When I was growing up, every Mother’s Day the preacher would pull out a sermon on Proverbs 31 to remind us all how a “real woman” were supposed to act and be. I don’t recall similar sermons on Father’s Day about how men should behave…but let me keep moving.
I’m going to make a confession here. I have had major issues with the Proverbs 31 woman for most of my life. I don’t like her. Because she is impossible. For years I heard sermons about how every young girl should aspire to be this woman and every woman should become more like her as she ages, but all I ever felt like afterward was a failure. I mean, have you read the list? This woman does it all. She is a wife, mother and manufacturer. She is a manager, business woman and realtor. She is a seamstress and a farmer, and the list goes on. I am impressed with women who can sew and make things. I love the idea of sewing, but I can sew a button on a shirt. That’s about it for me in the sewing department, and I hate it. I don’t like any thing that involves a needle. I can’t figure out how to knit or crochet and I’ve stopped trying. I don’t own a field or plan to plant a vineyard. I make things turn brown when I try to grow them. So what do girls like me do with the Proverbs 31 woman when mostly I just want to strangle her?
The real problem with this passage is that we have made it something it is not. It is not a checklist of skills that we must attain if we want to be a good wife or mother or have value as a woman. That’s not what this is about. Skill is not the issue in this passage, but rather character. Legalism is often the enemy of growth and faith and can be overwhelming and condeming. There’s hardly any passage we get more legalistic about than Proverbs 31. We get wrapped up in what this woman can do, thinking we need to do it all too and spend more time on activity than we do on our heart.
I don’t believe the Proverbs 31 woman was just one woman. I believe it is a picture of what a woman can become, and ultimately that is a picture of character, strength, resourcefulness, integrity, inspiration and industry. Do I have to be able to sew or grow tomatoes to become those things? Nope. Needlework might be out of my reach, but godly character is not (2 Peter 1:3). This is the bottom line…if I am a woman of character then I will work hard to take care of my family. That makes me a Proverbs 31 woman.
I remember when my babies were little, running into a woman who gave me a grand lecture on why I should never give a baby a bottle and should always breast feed. For her there wasn’t any other way to do it. Basically she was saying to do otherwise made me a failure. Well…that is great in theory…and was my desire…but I had a lazy nursery who took 14 hours to eat EVERY time!…and also had a 21 month old who could tear the house apart in 2 minutes flat while I was sitting to nurse. Eventually I combined bottle feeding with nursing to keep my baby fed, my house from being destroyed, my toddler safe and my sanity intact. Say what you want, that doesn’t make me a failure. That makes me a mom who takes care of her kids. Period.
Ladies, don’t let someone else dictate who you are, how you raise your kids, or how you interact with your husband and tell you that you are doing it wrong. This passage isn’t designed to give you a checklist of skills or to condemn you. It is meant to give you a picture of godly character, and the character of the woman in Proverbs 31 made sure her family was fed, warm, secure and loved. She was careful with finances and had compassion for others. She brought good to her husband and she worked hard INSIDE her home and OUTSIDE of her home. I know plenty of women who do those things Every. Single. Day. It looks different for each of them, but they just get it done. No fanfare. No hype. Just steadily taking care of their family and friends.
The other day I was telling my husband how I found this great deal on bacon. It was good bacon too. Nitrate free, no sugar added, dry rubbed, good bacon. I got it on a super sale and for breakfast Saturday morning my big family ate 3 packs of bacon. Normally this would cost about $15-$16 but I got 3 packs for $6!! Woo Hoo! Victory Dance!. You know what my husband said to me? He gave me a high five and said, “You are a modern day Proverbs 31 woman”.
Do you have integrity, character, compassion for others and do whatever it takes to meet the needs of your family? Then you, my friend, are a modern day Proverbs 31 woman. Don’t ever feel less than that. Do you know what the first problem in the Bible was? Even before sin entered the garden, Adam had a problem. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So He created woman to solve this problem. We have been solving problems for our husbands, children, families, friends and our world ever since. It is what we do. We are Proverbs 31 women.
My daughters live in an age where women have opportunities like never before. They will have a chance that generations past didn’t have. I know they can do anything a man can do in the workforce, but I hope they never forget that they were created to do everything a man CANNOT do. I also hope they recognize that the woman in Proverbs 31….her appearance is never mentioned. May our character be our beauty.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” – Proverbs 31:30