By Pastor Bob Myers
Proverbs 31 describes an idealized woman.
The profile of this woman sometimes gets a bad rap. Sometimes the multi-dimensional role of the “ideal” woman is glossed over. This woman has business acumen, is a leader and entrepreneur in her own right, and does not draw her identity from her husband. She’s strong, obviously someone with her own gifts and drive, and a driving force who leaves her mark in lasting ways. Her righteousness endures.
One of the most neglected connections in the Bible is what precedes her description. We should not separate verses 8-9 from this context. What is the context? The context is given to us in Proverbs 31:1 where we learn that this chapter is from the words of King Lemuel, a “pronouncement that his mother taught him”. Proverbs 31:2 goes further in directly addressing his son with the words of his mother. “What should I say, my son? What, son of my womb? What son of my vows?” Do you see how the entire chapter is based on King Lemuel’s mom’s instruction to him?
King Lemuel’s mom instructs him not to waste his energy on women, wine, and self-indulgence that neglects justice. Proverbs 31:5 tells us that “Otherwise, he will drink, forget what is decreed, and pervert justice for all the oppressed.”
Good moms raise their sons to be advocates for the oppressed. It reaches it’s pinnacle in verses 8 and 9: “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy”. Good moms instruct their sons that silence in the face of injustice is complicity. Wherever we find injustice we need to find our voice and speak up.
Yesterday I experienced a sudden break from the constant low-grade fear of Covid-19. It was replaced by the outrage of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a twenty-five-year-old who dared to jog in a predominantly white neighborhood. His murder was captured on video tape and is like a public lynching exposing the racial injustice that is baked into America’s justice system. His murderers should be in jail waiting for a trial. They are not even charged with any crime.
So, today, on a rare, sunny, and 65-degree day in May, black men in our congregation rightfully fear to go outside. The burden of fear that weighs upon them is not an exaggerated sense of danger. It's real. What I might feel about going into a room of unmasked coughing people in a Covid-19 era, black men feel even more keenly. And they have felt it every single day.
I reached out to a few of my friends who bear this burden as black men. Each of them quickly expressed gratitude. Each are sold-out to Jesus Christ and are fierce champions of the gospel, and I think they each consider me a friend. But each of them “needed” to hear from me.
Which brings me back to the famous “Mother’s Day” text of Proverbs 31. Sons raised by good mothers find their voice to speak out against injustice.
As I consider the whole chapter, one of the ways sons honor their moms is by speaking up and contending against injustice.
Dr. Bryan Loritts, an outstanding author and pastor wrote:
We’ve been killed: Eating skittles in Florida.
Sitting in a South Carolina Church
Eating ice cream on our sofa in our own apartment
Jogging down a street.
The Word of God settled this issue for me some time ago. I will raise up my voice against injustice, despite the consequences. When we advocate for the mistreated, we should brace ourselves to be mistreated as well. That’s part of what identification with those who suffer brings back on us. To be more like Christ means I will be treated more like Christ was (2 Timothy 3:12).
On this Mother’s Day, when so many things remind us of the injustices in our society, let’s honor our moms by remembering that good moms teach us to raise our voices against injustice. If you’ve heard Proverbs 31 preached and taught that way, I’d love to know who taught it you. I’ve never heard the connection that “good moms raise advocates for justice” preached. On this Mother’s Day, I’m going to honor my mom by raising my voice against injustice.