Have you followed any of the many “Leadership Guru” forums? Believe it or not, I believe all those forums can be condensed into just three points, the three taught in Proverbs 31. If we get these three points right, every step will fall into place.
Since this is the 31st day of the month…below is an excerpt from the 31st day of the Proverbs devotional I wrote while living in Ukraine. Since this chapter is such a favorite, and the last in the book, it is twice the length as the previous 30 chapters. I guess I just felt wordy on that last day! 😉 Honestly, the 31st chapter is packed full of great little nuggets!
Day 31 ~ Proverbs 31
“The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:” ~Proverbs 31:1
When most people refer to Proverbs 31, the Noble Wife is the usual commentary, describing what is commonly known as The Virtuous Woman. This section of the Proverbs is an interesting study as verses 10-31 are an alphabetic acrostic in Hebrew, comparable to Psalm 119.
The first 9 verses, however, are an isolated oracle written by a mother to her son, with the counsel given by a father listed in chapter 4. History shows the name Lemuel (meaning Devoted to God) to possibly be a name of endearment given to King Solomon by his mother, Bathsheba. Only in more modern times has the identity of the subject been questioned. Unfortunately, seeing as specific names were not given, their true origins may have been lost unto historical nonexistence.
The oracle was written as a prophetic admonition, possibly out of a mother’s desire for her son’s success. Most mothers’ counsel is derived from past experience and a desire for their children to avoid the same mistakes made from their own life. Ironically, the three pieces of advice this mother gave were the very actions that eventually brought King Solomon to his ruin: flippant relationships, self-indulgence, and a slothful attitude toward injustice. Bathsheba would have been well equipped to warn of the consequences of these sins; the very sins of which she and King David, Solomon’s father, were mercifully forgiven and restored. Centuries later, our leaders continue to embellish the same sins. We are still human. Her advice to her son, the King, could most certainly be applied not only to our government leaders of today, but to anyone in a leadership position, especially the family father.
The influential role of the mother has been greatly diminished in modern times. While the role of the father has become known for absenteeism, most people do not realize the correlation to the diminishing role of the mother. With more than a third of American households being raised by a single parent, mostly by the mother, great concern is growing over the moral decline in our society. Our children are raised without the stability of the security in a family unit, resulting in higher poverty, crime, drug usage, and lack of education. The issue is not whether the home is run by a single dad or a single mom, the issue is that neither parent is a constant in the home. Unfortunately, in modern society, most two-parent homes have two-parent incomes. The children are left to raise themselves through babysitters and day-care.
I find the addition of a woman’s instruction in a man’s world to be very comforting. Solomon was attributed the wisest man of all time therefore his mother’s penned words must have been very influential to be included in the ancient scrolls. Never underestimate the hand that rocks the cradle. Most of scripture was written by men and toward men. Yet this passage contains the words of a woman giving instruction to her son, a man, a King. With such high importance placed on one oracle, it is disheartening that her words fall on deaf ears to most of our leaders today. Corruption in high places has been at work since the beginning of mankind.
“What, my son?
And what, son of my womb?
And what, son of my vows?” ~Proverbs 31:2
In older translations, the chapter begins with his mother asking the question, “What?” What are you doing? Are you paying attention? Listen! Since the time-frame is not given as to when in Solomon’s life the oracle was written, it is possible his mother saw in his youth warning signs of potential problems. We all have tendencies toward certain temptations. Some temptations are more common in higher positions or stations in society. This mother wished to get her son’s attention to bring a warning for pitfalls of someone of his status. This mother very wisely was teaching him that the responsibility of a King is not to be taken lightly. In James 3, we are told that teachers will receive a stricter judgment. How much more for a King? In 2nd Peter 2, a description is given of the consequences of false teachers who lead people to destruction. Her desire was for her son to lead responsibly.
“Do not give your strength to women,
Nor your ways to that which destroys kings.” ~Proverbs 31:3
The passage gives three separate pieces of advice for successful leadership; relationship, sobriety, and advocate. The first piece of advice has been ignored by politicians and pastors alike all throughout history. Many a mighty man has fallen from the public eye due to sexual indiscretions. With the introduction of the Internet, pornography is the number one ‘secret’ sin of today’s clergy. The temptation can be overwhelming. Bathsheba knew this first hand. Bathsheba and King David’s indiscretion resulted in two deaths, a divided family, and a lost kingdom. While their hearts were forgiven and restored in relationship with God, the consequences can be felt to this day. We need to be very careful and selective with whom we are in relationship.
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
Lest they drink and forget the law,
And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to those who are bitter of heart.
Let him drink and forget his poverty,
And remember his misery no more.” ~Proverbs 31:4-7
The second admonition is in mind altering substances. This piece of advice should be simple common sense. But even in our society today, drunken parties for politicians are the norm. Will a people put trust in a leader who is not clear minded while they are issuing judgments, decrees, and laws? Without morality we have only chaos. Alcoholism and self-medicating are rampant. She points out that those who are perishing or are in anguish drink to forget their troubles, though her urging to give strong drink is not for a King. Her son has a greater responsibility than to be self-focused. A good King, Ruler, or Teacher, a good Parent, is focused on those whom the Lord has put under their care. From the President/King all the way down to the parent in the poorest family, the quality of leadership is destroyed when alcohol or drugs control the mind. Just as a King is responsible for the condition of the Kingdom, Dad and Mom are responsible for the condition of the family.
“Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy.” ~Proverbs 31:8-9
The final plea this wise mother instructs her son is simply to do good. I believe she knew from experience within her own family how imperative righteous ruling is. James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Do we sit by idly, being more concerned about our own skin, watching those under us get trampled? Do we use our position to aid those less fortunate? Most Kings and leaders throughout history succumbed to the influence of power followed by arrogance. Self-serving leaders support only those who are able to give back to their establishment or campaign. But to the little people, the poor and needy, or the unjustly charged, these leaders are mute and turn a deaf ear. Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first. If we are in a place of position, God honors the humble in heart and giving in spirit.
Whether we are the ruler of a nation, or a stay-at-home mom, leadership comes with great responsibility. Lemuel’s mother very wisely conveyed the three most important aspects of righteous leadership: stay away from physical indulgence, keep a clear head, and use the position to benefit others.
“Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.”