“THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS 31 WOMAN”
'Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised'. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV)
I love that picture of the Proverbs 31 Woman. However, the P31 woman also is married, cooks a lot, sews and has big arm muscles. I'm sure these are all tremendous assets in an agrarian society.
My question is this...how did the P31 woman become the standard-bearer of what a Christian woman should be? We have books, sermons and a P31 ministry. Why isn't there a Song Of Songs 6 ministry (Your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing...)? It doesn't seem any less arbitrary than praising a woman who spins flax.
We need to be very cautious about over emphasizing individual parts of Scripture, and here's why...
- All Scripture is God-breathed. That is foundational to our faith, yet most women I know just roll their eyes when you mention 'P31', because of the way it has been elevated.
- Homemaking is a real gift. If you've met someone with this gift, it is VERY obvious. Many of us are homemakers, but not all of us have the gift. To expect otherwise is to reduce the value of the gift.
- We are PART of the body of Christ. If we already had all the gifts, we wouldn't need each other.
Here's my idea...the next time someone tries to pigeon hole you into a stereotype of a Christian woman, tell them that you are a “2 Corinthians 5 Woman” - Christ's ambassador, or an “ Isaiah 61 Woman” - anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, or find a verse that speaks especially to you.
The Proverbs 31 woman is 'honoured for all that her hands have done', which is a good thing. Even better will be the 'well done, good and faithful servant' that we receive from the Lord.
In case you are unfamiliar with this theoretical woman, or need a recap, read it here.
I do not believe that it was ever God’s intent for us, as women, to try to fit the mold of the so-called “Proverbs 31 Woman”. I submit that this model woman came about as a result of the western church's and culture's attempts at establishing rules around what it perceived as the ideal Christian woman. In Jewish culture, men actually memorize Proverbs 31 as a song of praise to the women in their lives; it is not an expectation that they become one. In our culture, women believe that if they are not measuring up to this standard, they are somehow a failure.
Rather than focusing on Jesus, who is our standard, the modern church adapted Proverbs 31 into a set of rules and turned it into a religious checklist.
Understanding Scripture is largely about culture and context and the interpretation of Proverbs 31 as commonly held by many is not universal. For starters, most scholars believe that the Proverbs 31 Woman is not a real woman. In fact, some scholars have suggested that the “Proverbs 31 Woman” is a combination of the commendable qualities of several different women. (Read about that here) Still others believe that she is the epitome of wisdom. (Read about that view here) It is worth noting that throughout the book of Proverbs, wisdom is referred to as “she” and Proverbs 31 is seen as the culmination of all the wisdom that its main writer, King Solomon, was passing on to his son.
Have you considered that if this was truly God’s standard for women, He probably would have ensured that Mary (Jesus’s mother) was clearly identified as such. Or He would have chosen a few “Proverbs 31 Women” to be in Jesus’ lineage rather than pagan Ruth or Rahab, the harlot. I’m just saying…
The Bottom line: both men and women can apply the wisdom listed in Proverbs 31 to our daily lives. For instance, we can be earnestly:
- Seeking God first such as waking up early and beginning our day with God.
- Loving others, being kind, truthful and loyal.
- Working diligently as unto God.
- Seeking ways to enrich our lives and growing in God’s Word rather than remaining stagnant.
- Not giving up when we encounter difficulties and learning to trust God to direct our paths.
- Seizing opportunities that are before us rather than waiting for perfection.
- Having respect for ourselves in the way we behave, dress, and conduct ourselves as image-bearers of God.
In the end, we can have the assurance that God loves each one of us exactly as we are; that He rejoices over us with singing and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more.
Rest in the assurance that no matter how you see yourself, God sees you as His Beloved Daughter and He knows your name. Enjoy these stories of women experiencing redemption shared through Francesca Battistelli’s song, He Knows My Name.
By Bethany Breault & Yolande Knight