Proverbs 11:16

Proverbs 11:16 "A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches."
Proverbs 11:16 Baptist Church Buffalo NY
It’s football season and unfortunately, I pay too much attention to it.  This week, I heard a former player and present analyst passionately share his opinion on a particular running back for his former team.  In capital letters, he said that if he were the coach, this player would no longer be on the team.  Why?  Because he has a hard time holding onto the ball, compiling four fumbles in six games this season.  In the game of football, retaining the football is critical for a player’s success and for that team’s success.  This is true for life as well.  If you can’t hold onto important things, you won’t be successful.

In this proverb, Solomon highlights something that each gender desires in life – honor for women and riches for men.  These desirables are not random examples of the life lesson Solomon is teaching.  These desirables are very specific to the basic nature of the sexes.  Generally-speaking, women long to feel valuable and have worth while men long to be financially successful and stable.  Generally-speaking, women want to know that they mean something in their home and in their social circles while men want to provide for their homes while also having the financial means to succeed in society.  These two desirables explain why women typically focus on relationships while men typically focus on careers.  The feminine mind tends to lean towards getting social media likes while the male mind tends to lean towards getting more overtime hours.
 
Women desire worth and men desire wealth.  For this reason, both will focus on doing whatever is necessary to get these things.  Women will do whatever it takes to obtain worth and men will do whatever it takes to obtain wealth.  Both will be unhappy until they get what they desire.  Both sexes will put enormous amounts of time and thought into obtaining what they desire.  When we get what we want, human nature so easily fails to keep what we got.  This proverb deals with keeping what we work hard to get.  This proverb teaches us how to hang on to the ball.  

Obtaining something and retaining something are two very different things.  We obtain things by God-given talent.  Professional sports are full of men and women who obtained honor and riches because of their God-given talent.  Theaters and stages are full of men and women who obtained honor and riches because of their God-given talent.  High rise buildings and state-of-the-art facilities and laboratories are full of men and women who obtained honor and riches because of their genetic intellect.  We obtain things by “time and chance” as well.  Many in our world have obtained honor and riches simply by being born into the home of a billionaire.  Many in our world have obtained honor and riches as a result of stumbling upon a valuable relic or natural resource.  We even obtain things by knowing the right people.  A quick phone call or a having the right reference on a resume can lead to honor and riches.  We also obtain things by lofty goals and hard work.  Completing an education can land you a good job.  Completing training can land you a spot on a team.  Hours of dedication to some craft can result in honor and riches.

We don’t retain the things we desire by God-given talent.  We don’t retain the things we desire by “time and chance” or by knowing the right people.  Scripture teaches that VIRTUE is the method of retention.  This proverb teaches us that ability and accomplishment may help us obtain honor but it is character that helps us retain honor.  A woman may obtain honor by any number of means but it is graciousness that leads her to retain that honor.  A man may obtain wealth by any number of means but it is inner strength that leads him to retain that wealth.  Success is not defined by what we obtain but rather by what we retain.

Being named the starting running back and getting handed the ball in the big game is a great accomplishment but if he can’t hold onto the ball in the big game, that accomplishment is all in vain.

The world is oozing with examples of men and women who have obtained that which they desire, only to fail in the area of retention.  Take Lori Loughlin as an example of a woman who obtained but failed to retain honor.  Given natural beauty by God and her parents, she began to model at the young age of 11 and later as a teenager, began a career in acting.  Soon, she became famous and generally beloved as a member of the hit family sitcom, Full House.  More recently, she became known for her acting work on the Hallmark Network, which has historically offered clean entertainment.  By God-given abilities, family support, hard work and many other supporting factors, Lori Loughlin obtained the honor so many women crave.  She obtained value and worth in her life and in her society.  Sadly however, her reputation was destroyed in 2019 when she was indicted by the FBI for fraud and bribery in a college bribery scandal.  She became a national story and the face of privileged society using their money to get what they want. She possessed the skill, talent and connections to obtain honor but Loughlin lacked the virtue to retain her honor.
 
Legendary boxer, Mike Tyson stands as another unfortunate example of this proverb.  There are few men who are “stronger” than Mike Tyson as he won 26 out of 28 fights by knockout and earned the WBC Heavyweight Champion title when he was only 20 years old.  In 2003, the New York Times reported that Tyson earned approximately $400 million during the first 18 years of his career.  He earned all of that wealth by God-given ability coupled with unbridled rage as a result of being bullied when a child because of how he talked.  He obtained wealth by outer strength but failed to retain wealth by inner strength.  He lacked the inner strength to resist women and to treat women properly.  He lacked the inner strength to resist covetousness as he spent his money lavishly on jewelry, mansions, vehicles and exotic animals.  In 2003, “Iron Mike” declared personal bankruptcy with his largest debts including over $17 million in tax liabilities, a $9 million divorce settlement and millions in obligations to lawyers and producers.  He obtained wealth by physical strength but failed to retain wealth by the inner strength of virtue. 

There is no honor in obtaining something you can’t keep.  There is no accomplishment in getting something you can’t hold onto.  Honor stays on a virtuous woman.  Riches stay with a virtuous man.  Ladies, if you want your husband and children to honor you all the days of your life, permanently etch the law of kindness in your tongue.  If you want your peers to value you, treat your peers with grace.  Women who rise to prominence do not stay there without the virtue of grace.  Men, if you want to be financially secure, value self-control.  The answer to financial security is not working more - it is managing better.  The path to financial security is not more money - it is more contentment.  Men who rise to financial stability do not stay there without the virtue of inner strength.

It's hard to hold onto the ball when everyone in life seems to be trying to take it.  Virtue is the key to retaining what men and women are always obtaining.        

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