A Virtuous Wife (Proverbs 31)
1. This morning we commemorate one of the great women of the Bible as we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Many things have been said lately about Mary, but very little has basis in the Bible. What does the Bible tell us about this great saint? Jesus drove out seven demons from Mary. After that, she followed and served Jesus throughout his ministry in Galilee until His death. She witnessed His Crucifixion and death. She was the first witness of the Resurrection. Jesus sent her to tell His disciples the news that the tomb was empty and He had risen from the dead! Throughout her time with Jesus and the disciples, she provided from her own means to support their ministry. As with the other women mentioned by Luke (8:2-3), she was an influential woman from Magdala, but she knew that her wealth would not save her. It was the risen Christ that she had seen outside the empty tomb who saved her. The same risen Christ who saves us.
2. As we take up our text this morning, there is one more assumption about Mary Magdalene that should probably be addressed. We look at this poem about a man’s love for his wife and how virtuous she is. One of the first things many people think of when they hear Mary Magdalene’s name is the mistaken interpretation that she was a prostitute. Definitely not the idea we have of “virtuous” that Proverbs talks about. However, Mary does share some characteristics with the “virtuous wife,” even though we have no record that she was ever married. We see the “virtuous wife” is one who takes care of her household. Mary also took care of her household, as the Gospels tell us. She followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, providing for the needs of Jesus and the disciples from her own means as they went from town to town. Mary did this in a very “virtuous” way. Not because she thought she’d earn a greater reward from Jesus, but because she knew that He had come to deliver sinners from their sins just as He had delivered her from her demons. She is blessed by her “children” as she is prominently mentioned throughout the Gospels, especially the Gospel of Luke. She continues to be an example of faith to us two thousand years later. Mary was a “virtuous woman,” but she is not what Proverbs is talking about.
3. But what do we really have here before us in this poem from Proverbs? It’s a love song. I’m sure as I read this text earlier that every young woman looking to get married was thinking, “I’ve got to do all that?! It doesn’t seem worth it!” I’m sure there were also wives sitting here—mine probably leading the group—thinking, “Yeah, right. In his dreams!” I’m also sure there are husbands who thought, “That’d be nice. I wish it worked like that.” Unfortunately in our fallen world, it doesn’t work like that. No spouse—husband or wife—ever lives up to their spouse’s expectations of them. But this poem isn’t a checklist for what a good wife is supposed to be or supposed to do. It’s a love song. A song by a husband who is so in love with his wife that he can’t find a single fault in her. It’s really a picture of Christ’s love for His Church. Although we sin on a regular basis, He looks at us and sees redeemed saints because His love and mercy brought Him down to die on the Cross to take the punishment we deserve in our stead. Now, He sees us as perfect, without a single fault, because of His love for us.
4. So, what does it mean to be the “virtuous wife”? We do the things that the “virtuous wife” does. We do good to others. We follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would have them treat you. We take what possessions and gifts that God has given us and use them for His glory. We open our hands to the poor and reach out to those who have needs. Everyone here probably knows at least one person who isn’t doing the best right now. The circumstances aren’t great. You’re not sure if you’d be any help to this person or not, but you REALLY want to help. Be there for them. If nothing else, just let them know that you have a shoulder than they can lean on and a willing ear to listen to their problems. Sometimes that’s the greatest relief you can give to someone in need—an audience for them to voice their problems. And above all, we do everything to benefit our husband. Proverbs says, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (v23). Everything we do should bring glory to our husband Christ. As Paul tells the Colossians, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (3:17). In Proverbs, the wife is praised with the words, “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” (v29). When you’re being praised by Christ, the words to His “virtuous wife” are, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). There’s praise for which we should all strive to be worthy.
5. No one is perfect. Not even the saints that we honor. Mary Magdalene might not have been a prostitute, but she still understood that she was a sinner. It was this realization and her faith in Jesus that sent her running from the empty tomb twice—once to report the tomb as empty, once to say, “I have seen the Lord!” Amen.