Proverbs 31 July 31, 2016
The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
2 Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
3 Do not spend your strength on women,
your vigor on those who ruin kings.
4 It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
6 Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
7 Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
So… About that Proverbs 31 Woman
I’ve learned over the years that scripture truly consists of living words. It is most apparent when I read or reread the same verses or chapters in different stages of life. When I first read Proverbs 31 as a teenager, it didn’t really phase me, but as a twenty-something wife I began to panic a little as I read each verse. I viewed it as a checklist of activities and behaviors I needed to possess.
|Proverbs 31 “Checklist”||Inside My Head|
I rarely see a sunrise.
I can sew on a button.
I could continue with this list as I read through and mentally rated myself as a wife and woman. Now, as I’ve aged both chronologically and spiritually, I can read this chapter with a little more depth and understanding. First, I’ve learned to read for context. Proverbs 31 is a poem depicting mother to son advice. Specifically, it is a acrostic poem in which each line in the original translation starts with the next letter of the Greek alphabet. The chapter starts with advice to her son about kingly behavior, and ends with a poetic description of traits to celebrate and praise in a virtuous wife.
Many women read this chapter and feel added pressure to be the “perfect wife.” Just add it to the growing list of expectations about body and behavior today’s women have, right? However, the original intention was not prescriptive but descriptive in nature. The only directive in the whole poem is directed to the son. Remembering that the poem is “mother to son” advice, she reminds him to “Honor her for all that her hands have done” (Proverbs 31:31). The rest is a descriptive celebration of a Godly and virtuous woman.
After realizing the context, the second thing I read for was theme. What is the author’s message? When I stopped focusing on what I felt was a checklist of sorts, I could read big picture… more for the character traits being celebrated. I don’t have to learn to sew or become a morning person to be a virtuous woman. Some commentary suggests the entire poem is metaphorical, while others note the earlier verses provide examples of observable behaviors and the later verses dig deeper into broader character traits. A few character traits I noted as I reread this chapter as a wife and mother are:
You’ll notice that I didn’t put checkboxes this time but simple bullets to remind myself that this chapter isn’t about checking off behaviors or activities to become virtuous. As I reflect on the character traits, I completely agree that these are all adjectives I’d love for my husband, children, family, and friends to use to describe me as a Christian wife, mother, and woman. This chapter isn’t suggesting that a Christian woman is all of these things all of the sudden. It is a process like the rest of our Christian journey to sanctification. Being a Christian doesn’t automatically sanctify us, but as we draw closer to God, we naturally become more like Him. My prayer is that as Christian women and men, we seek His face everyday... and because of our relationship with Him, others see these traits in us.