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Thoughts on the Proverbs 31 Woman - March 10, 2017

 “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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

 

Comments
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Lynne Willoughby 2 years ago
Poor Comment Good Comment
Great blog post and very provoking. I firmly believe that as Christians we are all called to Kingdom living. We are ambassador's for Christ and should be examples in our lives of what that Kingdom looks like. I endorse everything you have said here.I think Jesus was revolutionary in his ministry and his example was a fulfillment of prophecy and all that the teachings of the Old Testament. We simplify these teachings at our peril. In Galatians 3:26-30 we read:"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."Jesus didn't differentiate between his followers and treated everyone the same, calling on others to show and give the best of who they are. Years ago, I had a friend named Bill who is now with the Lord. He always expected the best from others and was never disappointed no matter what you did. He loved unconditionally and did not judge. It was interesting as his way of loving raised your own expectations of yourself and helped me to try things I might otherwise have not attempted, secure in the knowledge that the attempt was all that mattered.Isn't it awesome that God has created us all in such different ways and that we are now perfect in his sight. Let's hope we never limit ourselves or others by what our culture tells us is right. Let's listen to all of what God's word has to say to us and not just parts of it. Thanks again. Have fun with this.
Guest Comment 2 years ago
Poor Comment Good Comment
Thanks Lynne. Well said!Hoping to hear from some of the ladies about how the expectations of P31, by themselves or others have affected them over the years, especially as a new Christian.
Elizabeth Priddle 2 years ago
Poor Comment Good Comment
Thanks for your encouragement in these blog posts. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when reading about the Prov. 31 woman, like how can any of us even hope to attain all those incredible attributes, and stay sane??? Obviously God does not expect us to be able to do all that, we're not super heroes. He does however, want us to strive to be more like Jesus, as you listed in the post. I agree this is woman is a culmination of different characteristics we should strive for, and that it is the description of the epitome of wisdom. All we can do is our very best, with God's help!