual person idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- THIS ONE PERSON is in my life and is happy there or is happy with me
Irreligion idolatry: Life only has meaning/I only have worth -if I feel I am totally independent of organizes religion and with self-made morality
Racial/Cultural idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- my race and/or culture is ascendant and recognized as superior
Inner ring idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group let's me in
Family idolatry: life only has meaning /I only have worth if- my parents/children/siblings are happy/respected and happy with me
Relationship idolatry: life only has meaning /I only have worth if- Mr. or Ms. Right is in love with me
Suffering idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I/people who are important to me are hurting, in a problem, only then do I feel noble or worthy of love or am able to deal with guilt
Ideology idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- my political or social cause or party is making progress and ascending in influence or power
You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3