The “Proverbs 31 Woman” is commonly touted as the woman that Christians should strive to be.
But do we really know who this woman is? Have we as women carefully considered what it actually means to be this kind of woman?
Since I’ve become a mother, the Lord has been continuously bringing this chapter into my mind and leading me to read it over and over. Today, my prayer is that we can study it together and see how God might want to convict, challenge, and change you through His Word today.
We’ll start by contextualizing the proverb with the first 9 verses:
The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Do not spend your strength on women,
your vigour on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
We don’t know much about King Lemuel, but, judging by his name, which means “Devoted to God,” it is safe to assume that he was a noble king who likely listened to the rebuke of his mother. The rest of the proverb details what a “Wife of noble character” is: a wife someone like King Lemuel, who avoided drunkenness and defended the poor, would desire. Let’s check out those verses.
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Already we’re set up to see that a wife of noble character, the kind of character we’re about to read about, is priceless.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
If you’re a wife: do you bring good upon your husband, not harm? Do you seek his good and that he would know God more deeply? Does your husband have “full confidence in you” as you mother your children, tend to your work whether in or out of the home, and share the Gospel? These are important check-in questions for us.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
This woman does not seek a life of ease, but rather diligently and EAGERLY does the work needed for her family, clothing them with her own hands. She provides food for her family and those in need, even if laborious trips and work are involved. She rises before her family, knowing that every hour is precious, and she is generous with all that she has.
Is this you, sister? How so? And how is it not you? Let’s ask Jesus how He can help us grow where we need to in order to look more like this kind of woman.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
The Proverbs 31 woman is a working woman! She is strong and able for the work that she does, perhaps able to contribute financially to her family, even if that is from entrepreneurial earnings. She plants and harvests food and ensures that the work she does is worthwhile work, benefitting her family. She is always “ready and watchful”: even at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
This woman creates beautiful, useful, and profitable materials with her hands, like clothing and blankets. And she doesn’t do it just for her family – but for the poor and needy, too! She has arms wide open to welcome in whoever may need a place to stay, food to eat, or clothes on their backs. Because of her hard work, devotion to God, and unfailing dedication to her family, she doesn’t worry about storms, physical or metaphorical; for they are “clothed in scarlet” (“a colour that was rare in clothing during the time that this passage was written, signifying dignity“).
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She’s a woman of integrity and intentionality, making her family’s needs with her own hands rather than passively purchasing. The Scripture implies that her husband is respected in part because of all of her hard work and nobility; she enables him to be a dutiful elder. And she doesn’t just clothe her family and the poor, but she sells her garments, too, making money to serve her family. Much more important than those physical clothes is what she adorns herself with inwardly: strength and dignity. Because she walks with God, she can laugh at the days to come without fear or worry.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Some questions this section spurs for me: What is on your tongue? Is what you say carefully considered through the Holy Spirit? Are you a “faithful teacher” of the Gospel? Or do you spew condemnation, complaints, and criticism?
Are you aware of the “affairs” of your household, the mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing of each person? Do you have a method for keeping the home running, the fridge stocked, the space clean and tidy? Do you spend your time wisely, or do you make excuses for your laziness?
What do your children say about you? Are you paying attention to that? Is your parenting “working” in the sense that they are pursuing relationship with Jesus and honouring their mother and father?
What does your husband say about you?* Are you paying attention to that? Consider asking him what he’s thankful for about you as well as for areas you could improve.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honour her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Remember that these words are an exhortation and encouragement from a mother to her son. She is here reminding her son that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting: Don’t be caught up by these things, Son, but seek a woman who fears and serves and loves Jesus! This is the kind of woman you should uphold with all honour.
So, is this you, sister? Do you seek and fear and serve and love and know Jesus Christ? If so, the rest of this will flow from that relationship with Him. If not, I may I simply encourage you to seek Him today. Jesus encourage us to “seek and we will find” (Matt 7:7). Pray and ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you. Read the book of John to discover who He is. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. And repent today of the sins He convicts you of. He is calling you home into right relationship with Him. Your Father. The PERSON who created you, who knows you better than you know yourself, who only wants to care for and protect and nourish and love and hold you.
And if today you are seeking help to be the wife and mother you want to be, know that it starts right there in relationship with Jesus Christ!
*This question assumes that there is no abuse in the home.