Wisdom of a Mother
Songwriters give their moms a lot of credit for saying important things. “Mamma told me not to come” to those freaky parties, “That ain’t the way to have fun,” she said. “Mamma told me when I was young to be a simple kind of man.” She tried to raise me better, to steer me right, “Mamma tried.” So many songs about the things our mother’s said to us.
There must be something that happens when a woman becomes a mother that downloads certain phrases into them—like a firmware upgrade—because I think we’ve all heard the same little speeches.
Beds are for sleeping in, not jumping on.
“I don’t know” isn’t an answer.
There’s the standard answer to the perpetual why, “Because I said so, that’s why.”
Conflict resolution between siblings: I don’t care who started it—I’m gonna finish it.
When you ask her to get something for you: Your hands aren’t broken.
When you push back a little too hard: I brought you into this world and—I can take you out of it!
When you leave a mess: I’m not your maid.
And then complain that it’s not fair: Nobody ever said life was fair.
Timeless classics like: Look at me when I’m talking to you.
Don’t you tell me “no!”
If I’ve told you once—I’ve told you a thousand times!
And a common refrain at our house:
Wipe that look off your face—or I’ll knock it off. (That one might have only been my mom).
And most of us take all that wisdom handed down to us and at some point in our life and make the proud declaration, “My mamma didn’t raise no fool.” And that’s how you have to say it—you can’t use proper grammar. “My mamma didn’t raise no fool.”
So, today we’re talking about the wisdom of mothers. Some of us are actually moms and need to know how to be wise mothers, and the rest of us need to know how to live in wisdom. Which means this lesson pretty much covers us all. What is wisdom, and how can we get it?
Prayer: Father in heaven, we thank You for our mothers, for all the mothers in this room, and for all the future mothers—help us to honor them today, to love them and encourage them and let them know how precious they are to You. We’re thinking about wisdom today, give us wisdom, make us wise, help us to seek You for true wisdom and understanding. AMEN
My mom said a lot of things, some of them were helpful and some of them not so much, but one thing she said that really stuck with me—and it wasn’t original to her but she said it to me all the time—was, “Franki, be a leader, not a follower.” Which is interesting because that’s pretty much the first piece of practical wisdom we get in the book of Proverbs.
Chapter one, verse 10 says,
My child, if sinners entice you,
turn your back on them!
They may say, “Come and join us. …
[but the wise mother says]
My child, don’t go along with them!
Be a leader, not a follower. Before that we’re told the purpose of the book of Proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline—and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom—meaning wise people do what God says.
We can’t talk about wisdom without turning to the book of Proverbs. It’s a book in the Old Testament that contains a collection of wise sayings put together by King Solomon, who is known to be one of the wisest people who has ever lived. When he became King of Israel as a young man—the heir to King David—he knew right away that he was in over his head, so he prayed to God and asked for wisdom and knowledge so he could be a good ruler. God answered him in 2 Chronicles 1:11 and said,
“Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, (you know, all the stuff we would have asked for) but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people—I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!”
Note to self: ask God for wisdom.
So God gave him wisdom and Solomon spent his whole life collecting these proverbs. 31 chapters—which is handy—one for every day of the month—a bunch of clever little soundbites that talk about the way the world works. The way it works, the way it doesn’t, warnings and observations that we should all listen to if we want to live a life that makes any sense. A life that works, that has meaning, that doesn’t lead to poverty and death and despair and complete misery. A life of virtue. People say life doesn’t come with instructions but they’re wrong—God gave us Proverbs. Of course most of us pay about as much attention to these instructions as a couple of dads with a six pack putting together a new crib they got from IKEA—we have the instructions, we just don’t use them.
One of the interesting things about Solomon’s collection of Proverbs is the way he personifies wisdom. He could have written them like a prophet and said, “Thus saith the Lord.. the wise person will do this and not do that.” He could have personified wisdom as God. Or he could have written it like he wrote Ecclesiastes—like from his own perspective. “These are the things I have noticed about the way the world works—ignore them at your peril.” But he didn’t do that either. He personified wisdom as a woman—specifically, he personified wisdom as a mother.
Wisdom shouts in the streets.
She cries out in the public square.
She calls to the crowds along the main street,
to those gathered in front of the city gate: (I’ve told you guys before how my mom would stand at our front door and shout to me and my brothers—we could hear her screech from anywhere in the neighborhood—I think Solomon and me had the same mom.)
“How long, you simpletons,
will you insist on being simpleminded?
How long will you mockers relish your mocking?
How long will you fools hate knowledge?
Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you
and make you wise.
Wisdom the wise mother… Throughout the book there’s a contrast between wisdom, personified as the wise mother—and the evil, foolish woman who is personified as a whore. These two women are constantly competing for our attention—wisdom as a mother trying to lead us to faithfulness and righteousness, and foolishness as the harlot trying to seduce and tempt us to take shortcuts. Shortcuts to wealth and love and temporary pleasure. Proverbs makes it very clear that there are no shortcuts to wisdom, honor, love, and anything that makes life truly worth living. We are foolish to listen to the harlot—she is the femme fatale who brings death and destruction.
The bulk of the book is chapter after chapter of these little proverbs, these little soundbites for how to live a wise life. Even people outside the church are familiar with a bunch of them, some of the greatest hits are: “Train children in the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.” “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” “Without a vision the people perish.” “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And on and on and on. They’re arranged pretty randomly overall but if you read the whole book a few times you start to see some patterns. There’s a few very important recurring themes that keep popping up that link greed, lust and pride to our motivation for most of the evil in the world. If we were to lay all the proverbs on the table like a bunch of jelly beans, and then put them into different piles based on color—we’d have several piles of similar themes. Each group would contrast wisdom and foolishness in different ways. Like working hard versus laziness, generosity versus stinginess, the loudmouthed boasting idiot versus the person who knows how to keep their mouth shut, the sex crazed lonely pervert versus the honorable person who has self control, lust versus love, justice versus injustice, cheaters and liars versus the honest and honorable—there are the faithful who truly fear the Lord and there are fools who think they know better and are rebellious and unteachable.
In all these lessons, over and over, we learn how to not be confused about things that are not confusing. Because we know what’s right—and a life of wisdom is just doing the next right thing. Not trying to find shortcuts. Not cheating. So wisdom is personified as our mother giving us advice—we’re supposed to listen and do what she told us.So we can say, “My mamma didn’t raise no fool.”
We are people of faith, and wisdom is just faith in action. To know the right things, and believe the rights things, and then to not do them is foolish. Wisdom is faith in action.
Truth Bombs One of the first things I really loved about Jesus when I was new teenage Christian was all those times in the Gospels when He dropped truth bombs on people and blew their minds. It’s probably the reason I wanted to be a pastor, and a songwriter—I wanted to blow people’s minds like Jesus did. And I figured out pretty quick that the only way I could do that, was to steal all my material from Him—His bombs are the only ones that make a dent.
In Proverbs chapter 8 he talks about where wisdom comes from. It starts out with wisdom personified as the righteous mother, then at verse 22 it takes an interesting turn,
“The Lord possessed me from the beginning,
before he created anything.
I was appointed in ages past,
at the very first, before the earth began.
“The Lord possessed me from the beginning,” That should sound very familiar, it should remind us of Genesis chapter one,
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
and also John chapter one, where it’s talking about Jesus and says,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
Personified wisdom is telling us where her wisdom comes from—it doesn’t come from her. The New Testament explains what this is all about—in Colossians 2:3 we’re told that Jesus is the one
“in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” That Christ is “the wisdom of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:24]
So, do you want to be a wise mother? Your wisdom needs to come from Jesus. Do you want to live a life that makes sense, one that doesn’t lead to a dead end? Your wisdom needs to come from Jesus. His truth bombs are the only ones that work.
Jesus is the wisdom of God. He is the true personification of wisdom—wisdom made flesh. In His wisdom things look very upside-down from the perspective of the world. You want to be first? Be last. You want to be the greatest? Be the least. Love your enemies. Forgive people who hurt you. Do you want to live forever? Pick up your cross and die to yourself every day. Jesus laid down His life for you, He was killed on a cross so that you could live. That’s the wisdom of Jesus. The message of the cross—and the message of the cross sounds like foolishness to fools. Only those who hear what Jesus has done for them and believe it will start to understand. To everyone else it sounds like nonsense. But to all of us who are being saved, we know that it’s the very power of God.
If you would be wise then you will believe these things.
But, it’s not about just knowing the right things, or believing the right things—wisdom is faith in action. Having a GPS doesn’t do any good if you just sit there, or you don’t go where it tells you. Wisdom isn’t just knowing the right things, it’s doing the right things. A life of wisdom is a life of doing the next right thing, and then the next right thing, and then getting up tomorrow morning and doing the next right thing. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ, and faithfulness is following His instructions. Wisdom is faith in action.
So, the book of Proverbs starts off with wisdom personified as a mother, and then in chapter eight we find out that she gets her wisdom from God—followed by proverb after proverb of what it means to live a life of wisdom. Finally, we come to the last chapter, [Proverbs 31] Chapter 31—and there’s this remarkable bookend. Instead of wisdom as an abstract concept being personified as a mother—in chapter 31, we have a description of a virtuous woman with all the traits that the book has been talking about. If someone were to actually live a life marked by wisdom, it would look like this.
A lot of people have looked at Proverbs 31 as a description of a Godly woman—the holy standard of what it looks like to be a faithful wife and mother. It is that—but it’s so much more—this is a picture of what it looks like for all of us to live a life marked by wisdom. That’s why it’s the finale of the book. Most people seem to miss this.
It makes perfect sense if you think about it: We’re the people of God—the church. One of the key ways to understand the church is that we are the bride of Christ, right? Proverbs 31 is the description of the perfect bride. And as the bride of Christ, we’re also the mother of the Gospel as we bring it to the world.
I said this was gonna be a message that showed mothers how to be wise mothers and the rest of us how to live a life marked by wisdom. This is where that all comes together. Listen to the following passage in both ways: If you are a wife or a mother then I want you to hear these words as a blessing and a challenge to be a wise, faithful wife and mother. But I want all of us to hear these words as the people of God, the church, who are called to be the bride of Christ, the church—and to honor our husband the Lord Jesus Christ, and our children, all those who are in the world and called to faith by the Gospel—we must be faithful, we must work hard, we must live a life marked by wisdom:
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She finds wool and flax
and busily spins it.
She is like a merchant’s ship,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is energetic and strong,
a hard worker.
She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
her lamp burns late into the night.
Her hands are busy spinning thread,
her fingers twisting fiber.
She extends a helping hand to the poor
and opens her arms to the needy.
She has no fear of winter for her household,
for everyone has warm clothes.
She makes her own bedspreads.
She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
Her husband is well known at the city gates,
where he sits with the other civic leaders.
She makes belted linen garments
and sashes to sell to the merchants.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.
Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
That’s what wisdom looks like. It looks like hard work. It looks like faithfulness.
Wisdom is putting our faith into action. Wisdom is doing the next right thing. And you already know what that is—it’s not a mystery. Don’t be confused about things that aren’t confusing. The right thing is always to do what God tells you to do. If you don’t think you know what God is telling you you to do, I’m pretty sure you know how to find out. He wrote it all down for you and everything. I’m pretty sure His Word is always within your reach. You just have to open it, you just have to read it, and then you just have to do it. That’s it. That’s wisdom. It’s just doing the next right thing. You say you believe? You say you have faith? Wisdom is putting that faith in action. AMEN