Here is a confession: for years I had a love/hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. Can you relate? The women I have talked to lately can. Have you read about her? If not, read it now before you read the rest of this. You can find her in Proverbs 31:10-31. She is the “Excellent Wife” that king Solomon (King Lemuel) wrote about.
She has long been taught and preached as the ideal woman. I never really had a problem with this when I was a young. I had no doubts that I would be just like her; I planned on being the perfect wife and mother. Then I grew up…and life with a husband and kids was harder than I thought it would be. “Perfect” went out the window and was replaced with words like “adequate” and “survival”.
I admit that I was beginning to feel some resentment towards this lady. I didn’t want to read that chapter anymore. Here are a few of her qualities:
“The heart of her husband trusts in her.” (11) Sometimes when I share ideas with Phil, he gives me a look like I am crazy. I’m not sure I instill much confidence.
“She seeks wool and flax.” (13) I know what wool is, but flax? It certainly doesn’t sound very comfortable.
“She brings her food from afar.” (14) Brother’s Market is less than a mile away from my house, but much of the produce is from out of the country. Maybe that counts? But it’s probably covered in pesticides and wax. Don’t get me started on the preservatives I feed my family.
“She rises while it is still night” (15) “her lamp does not go out at night.” (18) This lady never sleeps, how do you compete with that?
“She considers a field and buys it.” (16) I have never bought real estate…on my own…ever.
“She makes bed coverings for herself” (22) “She makes linen garments.” (24) I don’t sew very well and I don’t think my family would appreciate having to wear whatever it is I would make them.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” (28) I have to remind my kids to say, “please” and “thank you”. This certainly won’t happen if I make them wear garments I’ve sewn myself out of flax after not sleeping.
I always wished there was a Proverbs 32 woman; an addendum written for those who couldn’t quite live up to the lady in chapter 31. It would include phrases like, “She tries hard” and “She makes great brownies” and “She even plays Monopoly with her kids when she doesn’t feel like it.” Those I could handle.
Obviously, I jest. Yet crazy things like this would run through my mind when reading the chapter. I thought this woman was just another glossy magazine model I could never dream of being.
So why is the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible? Would God, who loves me, put something in the Bible just to make me feel bad? Part of the answer lies in that question - God loves me! He included these verses in the Bible for a reason and (as everything in the Bible) it is for my good. I believe that about the rest of Scripture so I can’t exclude these verses from that same reasoning.
When I got my perspective corrected I began to see things a little more clearly. The Bible is full of statements such as is found in 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” and Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God expects perfection and will never lessen his standards to accommodate us. This should not surprise us or discourage us, quite the opposite really. What kind of God would hold to low standards and accept anything less than perfection? No God I would want to serve. I want a perfect God in every way; otherwise he would not be fit to govern this universe.
We don’t take up issue when we are told to be like Jesus, yet it is one and the same calling as the Proverbs 31 woman. This woman never existed in real life; Jesus is the only perfect human who has ever walked the earth. Yet she is the epitome of perfection in godly womanhood. Proverbs 31 is a masterfully written prose from a loving Father who is graciously setting out standards for his beloved daughters. This ideal of a godly woman is a gift to us, letting us know what to aspire to and a tool for prioritizing our lives appropriately.
So how are we to be perfect? The simple answer is we can’t be. But, praise God for Jesus! His perfect sacrifice was sufficient to cover all of our failings. Because of him, we can stand in the presence of God someday, with his righteousness in place of our own. We become more like this ideal woman when the Holy Spirit inside of us enables us to be more like Christ. This does not happen under our own power or by us striving for perfection in our own power, only through dependence on him.
I no longer have issues with this woman in Proverbs 31. Reading about her now reminds me of God’s extravagant love for me. I get a glimpse of what I can be when empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is through Christ that I can be found to be worth “far more than jewels.”
I enCOURAGE you to read Proverbs 31 with this new perspective today. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30