The Wise Woman
If you know anything about the book of Proverbs, you know that the book has much to say about the kind of woman to avoid. Then we get to the woman of Proverbs 31. Here is a woman that any Christian girl should aspire to be, and any grown woman should strive to be. But if you read the chapter closely, maybe you will think to yourself, as I did, how seemingly impossible it is to be this woman! Even the chapter itself, in verse 10, points out how rare a woman like this is: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” This woman is rare and priceless and can even seem too perfect for us, but no matter how impossible it seems that we as women could attain to her virtue, this is what God calls us to be.
At first glance, Proverbs 31 seems to address only older, married women who stay at home with the children they have. But a closer look reveals something different. The chapter is written as a poem, similar to Psalm 119, where each line begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Reading verse 1 will show you that this chapter was actually written for a young man, Lemuel, by his mother. This chapter is for young men! But, as this is an issue for girls, we will focus on what the chapter teaches you.
The chapter is a “portrait of feminine wisdom,” as Lydia Brownback puts it in her book, A Woman’s Wisdom (a fantastic resource for more details and application of this passage that space doesn’t allow me to include in this article). Yes, this woman is the ideal woman, but you might be relieved to know that we don’t have to take everything in this description of her completely literally. You don’t have to learn to make linen or have to know what a spindle is, much less know how to use one. Instead, read this chapter through and look at the wisdom of everything this woman does, and where her heart is focused. She serves others, and more specifically her family, in all she does, and in that, serves God. When reading the chapter this way, you will see that it applies to all God-fearing women, whether young, old, married, single, with children, or without children. Let’s look at a few ways this woman shows her wisdom in her life.
This woman first of all shows wisdom not only in how she behaves as a wife but in how she behaves as a homemaker. She cares for her home, her husband, and her family. She is concerned with their well-being and bears them in mind in all her work. This has application even for those reading who do not have their own homes or their own husbands or children. All of us have a home and a family, and we all have work to do in that home to take care of it. Think of ways to work around your house, even if it isn’t yours, and to serve your family, whether you are married or not. This can even apply to serving your church family. In this work, do it for the good of others as the Proverbs 31 woman does, and work hard while doing it.
This hard-working woman doesn’t always work in the home, though. In the chapter, she buys a field, plants a vineyard, and sells linen and girdles (or sashes) that she has made. This speaks to the topic of women, and more specifically mothers, working outside of the home. We can’t say that this is absolutely always wrong, based on this passage. Keep in mind that for some women, such as those who are unmarried, those whose spouse has left them, or those without children, it is not a choice, nor is it wrong. However, the issue can arise when a mother whose husband is providing and with children at home would like to work outside the home. Whether this is something you face now or something you will struggle with in the future, I encourage you to remember Titus 2:3–5 and think about if working outside of the home is really for the good of your family, not just for your enjoyment or fulfillment. Is it wise for you to work outside the home right now? Do you really, financially speaking, need to do this, or are your “needs” really just wants? Examine your heart and answer these questions to yourself honestly!
This woman is also wise with what God has given her. She is wise with her time (vss. 15,18, 27) and is wise with her money and knows how to deal with financial matters (vs. 16). She does spend her money, buying a field and maybe even those high quality scarlet clothes her family wears, but she also has time and money to help the poor and needy (vs. 20).
She even shows great wisdom in caring for herself physically. The chapter shows that she does care for herself (she is clothed in “silk and purple”), and a few other passages of scripture do back up this idea of caring for yourself. However, we need to balance this with verses 25 and 30, and see that while looks do count for something, they are very insignificant compared to the rest of the attributes that are shown in the chapter.
Living in wisdom like this in all parts of your life will result in great blessings! No, it’s not that the chapter guarantees that you and your family will be clothed in the best clothes all the time or that someday you’ll be able to afford your own vineyard, and I think you know that. Read through the chapter and notice all the rewards you will find. Verses 21–22 do support that wise living often leads to physical comforts and things, but there’s more than that. You will be valued, even more than rubies (vs. 10). Your marriage, if God will or has given you a husband, will be solid (vss. 11,12, 28). You will live without fear (vss. 21, 25). You will be praised and respected by your family and those around you (vss. 25, 28, 29). But the greatest reward is that you will know God and fear him (vs. 30). Use this Proverbs 31 woman as your direction to a life of wisdom and serving others, ultimately serving God. You will be blessed!
Abbie is wife to Bryce and a mom to one son. She is a member of Hudsonville PRC.
Originally published April 2020, Vol 79 No 4