and let her works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:31
Verse 31 starts with the Hebrew letter tav. Tav pictures a signature and speaks of identification.
The virtuous woman is praised for her spiritual fruit.
Graffiti reveals a lot about the human race. It is a small reminder that we all want to be remembered in this life. We want to think we left a mark on the world even if it is only an etching on a tree or stone, or a name spray painted on a bathroom stall somewhere. We want people to know that we were here, we lived, we breathed, we existed. This last verse of Proverbs 31 ends with the tav file, which speaks of a signature and represents our identity in this world. As women of God, we have a much greater and more lasting mark to strive for than the mere graffiti of our name on some temporal structure. This verse encourages us to understand that our character and service in this life is the signature that identifies us as a woman of faith in both time and eternity.
As mentioned before in PRO 31:29-31, the book of Proverbs is being wrapped up with the praise that is promised to a virtuous woman. In PRO 31:29, she is praised by her children and husband; in PRO 31:30, she is praised by God for her fear of the Lord; and in this very last verse, we find that she is also praised “in the gates” because of the work “of her hands.” I find it fitting that the chapter closes with these promises of praise because we all appreciate a little reward at the end of a long effort. For example, at the end of the workweek, we want a pay check; at the end of dinner, we want a “thank you”; and at the end of the day, we want a good-night kiss. Above all, at the end of our days on this earth, we want to know our life has eternal value in God’s sight.
PRO 31:31 stands as a promise to the virtuous woman that the works of her hands—representing her service in life—will come back to praise her among her family, her people, and God. Remember in PRO 31:23, her husband is known “in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” We talked about how the support a wife gives to her husband helps enable him to be a man of honor and respect so that he is known “in the gates.” In the same way, the service of the woman is recognized “in the gates” where the leaders sit to judge and where the people gather for conversation and commerce.
Let’s talk about the “product of her hands.” If you use your hands to piece and stitch a quilt, that quilt is the product of your hands. If you use your hands to till the soil, plant seeds, water and weed, that garden becomes the product of your hands. If you use your life to serve Jesus Christ by serving your husband, your family, and your church, that fruit becomes the work of your hands. In Acts 9, there is the story of a woman named Tabitha (“Dorcas,” in the Greek) who spent her life making garments for the poor widows of her village. The Spirit of God summarizes her life for us in one sentence, “this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did” (ACT 9:36b). This one sentence identifies her forever as a servant of God. (We would do well to ask ourselves the question, “If the Spirit of God were to summarize my life in one sentence, what would it be?”)
Her work was laborious, bent over a garment with a needle and thread for long hours of sewing—that’s work. But her ministry was far more glorious, for the love that she showed to the widows through the making of garments encouraged their hearts. The real “product of her hands” was the encouragement and help she gave to women who no one else really gave a shout about. Sewing was her work, but encouragement was her ministry. In time, Tabitha died and the women around her grieved her death until Peter was called to Joppa and, through him, God did an amazing thing: He gave Peter the power to bring Tabitha back to life to continue her ministry of encouragement. Through that miracle, many people came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. For Tabitha, “the product of her hands” defined her life—there is praise for Tabitha’s service in both time and eternity.
“Fruit” is used in the Bible as a picture of divine production in our life, a picture of what God does through us to give glory to Himself. He is worthy! As our friend, Pastor Doug Wray, says, “God does not just want a field free from weeds, He wants a field full of fruit.” Let’s consider four principles regarding “fruit-bearing” in our life:
1. The bearing of fruit is a result of our walk with the Lord.
In Colossians 1, Paul prays for the Colossian believers to:
“… be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in
all respects, bearing fruit in every good work ...”COL 1:9-10
Paul’s desires for his brothers and sisters in Christ to be:
• filled with wisdom,
• to have a faithful walk, and
• to have fruitful work.
Paul’s prayer really captures the heartbeat of Proverbs 31 as we have seen the virtuous woman to be a lady of wisdom, and that wisdom is played out in her relationship to God in her life, service, and ministry. Notice that the wisdom and the walk precede the fruit! We cannot have a truly fruitful life without first being filled with God’s wisdom and walking faithfully before Him.
2. We bear fruit according to the way we sow.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will
also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”GAL 6:7-8
This is an illustration based on an agricultural truth of life. If you plant watermelon seeds, you grow watermelon; if you plant corn seeds, you grow corn. That’s just the way it is and you can’t change it! In this passage, there is a promise of eternal reward for fruit-bearing, but there is also a red flag thrown up for us: you can’t fool God! If we are sowing bad seed, there will be bad fruit; if we are living for self, we will bear the consequences of a self-lived life. These are corrupt consequences. That’s the way it is and you can’t change it! You own what you sow. God gives you the “product of your hands.” If we are living for the holy and righteous God, there is good and eternal fruit from our labors.
3. Fruit-bearing takes time.
In the same Galatians passage, Paul goes on to say, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary,”GAL 6:9.
This passage teaches us that fruit-bearing does take time. Farmers plant in the springtime, water, weed, and feed throughout the summer, but do not receive the harvest until the fall. So it is with our life. The seeds we plant in our youth are the establishing of marriage, raising of children, investing in home and career, and the dedication to using our spiritual gift in service to God. We often do not see the real fruit of those labors (whether for self or God) until years down the road.
This is really important for young people to understand. You are planting seeds in your youth that will bear fruit in old age. If there is forgiveness in marriage, that forgiveness will build strength which will benefit you in years to come. If there is diligence in raising your children to the glory of God, that diligence will bring blessing to your children and to yourself, but you may not see it for many years. It may seem that there is not time in your busy life to be regular in church attendance, in prayer, or in Bible study; but it you neglect these important factors in your young life, there will be consequences in old age.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing! If you do this, there will be fruitful consequences for you and your family. Look at the older people around you. They wear the consequences of life’s attitudes (whether good or bad) on their faces; they carry the burden or joy of life’s decisions (whether good or bad) in their hearts. That’s the way it is and you can’t change it. Today is an investment in tomorrow and an investment in eternity!
In Psalm 92, the psalmist says:
“The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
they shall be full of sap and very green,
to declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
This is a beautiful passage in the Psalms that reiterates the principle that fruit-bearing takes time.
When a palm tree flourishes with fruit, there is great happiness in the harvest, but it takes nearly ten years for it to bear a good harvest. In between the planting and the harvest, there is a consistent investment of time in watering and tending that tree to nurture it to maturity. The cedars of Lebanon were prized above all other trees. They grew straight and strong, and were wonderfully scented. But they did not sprout up overnight; it took time and care to bring them to maturity. The righteous man (and woman) will flourish and stand in the same way as these valuable trees and bear fruit—even in old age—to declare the upright and righteous nature of God. Fruit-bearing is to be a lifelong endeavor!
4. Our boasting is in God, and God alone.
In 1CO 1:25-28, God gives hope to every person in the family of God. He says that God calls and uses the foolish, the weak, the insignificant, and the despised to display the power and wisdom of God to the world, “that no [one] should boast before God.” In 2CO 3:5, Paul goes on to say “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” The only thing we have to offer God is our availability. He is faithful and gracious to take that attitude of availability and perform a work in and through us. In ROM 15:18, Paul—the greatest of all the apostles—speaks from a humble heart when he says, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me ...” Therefore, when spiritual fruit is produced in our lives, we are to boast in God and God alone!
What if we were to fulfill every bit of instruction in Scripture, dedicate every moment of our life in service to God, and have every form of virtue a woman is encouraged to display? If we were to do all of those things, then we could only say—like the slaves in LUK 17:10—“We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”
This principle leads me to reflect on the grace of God. As we have seen, the Lord is the One who imparts His wisdom and strength to us. His love motivates us, and His Spirit enables us to serve Him through serving others. All these things come from Him and yet He praises, blesses, and rewards His unworthy slaves!
One of the verses that has really impacted my soul recently is EPH 1:7-8a:
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.” (emphasis added)
The word that has been grabbing my attention, like booming fireworks in the sky, is the word “lavish.” It is the Greek word perisseuo and means “to be in excess, to super abound, to have and to have more.” When we think of the word “lavish” in our life, we think of something that is so extravagant and over-the-top that it sets us spinning with delight. Lavish is the whipped cream on top of the sundae, the bubbles in the hot tub, the sensual scent of a dozen red roses! But spiritually, it is so much more than these little earthly things. It is the spiritual riches that God pours out on us, and pours out more, and then pours out even more! For, in Him, we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,”EPH 1:3. His grace is so extravagant and over-the-top that it should keep us spinning with delight!
I was talking about this lavish grace with the ladies who help me with Children’s Ministry in India. As we were driving through the chaotic streets, we started considering examples of the lavish grace of God in Scripture and how it was displayed in the lives of our forerunners in the faith. We thought of many stories in Scripture where God went above and beyond what was even necessary to show the abundance of His grace to His children. Consider these occasions:
• When Moses and the children of Israel came to the Red Sea, God parted the waters—that’s God’s grace. God not only parted the waters, but He went above and beyond by letting them cross the Red Sea on dry land (EXO 14:16). They didn’t even get their feet wet—that’s His lavish grace!
• God opened the womb of Sarah in her old age to bless her and Abraham with a long-awaited son—that’s God’s grace. God went above and beyond by assuring them, “… I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore ...” (GEN 22:17)—that’s His lavish grace!
• Ruth suffered the loss of her husband as a young woman. As she sought to serve her mother-in-law Naomi by gleaning in the fields, God provided Ruth with a new husband Boaz and blessed them both with a son—that’s God’s grace. Not only did God give them a son, He went above and beyond to give them a son, Obed, in the lineage of Jesus Christ (RUT 4:13-22; MAT 1:1-16)—that’s His lavish grace!
• Naaman took the advice of his little servant girl and went to the prophet Elijah to be healed of his leprosy, and he was healed—that’s God’s grace. Not only was he healed of leprosy, but God did above and beyond and restored Naaman’s flesh “like the flesh of a little child” (2KI 5:14)—that’s His lavish grace!
• When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound and thrown into a furnace of blazing fire for not bowing to a heathen idol, Jesus Christ loosed their bonds and walked with them in the furnace (DAN 3:25)—that’s God’s grace. They not only survived the extreme flames of the fiery furnace, but God went above and beyond for them. “The smell of fire [had not] even come upon them,” and not one “hair of their head had been singed” (DAN 3:27)—that’s His lavish grace!
• There once was a little boy who shared his lunch with Jesus. God took the five loaves and two fishes and multiplied them to feed thousands of hungry people—that’s God’s grace. Jesus went above and beyond and did so much multiplying of that little lunch that there were baskets of food left over for His disciples (JOH 6:1-14)—that’s His lavish grace!
For those who believe in Jesus Christ, the lavish grace of God begins with our birth into the Royal Family of God (1PE 2:9) and all the spiritual blessings that accompany regeneration. Not only does God forgive our many sins by His grace, but in His lavish grace, He forgives them for all time, He separates them as far from us as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more (see PSA 103:10-12).
By God’s grace, we have the full Canon of Scripture: His commands, His prophecies, His historical accounts, and more. In God’s lavish grace, He includes for us so many expressions of His love and so many promises that secure our hope and trust in Him, comfort our soul, and bring us to rest. Although all our sins were forgiven on the cross, as human beings, we continue to sin. When we confess our sins, in time, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”—this is God’s grace. But He goes above and beyond forgiving the sins we confess, for in His lavish grace, “[He] cleanse[s] us from all unrighteousness”—that is the cleansing of sins we know and admit, and the ones that we are not even aware of (1JO 1:9).
Regarding God’s grace, we haven’t seen anything yet, compared to what we will see in Heaven! In eternity, He will continue to reveal to us “the surpassing riches of His grace” (EPH 2:7), a forever unveiling of His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus! What grace to have a forever home, with mansions waiting for us, with streets of gold to walk upon, with angelic choruses praising our Lord, and with new glorious bodies to dwell in. We can’t even imagine! But on top of all this grace is the lavish grace of God to invite us to meet our Savior face-to-face and forever be in His loving Presence!
I would encourage you to look at Scripture with new eyes, eyes that look for God’s grace, and look again for God’s lavish grace! It’s like a treasure waiting to be discovered in the pages of Scripture and in the story of our lives! Praise, blessing, and reward stand out in my mind as some of the most lavish of all God’s lavish graces shown to man. Our Lord is the One who saves us, leads us, teaches us, empowers us, helps us, and compels us, for apart from Him we can do nothing—this is God’s grace. But He goes above and beyond by sharing His praise, blessing, and reward with little old you and little old me—this is His lavish grace! It is by God’s grace that we are given the spiritual resources to become virtuous women; it is by His lavish grace that He rewards us for what He has done in and through us. What a lavish and loving God we serve!
In Luke 11, Jesus was imparting wisdom and truth to the people surrounding Him. As He was doing this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (LUK 11:27). Of course, the woman was speaking of Mary, whom we consider to be the most blessed woman of all time because of the privilege God gave her to be the earthly mother of Jesus Christ. However, Jesus responded to the woman with these words, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (LUK 11:28).
Imagine the privilege of being more blessed than Mary! According to Jesus Christ Himself, the greatest blessing we can receive in life is to be transformed by the hearing and obeying of God’s Word. Throughout the study of Proverbs 31, we have been challenged and rebuked, encouraged and motivated. But, hopefully, we have also been transformed by the truths of the Bible. If you have stuck with this study, I can only conclude that you desire to be a woman of virtue. I join with you in that desire, knowing that it is a constant goal to strive for—not a prize already won. I have been a believer for over forty years now, and still I fail to measure up in so many ways and at so many times—but I continue to press on. It is my prayer that we press on together to know, serve, and love the One who died for us, is risen, and is seated at the right hand of God.
He is coming quickly to take His Bride home to Him!