Proverbs, Women, and Words

In the aftermath of President Trump’s election, news about women and their words was everywhere. From the Women’s March to the Walk for Life, to demonstrations in airports and public squares supporting immigration and protesting the Trump travel ban, American women chanted,  waved signs, and wore pink hats inspired by the President’s infamously blue language, all in the name of making their voices heard.

Not everyone was a fan.

Several days after the Women’s March, Anne Graham Lotz wrote a widely shared piece deploying the two most commonly referenced women of Proverbs – the woman of Folly in Proverbs 9, to criticize the women’s advocacy, and pray for their repentance. Given the dominant themes of the march, and the nature of much of the women’s speech, Lotz’ reaction was entirely understandable. But while she used the oft-referenced woman Folly to condemn the women’s speech, she declined to note that the surest way to keep safe from Folly’s fatal charms is devotion to a different kind of woman, one whose voice is just as loud, but whose words are very different.

The feminine character Solomon names “Folly” in Proverbs 9 is not an isolated one; she serves as the negative complement of another such character who first appears in Proverbs 1. Like twin sisters, the  two characters share many traits. They frequent the same kinds of places (Prov. 1:20-21, Prov. 7:12). They’re hospitable (Prov. 9:1-5, Prov. 7:16-17/ They have strong voices they employ in public with great intention (Prov. 1:20-21, Prov. 9:13-17).

And it’s the intention in their words, and in their actions, that reveal the stark contrast between them.

The woman introduced in Proverbs 7:5 is wickedly self-centered, but her tactics are powerful. She entices a foolish young man with every sensual trick in the book – her appearance (7:10), her surroundings (7:16-17), and especially, her words (7:21), with the promise of delight. The young man falls into her trap and meets his inevitable end, just like many have before him (7:22-27).

Solomon’s counsel to his son about her reminds me of the title of Thomas Chalmer’s sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”. The best way for a man to protect himself from the dangers of a evil-intentioned woman with a smooth tongue is to bind himself to one who speaks, and acts, differently. What keeps a man’s heart safe from Lady Folly, is an intimate relationship with Lady Wisdom.

Wisdom’s voice is every bit as loud as her sister’s; it’s her motives that are different. Her words serve, not herself, but all those who hear her, because they’re full of truth and righteousness (Prov. 8:7-8). The powerful rule justly with her help (Prov. 8:15-16), and rewards of those who heed her are riches, and honor, and a wealthy inheritance (Prov. 8:18-21).

 If there is any danger associated with her words, it is not in heeding them, but in ignoring them (Prov. 8: 35-36).

Why?


Because all of her words are grounded in the fear and knowledge of the LORD (Prov. 9:10). If you ignore her words, you’re really ignoring His.

Lady Folly’s words are sound and fury, signifying nothing; they summon all those who follow them to a swift death. Lady Wisdom’s words are full of  truth; they bring life to all who heed them.

This is the kind of womanly speech God affirms, not just in the book of Proverbs, but in the whole Bible – the speech of Abigail and Deborah, of Hannah and Mary, of the Samaritan woman and the women at the resurrection.

 

Women have spoken (and written, and sung) in this way in every age of Church history, and God has blessed their efforts, by blessing all those who heed them.

Women have spoken in the opposite way in every age as well, of course, and they’re doing so today.

But the answer to not being swayed by Lady Folly-like speech isn’t to put our fingers in our ears, or our hands over women’s mouths, any  time a woman speaks. Rather, the answer is to listen for those who speak as  Lady Wisdom does, and when you hear them, listen to them, and live.
And the admonition to myself, and to all women who want to bless the world with their words, is to ask God to so fill us with Himself, and with His Word, that He is the one with Whom our words are filled, so that all who hear our words hear His, and are blessed.

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