What is a Proverbs 31 woman?
Chances are, if you’re a Christian woman you’ve heard about the amazing woman of Proverbs 31. There are countless sermons, blogs and books dedicated to this woman and her character.
If you read through Proverbs 31, it’s not surprising how much focus is on this woman. She’s capable, strong, caring, hardworking and more. These are excellent characteristics to live up to.
As a Christian woman, it’s nearly impossible not to hear about this woman. Many of us aim to be more like her in our everyday lives. We strive to be a virtuous woman like the examples in these proverbs.
But who is this virtuous woman? Should we strive to live like her?
Should I Strive To Be A Virtuous Woman?
Like many topics in the Bible, there are a variety of opinions about the relevancy or meaning of scripture.
Some may feel these verses aren’t applicable to our times or their situation. They may ignore much of this chapter simply because they aren’t a wife or a mother. They may feel these characteristics can’t be applied to our modern culture.
On the other hand, some may feel the virtuous woman is the epitome of the best wife, mother and citizen around. They find themselves striving for perfection and exhausted when perfection is out of reach.
In my own life, I found myself stuck in between. At times, I feared acting like this woman meant acting like a quiet, submissive housewife with little say or involvement in anything beyond housework.
At other times, I found myself striving to be exactly like this woman. I desired to be the perfect Christian wife. I wanted to be exactly like the woman I read about in Bible studies. In fact, I thought the examples in the chapter were a complete instruction manual for what I must do to be a good wife.
But ultimately, I’d find myself comparing and exhausted striving to be identical to this woman.
Is this chapter meant to be a complete instruction manual for the ideal Christian wife?
Here are 5 surprising facts about the virtuous woman:
#1: Proverbs 31 Is Written To A Son, Not A Daughter
When we hear about Proverbs 31 it’s easy to think of it as an instructional manual for being a perfect Christian woman. It’s no doubt been shared as one in many studies, blogs, etc.
Yet, if we read through carefully, we can see that it’s written by a mother for her son. She isn’t writing her daughters with instructions on how to act. She is hoping to guide her son in making wise choices.
If we start at Proverbs 31:1, rather than skipping to verse 10, we see:
The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
What, my son?
And what, son of my womb?
And what, son of my vows?
King Lemuel’s mother goes on to give instructions about not chasing women, not getting drunk, making wise choices and be conscious of what he says.
This doesn’t mean as women we can’t glean from these verses. However, understanding the context with which something is said helps us understand more about applying the scripture to our lives.
Based on the context, these verses aren’t written to a woman or women saying you MUST do all of these things to be good Christian woman.
#2: The Proverbs 31 Woman Is An Allegorical Character Used By A Mother To Teach Her Son
While scholars and theologians may not agree 100%, the virtuous woman likely wasn’t a real person. She is likely a compilation of the best Godly traits a mother hopes her son finds in a wife.
This mother wants her son to find a strong, capable, loving and hardworking woman. She uses a variety of examples to show important traits to look for when seeking a wife.
As a mother, I know my son’s will not find the perfect spouse as no such thing exists. I suspect Lemuel’s mother knows there isn’t a perfect spouse. We are all human and thus not perfect.
However, I do hope my sons seek a virtuous woman, a woman who strives to honor God, work hard and care for her family. I hope they encourage her to be strong, capable and trust her in making choices.
King Lemuel’s mother is likely using examples to share what a virtuous woman’s day, house, etc. can look like.
We see other allegorical characters in Proverbs such as wisdom, adulteress and folly. When we look at the entire book of Proverbs, and the entire chapter of 31, the virtuous woman is likely used in the same manner as the other allegorical characters – to provide examples.
We can strive to be a virtuous woman without looking exactly like this Proverbs 31 woman. We can be a Godly woman without being perfect – because it’s impossible to be perfect. I don’t believe God wants us to compare ourselves to her to the point of feeling like a failure. However, I do think these examples help us understand Godly traits and how we can be a Godly woman, wife and mother.
Even If She Is Real…
Even if the Proverbs 31 woman was a real person, this is simply the highlight reel of her life. It doesn’t share about what she did when she had a three-week-old infant and toddler pulling on her skirt. We don’t see how she handles the flu making its way through the house. It’s simply illustrating what she strives to do and how her godly traits impact her day to day life.
#3: The Virtuous Woman Isn’t A Passive Maid
When I was a younger wife, I was quite honestly scared of Proverbs 31. I hadn’t studied it directly, but I heard it referenced often. I assumed it was an instruction manual for submissive, passive and quiet women without a voice.
I’m thankful I took to the time to read it myself. To have an open heart and pray for God’s wisdom.
We are called to be submissive in many areas of our life. God is of course always above us. Our husband’s, our bosses, the government, etc., there are many people who have a say in our life.
However, submissive does not inherently mean passive servant. It does not mean you have no voice or that you are less important.
She Is Wise And Respected
If you read through the entirety of Proverbs 31, you see a woman who works hard. A woman who makes important decisions. She is well respected in her home. Her husband can focus on his work because he can trust her to make wise choices.
He doesn’t see her as a lowly servant who should have no voice. Her husband sees her as a wise woman he can trust to bring in earnings and make investments with them. He trusts her to run many areas of the home.
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her; Proverbs 31:10-11
That alone tells us she is loved and trusted. Every marriage will have unique dynamics. However, as it turns out I never needed to fear the role or dynamics seen in Proverbs 31. Striving to have Godly traits like the virtuous woman can look different in each unique marriage and home. It is the character and heart behind her actions which provides a timeless illustration, and not necessarily her specific actions.
#4: She Doesn’t Do It All Alone
There are many women striving to be the virtuous woman, in their own strength and without support. They strive to keep a tidy home, to work hard in and outside the home, to raise children and have an active part in their education.
Some may focus on making perfect meals, keeping a spotless home and homeschooling all while trying to work a side gig to bring in extra income. Perhaps it’s holding a fulltime job while trying to keep up the home as if she had all the time in the world.
Yet if we truly read Proverbs 31 we see that she isn’t doing it all on her own.
She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants. – Proverbs 31:15
How many of us are guilty of reading this verse and only seeing the “She also rises while it is yet night.”? We easily get caught up on the specific action and don’t see the last part, “her maidservants.”
She Had Help, Be Careful With Comparing
This woman wasn’t doing 100% of the housework, working outside the home and raising her children alone. The virtuous woman had a team. She had support. There were no expectations that she could have it all, do it all, all the time and on her own.
Yet, how many of us feel we don’t measure up simply by focusing on the first sentence?
It isn’t rising early which makes her inherently virtuous. It’s her heart and why she rises early. She’s meeting the needs of her family and her maidservants. The best way to meet your family’s needs may look very different from the best way I meet my family’s needs.
Some women rise early and prepare a wonderful breakfast. Other women prepare things the night before. And some women grab breakfast on the go while rushing kids to school so she can get to work in order to provide for her family.
It’s the why and not necessarily the how she meets her family’s needs which is important.
#5: Proverbs 31 Is Still Relevant Today
Proverbs 31 was a message from a mother to her son. She hoped to impart wisdom about making good choices and seeking a virtuous wife.
However, Proverbs 31 can help us as women strive to have a Godly character. The virtuous woman is strong, hardworking, full of faith, graceful, and focused on her purpose.
She focuses on meeting her family’s needs, being a respected citizen and keeping her faith; and not focused on what she wears, how she looks or a Pinterest worthy to-do list.
We may not need to rise to feed maidservants or buy fields for planting, but the traits that caused her to do those things still matter.
What can our day look like if we keep our faith a priority, strive to meet our family’s needs, and remain confident in using the gifts God’s equipped us with?
How can we use Proverbs 31 to impart wisdom on our sons? What godly characteristics can we help our daughters develop?
Even if you’re a single woman, a woman without children, wherever you are in your life, the characteristics of the virtuous woman can be applied to your life. Everyone can honor God, work hard, be filled with grace, and focus on their purpose.
“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates. – Proverbs 31:29-31
Are you a busy mom wondering how to focus more on your faith? Be sure to read 8 Tips For Growing Your Faith During Everyday Motherhood