Do you read Proverbs 31 and think it is a ridiculously high standard for anybody to achieve? The Proverbs 31 woman is probably one of the most talked-about women in the Bible. She is often made out to be the epitome of the perfect Christian woman which doesn’t always go down so well. We compare and feel inadequate. This perfect image is like Facebook in Biblical times!
Obviously, there are various interpretations but I wanted to dispel the myth that this is the ideal woman we should all aspire to be. Granted there is much we can learn from this passage, but this woman lived a life very different from most of us.
I read some study notes on Proverbs 31 in my bible last week (which prompted this post). In there it said she was probably a number of women all described in one. Phew! Relief!
How much of her life is relevant and how much can be attributed to the interpretations we have read?
Was she only relevant to her time?
Some will discard the passage altogether, saying it was only relevant to Biblical times. In my opinion, though, the Proverbs 31 woman is more relevant today than she was then. This post was written for today’s women! Whoa, you say!
Consider this. Historically, most women didn’t work, well not for money anyway. They stayed home, cooked, washed, and looked after the kids. They worked the fields and took on heavy tasks around the home but were generally thought of as the weaker sex. Having babies was a crucial part of their role and many died in childbirth at a young age.
Men were considered superior because strength = power. Women were not involved in decision-making out in society as their role was primarily at home. Their opinions were not highly regarded either. To a certain extent, this stereotype still holds true today, hence the whole feminist movement.
Does this describe the life of the woman in Proverbs 31? I don’t think so. She was not a typical picture of the women of her time.
Deconstructing Proverbs 31
Her role as wife
The passage is not about all women, but ‘a’ woman. A married woman. It does not imply that single women are inferior or excluded. Nowhere can I find that this was written as a prescription for all women to strive for. It very specifically describes a wife.
Her husband gets mentioned first and twice later in the passage. This depicts the important place he has in her life, and that is God’s design for marriage.
According to the bible, if you are married, your relationship with your husband should take first priority after God. How we live out our lives should gain our husband’s respect and not bring him harm. Not because she is his subordinate, but because it is a noble and honorable characteristic.
As a result, he is proud of her because of who she is in society, not because she serves his needs. Even though she is working in her own business, she still treats her husband with respect.
As a career woman
This was quite a revelation to me when I realized that most of what is said about this woman, pertains to her career. This fits the modern-day working woman more than it does the discarded, pregnant housewife of ancient times. Yes, she is relevant today.
She worked hard and contributed financially. She was her husband’s equal. I hope this encourages all those career women who sometimes feel guilty for working and shockingly, actually enjoy their jobs!
But there is more.
She made time for her hobbies
She spends time sewing and making things for her home which means she took time out to do the things she enjoyed and was gifted with. It wasn’t all about work, family, and housework.
Sometimes we feel guilty for taking time out for ourselves but here it clearly shows, it is a noble quality. This part pertains to any woman, not only the married.
She was a mother
The passage does not say that in order to be noble you have to be a mother. The woman described is a mother. That is it. No necessity to add anything more.
Her children are mentioned for the first time right at the end. I find this interesting. How many of us, if we had to describe our lives, would start with our children because they are our priority. Now I am not for one minute suggesting that our role as mothers is not important and we can all go running around neglecting our kids. But this woman was not defined by them. She was not a helicopter parent. She was her own person, with her own money which she used to buy nice clothes for herself. No guilt. And her children called her blessed. There is no mention that they grew up with issues because they had a working mother who thought about herself.
It was important that she saw to it they were well taken care of in her absence. They wanted for nothing. How many women are today frazzled because they are running around pandering to the demands of their kids. They never have time for themselves or to do the things that give them pleasure. How many feel guilty because they always feel that they are never doing enough? Might I mention again, that this is not describing the mothers who stay at home to raise their children and thrive in every aspect? This is specifically, a mother and wife, who is also a career woman.
She was also a homemaker
This lady may have had the perfect home we all would like, but here is the key thing. She had help. Plenty of it by the sounds of things. This part is overlooked when we read Proverbs 31. She did not do it all on her own like millions of women have to do the world over.
Her family was well fed and she got their food from afar. Sounds like those of us who grocery shop online. Or at least a healthy option of Mr. Delivery. I’m telling you, this is a modern-day woman!
She woke up early to oversee her household (this may be the part most of us grapple with but let’s face it, it works if you want to keep on top of things). The passage says she plans her days in advance. She makes lists! This is probably the secret to her success. I really like this woman.
What did she not do?
What I found rather interesting was looking at what she didn’t do, as opposed to all that she did do. There was actually quite a bit she didn’t do.
- Devote all her time to raising children
- Feel guilty
- Worry about tomorrow
- The school run, shopping, homework…
- Waste her time, she was not idle and lazy
- Run up debt
Some of these we have no control over, but the point is I doubt she had to squeeze these into her schedule. Dare I say, her life was a little easier than most women’s. Other things, we do have control over, such as guilt, worry, idleness, and debt. This is where we can take a leaf out of her book. All of us, that is, married and single.
It is not what she does but how she does it
- Fears the Lord-v30 says this is why she is worthy of praise.
- Honors God in what she does
- Everything she does do, she does well.
- She doesn’t do a million meaningless things, she works smart.
- Attitude: she works vigorously and with eager hands not begrudgingly. God loves a cheerful giver.
- Wisdom and faith.
- Clothed in strength and dignity.
- Lives with purpose, diligence, and love.
- Intentional in her planning thereby preventing stress
- Resourceful. She sees a good business opportunity and makes it work.
- Stewards her finances well
- Kind and compassionate
- Provides for her family, servants, and household by seeing they are all well cared for and fed. She maintains balance in her life, not by being all things but through careful planning.
- She works hard but is smart. God promises praise and reward for our hard work and dedication.
- Maintains her independence without putting her husband down. He is proud of her achievements.
- She is financially astute.
- Helps the poor and needy.
- Plans well and prepares for all eventualities.
- Dresses well and takes care of her appearance.
- She uses her God-given gifts as her hobby (sewing) and in business. She made the most of what God blessed her with.
- Even though she was a successful businesswoman, she cherished her family.
Each one of us is unique, with different qualities. To fulfill our role as Proverbs 31-like women, we need to find our own strengths and enhance those. In turn, you will become your own person, a woman of worth, and a memorable woman to those around you.
As for the men…
Don’t think is scripture is all about women. Husbands take note. She is happy and confident in part because her husband treats her with respect and admiration. He allows her independence and doesn’t try to control her. He speaks highly of her and shows his appreciation by praising and blessing her. This goes a long way to making a woman feel loved and confident and to reach her potential.
Her husband is noble and respected. He holds an esteemed position. The fact that they are both successful suggests they are a team working together and complementing one another.
Read through this passage and think of it in terms of your own life.
- Can you relate to some of the parts in the passage but not others?
- Can you see where you are perhaps setting yourself unrealistic expectations?
- Are there one or two points that you may be able to take from the passage that may help in making your own life a little more manageable?
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