Proverbs 31 includes, “the sayings of King Lemuel, which his mother taught him” (v. 1). I imagine Lemuel knew that he would grow up to be a king, so his mother hinted at another question: what kind of a king? Who do you want to be?
A king could use his position to live a life of luxury and privilege, including plenty of women. But his mother said, “Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings” (Proverbs 31:3). That phrase is especially perceptive because of what happened to King Solomon, who wrote most of the other Proverbs. His many wives turned his heart to other gods (1 Kings 11:4). It must have been a lot of wives because it is recorded as a round number: “700 wives and 300 concubines” (1 Kings 11:3). If you are telling someone how many wives you have, your answer should not begin with the word “about.”
A king could use his wealth for his own pleasure: “it is not for kings to drink wine. . . lest they drink and forget” (v.4). Lemuel’s mother continued with a note of sarcasm: “Let beer be for those who are . . . in anguish. Let them drink . . . and remember their misery no more” (v.6-7). It is not for kings to drink the painkillers of those who need it; rulers need a sound mind.
Or a king could use his position to serve those who are most vulnerable in the kingdom. “Speak up . . . for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (v.8-9)
In all this, Lemuel’s mother posed the question: what kind of king do you want to be? And her voice echoes to us: how will you use the power and influence given to you?