Today is “Mother’s Day” and there is such a need today to highlight the indispensable role of mothers in the lives of children. In the past few decades there has been a radical shift in how women and men view the role and importance of mothers. There was a day when society greatly valued the role of motherhood. Women were praised for the sacrifices they made in order that they could invest their hearts and lives into molding and shaping their children. Men appreciated the time and energy that their wives spent in doing things that were often unappreciated by their children. That day has largely passed.
It is not that motherhood is no longer a part of our society, but rather we have lost our understanding of the importance of a mother’s unique imprint on the life of her children. We have become convinced that there are others who can make that same lasting impression on the lives of the young. We are wrong!
God has ordained the ministry of motherhood. I know that may sound strange to you, the “ministry of motherhood,” but if you will take the time to study God’s Word then you can easily see how it is God that has knit us together in our mother’s womb, He has placed us in the cradle of our mother’s arms, it is God who has created mothers so that they can nourish their babies from their own bodies, it is God who has placed tenderness and compassion in the heart of every mother so that her children can come to know the tenderness and compassion of Almighty God. God has done this.
The nonchalant attitudes that we have towards the crucial “giftings” of God in mothers have been largely brought about because we have removed God from the equation. Rather than focusing on the high calling of God on the lives of mothers, we have focused on the incredible demands of motherhood, the thankless sacrifices that mothers are called to make on the behalf of their children, and we have sought more “rewarding” arenas for mothers to find their fulfillment. If we do not first understand that children are a gift from the Lord and that mothers are equipped by the Lord to make an indelible impression on these young lives then mothers can easily be overwhelmed with the rigorous demands of motherhood. The late Erma Bombeck once wrote,
Wanted: Woman to raise, educate and entertain child for minimum of 20 years. Be prepared to eat egg if the yolk breaks, receive anything in hand child spits out, and take knots out of wet shoestrings with teeth. Must be expert in making costume for ‘bad tooth’ in the dental play and picking bathroom locks with shish kebab skewer. Hours: Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, including holidays. Comprehensive dental plan, vacation, medical benefits and company car negotiable.
Society in times past knew that raising children was a very demanding task. Instilling in them the character, love, forgiveness, and discipline necessary to live a life that would bring glory to God and help them become productive citizens of society was too crucial a task to leave to someone else. Because of societal shifts today — the increased demand on family’s finances, the breakdown of the family, and the loss of understanding when it comes to the importance of a mother’s attention and time — we have seen a massive exodus from the home to the marketplace. This is really not a phenomenon of our time; it began at some time in the past.
Let me share with you the wise words of a strong voice from yesterday’s generation who was aware of the great need of children for time and attention. I remember Captain Kangaroo’s television show when I was a kid, but I really didn’t know how wise the Captain was until I read this piece he has written. Today’s generation doesn’t even know who Captain Kangaroo is, but they do need to hear his wise words. Captain Kangaroo writes,
A small child waits with impatience the arrival home of a parent. She wishes to relate some sandbox experience. She is excited to share the thrill that she has known that day. The time comes; the parent arrives. Beaten down by the stresses of the workplace the parent often replies: “Not now, honey, I’m busy, go watch television.” The most often spoken words in the American household today are the words: go watch television. If not now, when? Later. But later never comes for many and the parent fails to communicate at the very earliest of ages. We give her designer clothes and computer toys, but we do not give her what she wants the most, which is our time. Now, she is fifteen and has a glassy look in her eyes. Honey, do we need to sit down and talk? Too late. Love has passed by. (Robert Keeshan, better known to America as Captain Kangaroo.)
Captain Kangaroo’s words are not an indictment on women; they are a challenge to all parents – mothers and fathers. How many times do we pour ourselves into our work so that we can climb another rung on the ladder, get the corner office, or cut another deal only to find ourselves at the point of exhaustion when we get home? This was to be the predicament of fatherhood in generations passed as men worked in the fields, maneuvered in the marketplace, and tried to bring home the bacon, but today we have both parents fighting and scraping to bring home an extra dollar.
So many of you who are mothers, and listening to me this morning, are probably frustrated right now. You may be frustrated with me because you think what I am saying is outdated, antiquated, and the relics of a patriarchal society. On the other hand, you may be frustrated because you know in your heart of hearts that you long to spend more time with your kids. You would love to spend more time with your kids, but you would be living on the streets if you didn’t go to work everyday to pay the bills. I know the predicament that the single moms of our congregation face everyday. I know the frustration that many working families battle as they are just trying to make ends meet.
I know that not having a parent home to see the kids off to school and to welcome them when they come home in the afternoon is not the best of situations. I know that not having a parent present in those early years to read to a child, play at the park, nurse them when they are sick, and nurture them through each day is not the best of situations, but what are we to do? I am certain that we are not going back to the days of Ward and June Cleaver, but what can we do to make the most of the opportunity the Lord has given those of us who have been blessed with children? That is a great question.
Evidently we are not the first generation to face these challenges because as I have read the Scriptures I have stumbled upon a woman who sounds like a woman of our day more than of a time gone by. In Proverbs 31, I see a working woman, an industrious woman, a woman of character and impeccable virtue who is able to bless her children as she works in the marketplace, volunteers her time to help the poor, and gives herself to seeking the Lord with all of her heart. Read along with me in Proverbs 31:10-31 and you will find great encouragement for how to keep the main thing the main thing even if you have given yourself to other endeavors.
10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:11-31 NIV)
This Scripture from Proverbs 31 doesn’t paint the picture of a lady of leisure who lounges around all day. The woman of Proverbs 31 is diligent in all of her responsibilities, she works in her home, she travels to the marketplace to sell her goods in order to raise money for her family, she pours herself into her family, she cares for those in need in her neighborhood, and most importantly – she is passionate about her relationship with God.
Many liberated women of our day look back at the women who have gone before them and view them as backwards, soft, and subservient in society. That is certainly not the description that we are given from God’s Word. There are many, many women in God’s Word who were leaders, pillars of strength, and were able to overcome societal limitations because they believed in the sovereignty of God; they believed God had a purpose for their lives. That purpose wasn’t always to break the “glass ceiling” in corporate Israel. God called Deborah to lead the nation of Israel as a Judge. Under Deborah’s leadership the armies of Israel were victorious. Some of these women knew humble beginnings, but they trusted God who moved them to places of power. Esther was an orphan, but God raised her up to been Queen. Lydia was a merchant who left her mark in the clothing industry. There were other women who influenced nations by pouring themselves into their children and nurturing them in the ways of the Lord. Hannah blessed her little boy Samuel and he became one of the great prophets of Israel. These were all strong women even though God took them on different paths. They were women like the woman of Proverbs 31. Take a look with me at verse 10.
10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. (Proverbs 31:10 NIV)
As we read verse 10, we see that a wife of “noble character” is a find. Young men who are looking for a wife, what should you be looking for? A babe? The bomb? Someone who is fun, attractive, wealthy? That is certainly what society would have you believe, but the writer of Proverbs says that you should be looking for a young woman of character. What is “character?’ Well, if you just stick to God’s Word you can learn quite easily what kind of “character” you should be seeking in a wife. The Hebrew word that is translated “noble” means, “strength, might, efficiency, ability, force, army.” A woman of noble character is a strong woman, a woman of might, efficiency, and inward strength. The same word is used in Proverbs 12:4.
4 A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. (Proverbs 12:4 NIV)
The word is used by Boaz in Ruth 3:11 to describe the character of Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi.
11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. (Ruth 3:11 NIV)
In 1 Samuel 14:52 the very same word is used by Samuel to describe what King Saul was looking for during the days of his reign when there was a war going on with the Philistines.
52 All the days of Saul there was bitter war with the Philistines, and whenever Saul saw a mighty or brave man, he took him into his service. (1 Samuel 14:52 NIV)
Where does a woman gain the strength to be able to deal with all of the things that are thrown her way in our day? That is a great question. Many would say that “strength” is gained by throwing off the traditional feminine qualities and taking on more of a masculine demeanor. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Throughout history, the great women who have made an impact on society have been women, ladies, who have embraced their femininity and allowed the Lord to use them as women, not cheap imitations of men, to impact their homes and culture. The first and greatest impact that a mother can make is on her own home. Ilion Jones writes,
On the great biographer Ida M. Tarbell’s 80th birthday, someone asked her to name the greatest persons she had ever met. She responded, ‘The greatest persons I have ever met are those nobody knows anything about.’ Once the New York Times was asked to help a group of club women decide on the twelve greatest women in the United States. After due consideration, the editors replied, ‘The twelve greatest women in the United States are women who have never been heard of outside of their own homes.’ Jones concludes, “I ask you, who was greater, Thomas A. Edison or his mother? When he was a young lad his teacher sent him home with a note which said, ‘Your child is dumb. We can’t do anything for him.’ Mrs. Edison wrote back, ‘You do not understand my boy. I will teach him myself’. And she did, with results that are well known. (Morning Glory, January 8, 1994.)
Those of you who are mothers among us this morning I want to urge you, plead with you — do not be deceived into believing that you don’t matter in the lives of your kids. Don’t be deceived into believing that someone else can do a better job than you. Know in your heart that God has given you the children that you tuck in bed at night, that you cradle in your arms when their hearts break, and that you correct when they get off track. These, and all of the other interactions that you have with your kids each day are not the drudgery of life; they are an investment that will yield a great harvest in the years to come.
So many women today invest hours and untold dollars on their appearance, but when it comes to investing time in the lives of their kids they wonder if it is doing any good, if it will really make a difference. Proverbs tells us,
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
The physical will fade, but the time, love, mercy, and discipline that you invest in the lives of your kids will impact generations to come.
There is a second bit of encouragement that I want to leave with you this morning. Along with seeing more and more women who are becoming increasingly mesmerized by the corporate ladder at the expense of their kids, we are also seeing the “cocooning” of the American family. Drive around and you will see what I am talking about. Gated communities, garages in the back of the house with tall fences so that we don’t have to see our neighbors, and less and less interaction with those outside of our family. This lifestyle is far from what was known by the woman of Proverbs 31.
The woman of Proverbs 31, and godly women throughout the ages have had a heart for those in need. Even though it would have been easier to care only for her own family, she overcame her fatigue, she organized her time, and she made an effort to involve herself with those who were hurting. Proverbs 31:20 says, 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
The Hebrew word for “needy” means, “in want, poor, subject to oppression and abuse, needing help, a general reference to lowest class in society.” The word is used in other places in God’s Word. In the book of Deuteronomy, when God was instructing His people how they were to live, He told them,
7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8 NIV)
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11 NIV)
Why is it important for us to open our hands to those in need? That is a great question. When you think of it from a logical, rational, utilitarian viewpoint – it really doesn’t make much sense. If you get involved with those in need you will have less time, less money, and less energy to use doing what you want. On the other hand, as you give you will gain something that free time and money can ever do for you.
I have a friend named Lisa Cummins who was raised close to her grandparents who were immigrants from Mexico. Lisa’s grandparents were pastors who had a huge heart for those who were in need. They didn’t have much of anything, but everything they had was dedicated to the Lord, because it was a gift from Him. This compassion was passed on to Lisa’s parents whom Lisa says, “They always had someone staying with our family.” There were family members, neighbors, and friends who had fallen on hard times and were in need, but Lisa’s family took them in to help them get back on their feet.
The dedication to God and commitment to the poor and needy was passed from Lisa’s parents to their daughter. Lisa has an MBA and was working for a large bank in San Antonio when she got the call from then governor George Bush to head up his Faith Based Initiative for the state of Texas. She did such an outstanding job that when Governor Bush was elected as President he called her and asked if she would move to Washington, D.C. and work with the White House Faith-Based Initiative.
Today, Lisa travels the country, speaks to government leaders, and even the President about those in need and the need of all of us to open our hearts and hands. Don’t tell me that opening our hearts and hands doesn’t make a difference. To reach back into Lisa’s heritage, a Spanish proverb says: “An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.”
Mother’s you count! Regardless of your situation this morning, you need to know that God has called you, He has gifted you, and He will sustain you so that you might leave His mark on the hearts of your kids. There will be many things that will seek to draw our kids away from the Lord, but if you will pray over your children, love on your children, watch over your children, correct them when they stray, and shower them with mercy – you will lay for them a foundation that will be unshakable.
When Robert Ingersoll, the notorious skeptic, was in his heyday, two college students went to hear him lecture. As they walked down the street after the lecture, one said to the other, “Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn’t he?” The other said, “No, I don’t think he did. Ingersoll did not explain my mother’s life, and until he can explain my mother’s life I will stand by my mother’s God.” (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1972, p. 381)
I pray that all of you who are mothers will be encouraged to commit yourself anew to serving the Lord as you seek to bless your children today. If you have lost your perspective and have not given a thought to God’s high calling on your life as a mother then I want to invite you to come forward and renew your commitment to living out the high calling God has placed upon your life. If you have never committed your heart to Jesus as Lord of your life then I want to invite you this morning to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Won’t you come?