The passage in the Bible about the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31 (see link) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+31%3A10-31&version=KJV might seem intimidating to a lot of women. In fact, the woman described in the poetic verse is perhaps so outstanding that she might just be a compilation of the best of the women in the line of Jesus, from Sarah – meaning “princess”, to Ruth – “companion, friend” to Bathsheba – “daughter of the oath” who redeemed herself as a mother and in fact was the one who taught Solomon the prophecy of the virtuous woman (Prov. 31:1).
Some of the exceptional things about the virtuous woman described in acrostic poem:
- She is an extremely rare find. v.10
- She is unselfish. v.11
- She is always helpful and trustworthy. v.12
- She is always busy producing. v.13
- She is aerobically fit, walking miles to shop or trade for her family. v.14
- She gets up early to manage the household. v.15
- She is independently wealthy and buys and sells at her own discretion. v.16
- She is strong and not afraid of hard work. v.17
- She makes high quality dry goods. v.18
- She is resourceful, producing her own fabric. v. 19
- She gives to the poor. v.20
- She is prepared for anything, including the change of seasons. v.21
- She wears beautiful and expensive clothing. v.22
- Her husband is a city leader. v.23
- She is a successful entrepreneur. v.24
- She is both strong and honorable. v.25
- She is both wise and kind. v.26
- She is prudent and industrious. v.27
- Her multiple children think she is a rock-star and her husband adores her. v.28
- She sets the standard for excellence. v.29
- She fears the Lord. v.30
- She has an excellent reputation that precedes her. v.31
I believe this poetic tribute to the virtuous woman is meant to be little amazing and intimidating. We are not inspired by stories of mediocrity – we are inspired by great stories. I don’t believe the point of Proverbs 31 is to make women want to check off all of the boxes on the list or to make us feel bad if we feel we not measure up. It is instead something to inspire us with the same kind of wonder as we have watching top athletes compete in which one emerges in glorious victory.
In examining this passage of scripture, I do think there are a few takeaways that all Christian women can benefit from:
- She is on a mission. The virtuous woman does the things she does because of her love for the Lord and her mission field begins with her own family.
- She gains distinction primarily from the benefits she provides her family. Does the Christian model despise or detract from women who work outside the home? No, it does not. But the primary sphere of concern of the Proverbs 31 women clearly is her household, and that of her husband and children. This characteristic does not exclude the single or childless women. They can still provide benefits to their parental families and to their church family. By taking care of the needs of her own family, the virtuous woman creates a positive ripple effect in the community.
- Her chief qualities are strength, honor, wisdom and kindness. The virtuous woman is not pampered and is not afraid to work. She is clearly an asset to her family, and to the community. The virtuous woman passage begins, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” This does not amount to a woman who is showered with jewelry by a doting husband. It is about the net benefits that she provides.
The virtuous woman follows Christ, and she lives her life decisively. The only woman in the Bible referred to as a virtuous woman was Ruth, who left her people to adopt the God of her mother-in-law, Naomi. She was called a virtuous woman when she was a young widow without children. Like Ruth, the virtuous women of the Bible and since have faith in the Savior and because of this, a hope for the future.