Sermon on Proverbs 31:10-31 | A Working Mother

Mother and Baby

A Working Mother (Proverbs 31:10-31)

The other morning on the way to school, RJ was talking about his mother, and he reminded me of a story that happened many years ago. I was working on my doctoral degree in Montgomery, Alabama, and the whole family had traveled with me so I could attend a week of class. While I was in class, Tammy would take the boys and do different things in and around Montgomery.

One day, she took them to the Montgomery Zoo. Wil was between 4 and 5 years-old, and the one thing that he wanted as a souvenir was tiger mask. Tammy bought that mask for Wil, and he was delighted.

Montgomery, Alabama, and Charleston, West Virginia, are a long way from each other, especially when you’re only about 5. About halfway home, Wil was getting cranky. Tammy had that tiger mask in her lap. To entertain Wil–the rest of the way home–Tammy wore that tiger mask and stared out her window at passing cars. You can imagine the look on people’s faces as people saw this tiger looking at them! Some people would even slow down and pass us again to get another look. Wil didn’t cry the rest of the way home!

Tammy knew that her child needed something from her, and she gave what she could. There was no way that we could stop every time Wil got a little cranky, but Tammy did what she could to serve him and to help him. Serving your children is the bedrock of what it really means to be a mother.

That’s what King Lemuel’s mother taught him in Proverbs 31. A. W. Martin told me the other night that he was reading Proverbs 31 when his mother passed away. I told him then that I was going to use that tidbit because it was too sweet and rich not to share.

We often think of Proverbs 31 when a godly woman has left this world. That’s appropriate. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Prov 31:30). This morning we wish to give “honor to whom honor” is due (Rom 13:7).

Yet, we also wish to call mothers–and the rest of us, too–to a higher level of living. As I read Proverbs 31, I’m struck that this a working woman–she works long and diligently. Honestly, one idea stands out in her work: service. You don’t find that word in this text. However, the virtuous wife lives service–Above everything else, this woman was a servant.

That’s precisely what we wish to learn from this text: “A working mother is a serving mother.

Scripture (Proverbs 31:10-31)

A working mother serves her husband.

The text does not speak about a “virtuous mother”–the text mentions “a virtuous wife.” The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.” Contrary to what we might expect to read, this woman is the “breadwinner” of the family.

  • She buys a field.
  • She perceives that her merchandise is good.
  • She makes linen garments and sells them.

It’s quite rare that we read of a woman in that day and age who worked outside the home.

Why is the “virtuous wife” working outside the home? Why is the husband not working? “Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land” (v 23). According to the Law of Moses, the elders of the land would decide important cases, often matters of life and death. This husband has an important, God-ordained, unpaid role among the people. This husband is able to go to the city gates and do the work of God with confidence that his wife will take care of things at home.

A working mother serves her husband.

A working mother serves her children.

The text mentions several ways that a working mother serves her children. “She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants” — Yes, she’s making sure her servants have food, but “her household” would certainly include her children. “She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet” — Her children wear the finest clothing when snow comes. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness” — She is teaching her children the truth of God, that which is true wisdom.

Children remember the way a mother serves them more than they remember anything else. Rebecca Adams tells of being a New York Yankee fan in the heart of North Carolina. Not an easy feat for a young Southern girl; her friends made sure they knew they did not approve of her choice of ball teams. But, Rebecca loved Mickey Mantle, and she held fast to being a Yankee fan.

The Yankees met the Braves in the World Series. The New York Yankees were down 3 games to 1 before they tied the series. On the afternoon of the final game Rebecca’s mom was waiting for her at the bus stop to tell her that the Yankees had won the World Series. Rebecca’s mom knew how badly she’d want to hear that good news. She served Rebecca and gave her that good news.

A working mother serves her children.

A working mother serves her customers.

“She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night.” We live in an age where “things just aren’t made like they used to be”–We’ve all known the frustration of buying a product that was substandard. This woman’s customers did not have that issue, for she produced good merchandise.

You may be wondering why I’d even bother to mention that this woman sold good merchandise. After all, most women I know aren’t sewing garments to be sold. But, there’s an important principle at work here.

  • This is an honest woman. She’s not going to lie to her customers–Her work is honest. That’s an immensely biblical concept: “Putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Eph 4:25).
  • This is a hard-working woman. She is putting forth her best effort. That also is biblical: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col 3:23).

A working mother serves her customers.

A working mother serves the poor.

“She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.”

This is a woman who not only provides for her own household, but she provides what she can for the needy. That concept is as biblical as it can be: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Eph 4:28). No, the woman in Proverbs 31 is no thief, but she works with her hands to give to the poor.

A working mother serves the poor.


A working mother is a serving mother.” We need mothers who work very diligently in the home, regardless of your career. What are some ways you working mothers can be serving mothers?

We need working mothers who serve their husbands.

I know that for some people “service” is a dirty word, but, as we’ve demonstrated the past couple of weeks, service is immensely biblical.

We can’t ignore the context here–The working mother serves her husband so that he can be about the business of God. Both an elder (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6) and a deacon (1 Tim 3:12) are to be husbands of one wife. That does speak about the permanence of marriage.

But, why should these men be married? There are many answers in Scripture that we could discuss. But, I can’t help but wondering if part of that answer isn’t that these men need encouragement, solid counsel, etc. Wives can provide encouragement and sound counsel when few others can.

Ladies, let me encourage you to find a way to encourage your husband this week to be involved in the work of God.

We need mothers who serve their children.

The virtuous woman served her children in two major ways: She provided for them and she taught them. As I think back on my childhood, I don’t know how my parents managed to raise three boys. But, we never went without food, clothing, shelter, etc. There are many times I find myself saying or doing precisely what my mother taught me.

Mothers, commit to teaching your children this week. What biblical truth do they need to hear from you? What life lesson can you impart to your children?

In Scripture, mothers are presented as teachers of important truths. “My son, keep your father’s command, And do not forsake the law of your mother” (Prov 6:20). Proverbs 31 begins this way: “The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him.”

We need mothers who are honest.

How will you mothers commit to honesty this week?

We need mothers who serve the poor.

How can you mothers commit to serving the less fortunate this week?


What a better world this would be if people understood “A working mother is a serving mother“!

  • We’d have stronger churches. We’d have many leaders because of the influence of godly wives. We’d have full pews because of the teaching of godly mothers.
  • We’d have people committed to honesty–Godly women would make sure of it.
  • We’d have churches committed to helping the poor–Godly women would make sure of it.

How godly are you this morning?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.

Share with Friends: