by Nathan Oppman
Proverbs 31 is a beautiful piece of writing describing a strong and capable woman who is full of godly virtue.
But the first third of the chapter is about something else altogether. The first 10 verses are instructions to a king from his mother. In some translations, that mother is scolding her son, offering him some correction to his ways.
As Americans, we have the great privilege of voting for our own “kings.” But like King Lemuel of Proverbs 31, our elected leaders and potentially elected leaders would do well to listen to a mother’s instruction:
1. “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings” (vs. 3). The king’s mother warns him against wrongful sexual relations that are a common temptation to those in power. Even King David, a man after God’s own heart, gave in to his sinful desire for a woman who was not his wife. As the Scripture warns, marital infidelity and sexual immorality are paths that “destroy kings.” Be wary of trusting a leader who would betray the one person closest to him.
2. “It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink: lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (vss. 4-5). The king’s mother warns him against drunkenness specifically because it impairs his judgment, causing him to neglect the law and distort justice. The principle of letting nothing impair the king’s judgment could be applied to other areas. Be wary of leaders who are drunk – whether on booze, money, fame, or power – and thus willing to bend the rule of law and distort justice to suit their own desires.
3. “Open thy mouth for the dumb [voiceless], in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction” (vs 8). The
king is commanded to speak out for those who do not have a voice and are in need of justice. Particularly those condemned to die. It is often said you can discern a lot about a politician’s views on all areas just by asking him or her about those voiceless babies in the womb condemned to die by abortion. How leaders speak up (or don’t) for those voiceless ones “appointed to destruction” will often reveal their true beliefs about human rights and liberties, about rights and wrongs, about their definition of “justice.”
As the king’s mother illustrates in Proverbs 31, the primary role of all government leaders is to administer justice. And she reveals in three, quick exhortations that a leader’s character will often determine whether he or she succeeds … or fails … at that duty.