Search

A Proverbs 31 Man

I want to be a Proverbs 31 man. But I’m pretty sure you have no idea what I mean.

You may be vaguely familiar with the term “a Proverbs 31 woman”. Twenty-two verses lauding the noble wife and mother: compassionate and generous, industrious and successful merchant and seamstress, worth far more than rubies. Her children arise and call her blessed … and probably mutter a few other comments over dinner – are you kidding me? Who can do all this?


No, not that passage. I’m interested in the command found in the two verses prior.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV


A little background info is helpful. This is a passage from the last chapter of Proverbs, a collection of long and short statements with a singular goal: for gaining wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:2) King Solomon gets credit for the vast majority of the book, but this passage is attributed to Lemuel, an (Arab?) King who passed on some of what he learned from his mother.


The wise counsel she gave to Lemuel – and he gave to us – is summed up in the two opening words: Speak up! Literally, “open up your mouth”, on behalf of those who do not have the ability or the platform to tell their stories or to plead their cases, possibly due to loneliness or oppression or injustice. Maybe they simply don’t have the ability to speak.


For anyone who seeks to walk in God’s ways, these are our marching orders – whether you be a man or a woman: speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I want to be a Proverbs 31 man.


What difference does it make if I clam up rather than speak up?


That’s a good question, but I’m just going to give some quick responses Debating scripture

can become a way to avoid doing what we have been called to do, taking us down what the

River Ridge Boys – the Men’s Bible Study at River Ridge Covenant Church – would call a Rabbi Trail. No, that’s not a typo. Let the Rabbi's debate it.


My responses are based upon a specific passage about the character of God. The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly. (Psalm 103:6, New Living Translation)

  • We speak up because it is in line with the character of God. It’s what he does.

  • Jesus has advocated for us before the Father, so we treat others as we have been treated. (That’s the principle of the spigot. Blessings received, blessings given).

  • God does his work of helping those who are treated unfairly through the actions of people who follow Him.

  • If we clam up, those who are calling out for help are given the impression that God has not heard and will not hear their prayers.

  • The Bible is not a buffet line from which we can pick and choose – taking the passages that give us comfort, but ignoring the ones that call us to the narrow and more difficult path of following Jesus. (Check out the rest of Psalm 103, in which we read of the many “benefits” of God’s love and forgiveness. But remember not to disregard verse 6).

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9


So, let’s get practical. What does it mean to be a Proverbs 31 man – or woman?


It doesn’t begin by “opening your mouth” online, joining a chorus on social media about causes and concerns. That is certainly a popular option, but an impersonal way to begin.

It might mean joining hands with an organization that advocates for a specific segment of the population that resonates deeply within you.


But before you speak up, slow down and engage your other senses. Ask God to open your eyes and your ears, to see people as he sees them and to hear their stories.


Be patient. God will direct you. To pick up on Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, one person will become evident to you – someone that has been placed “at your gate”, someone who has a name and a need. *


Your first response to this person will likely be one full of empathy. That’s good, but be aware of a specific dynamic. Because your world is probably very different from his or hers, you will have to guard against the posture of standing above and apart from your new friend.


Just as God entered into your life and into your struggles, so you can authentically come alongside your new friend and be just that – a friend. A companion. Ask God to help you to learn what it means to be present with your friend.


And then someday – maybe months or years later – the time and context will come for your voice to be heard, to speak up on his or her behalf.


My friend’s name is Dean, with whom I have been walking since 2010. Throughout his seventy years of life Dean has been severely limited – I would say oppressed – by cerebral palsy. But that’s a story for another post.


What is your friend’s name?


Benediction of Blessing

May the Lord open your eyes to see someone who been providentially placed at your gate.

May the Lord open your ears to hear that person’s stories and heart-cries.

May the Lord open your mouth to be an advocate for your friend, seeking to bring justice and aid as needed.


Note: This is the first entry from what I call The D files: Periodically the Blue Spigot will look at the tendency for the church to file sections of the Bible away under the following headings: Distort, Disregard, or Discount. I think that Proverbs 31:8-9 and Psalm 103:6 have been disregarded for too long. What do you think?


*(Please read Luke 16:19-31. It’s the only parable of Jesus where the primary character is given a name.)