Like many women, I have struggled with Proverbs 31. I first became familiar with it from DC Talk’s That Kinda Girl:
Well I’m lookin’ for a girl who virtuous
Cause God laid it on my heart to search for this
So I open up the Word to the book of Proverbs
The 31st chapter tells me all about her
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain
A woman who fears the Lord, she ain’t playin’
Hear what I’m sayin’, cause I’m sayin’ it clearly
She’s the kinda girl I gots to have near me
Fear the Lord. Don’t focus on beauty and charm. Focus on God. That’s solid advice, and I was content just thinking about that part of it for years.
Reading Proverbs 31
But then I got to the point where I felt like I should actually read it straight from the Bible for myself. This is Proverbs 31:10-31:
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed. I think Laurie Schlaepfer did a wonderful job of explaining why in Twin Lakes Church’s Mother’s Day devotional (page 35):
She sounds super amazing and completely competent at every single thing she does. She’s up before dawn and seems to never need sleep. She has several businesses going—trading, real estate, viticulture, garment making. She has plenty of time for ministry to the poor and needy, runs the household, schools the kids. And on top of all of that she is wise and perpetually upbeat about everything—nary a grumble comes from her lips…there’s no way in a thousand years of trying that I could become that woman.
It does feel like an impossible standard to live up to, doesn’t it?
Understanding Proverbs 31
To really understand this passage without feeling like a failure as a wife and mother, it’s important to understand this is a fictitious woman. This is a father passing on wisdom to his son, telling him what sorts of attributes to look for. And I don’t think he literally means to go find a woman that’s buying fields, planting vineyards, holding a spindle, making bed coverings, etc. He’s giving examples of the types of attributes to look for:
- Hard working
- Reverent toward God
- Her husband is respected and involved in the community
While that last point is more about her husband rather than her, I do think that respect starts at home. When a husband feels respected by his wife, he’s going to be more confident and generous towards others around him, which will earn him respect in the community as well.
Although I may not always live up to the example of a Proverbs 31 woman (and none of us do), I do feel like that list gives me better direction. I can’t do it on my own, but through prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I can become more trustworthy, generous, strong, brave, wise, kind, and reverent toward God. And that will make me a better wife, mother, and–most importantly–woman of God.