If you’ve spent much time in Christian circles, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Proverbs 31 woman. The epitome of what it means to be a Godly woman, she has entire websites full of articles on how to be just like her. Strong faith, solid marriage, excellent homemaking skills–she has it all. What Christian woman wouldn’t want to be just like her? She’s perfect.
A few months ago, after seeing yet another article on “How to be the perfect Proverbs 31 Woman,” I decided it was high time I go read that portion of Scripture again. Of course, I had read it before, several times, but it had been a while, and I needed to refresh my memory. I mean, as a Christian woman, I should probably have that portion of Scripture framed and hanging on my walls, if not committed to memory, right? So time to revisit.
But when I reread the passage for myself, I was completely surprised by what I read. It wasn’t what I expected at all! Based on all of the articles I had been reading, I guess I was expecting the passage to read something like:
“The Proverbs 31 Woman is perfect.
She’s everything you could ever want to be and more.
And if you want to be a good Godly woman,
You should be exactly like her.
This is what she’s like:
She’s very quiet, meek and polite
And happy to do whatever her husband wants all of the time.
She loves being a mother,
So much that she happily spends her entire day
At home tending to her children’s every need without complaint.
Her house is always spotless,
Even though she doesn’t have any modern appliances
(Although it probably helps that she doesn’t have Facebook.)
She loves it when guests drop by unannounced
Because her house is always spotless and always smells like cookies.
If you want to be a good Christian woman,
You must do your best to be all these things too.”
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But not much 🙂
But what I found–well, it didn’t say that at all. To refresh your memory, here is the actual Proverbs 31 passage, courtesy of BibleGateway:
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
Well, that was nothing like what I was expecting! This passage isn’t talking about how she was an excellent wife and mother at all… It’s primarily talking about how hard she works all day long and how everyone else praises her for it. Weird.
There’s a TON of articles out there on the Proverbs 31 woman, all of them with a slightly different take. But there’s one take I’ve never seen before… and that’s what I’m sharing today.
Three Things No One Tells You About the Proverbs 31 Woman
1. She Works
Honestly, I don’t even know how the whole SAHM vs. Working mom thing is even a debate anymore. If you like being a SAHM, if you like being a working mom–whatever works for your family–that’s great! (Personally, I love being a WAHM–best of both worlds!)
So why am I still reading articles that insist that women MUST stay at home and tend to the house and children in order to be good wives and mothers? That it is the ONLY Godly option? And using this passage to do it no less…
A full HALF (11) of the verses in this passage are about how hard she works–both inside and outside of the home. Passages like “bringing her food from afar,” “She considers a field and buys it,” “She sees that her trading is profitable,” and “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes” — These aren’t really tasks that can be done from home. (Well, the making of linen garments, but not the selling) Whether her kids are with her or not… she’s busy working.
Care to guess how many verses mention her husband? Four. It says he thinks highly of her and she brings him good, not harm. And how many mention her children? One. “Her children arise and call her blessed.” That’s it.
And at the end, does it say “honor her for what a calm and gentle mother she is,” or “honor her because she is super crafty while still managing to keep her house spotless?” Nope. “Honor her for all that her hands have done.” Hmm… She works hard, and that’s a good thing. Interesting…
2. She’s Competent and Capable
Did you catch where her husband was in this passage? “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”
Now, how often and long he was there, I don’t know, but this passage does make it pretty clear that she was more than capable of taking care of things while he was away. “Her husband has full confidence in her,” “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard,” and “She watches over the affairs of her household.” I imagine she was still respectful and loving, but she hardly sounds meek, timid and passive to me.
3. She’s Not Real
And last, but certainly not least, she’s not real. She’s an inspirational character from Proverbs (like Wisdom), not a real, actual person from the Gospels. Maybe there are real women out there who are this wonderful, but she wasn’t one of them and you don’t have to be either.
The truth is, God made all of us to love, enjoy and excel at different things. If you love being a stay at home mom and tending to your little ones all day long, more power to you! If you prefer to work round-the-clock on your latest business venture, that’s awesome as well.
The Proverbs 31 woman isn’t the real standard of perfection–Jesus is. So if you feel like you can’t measure up–you aren’t supposed to! God made YOU. Be you. Messy floors and burnt cakes and screaming toddlers and all.
So if you ever feel like a failure–stop it, and read this article instead. Because you aren’t the Proverbs 31 woman, and you aren’t supposed to be.
Do you ever feel pressure to be someone you aren’t–whether it’s the Proverbs 31 Woman or the perfect Pinteresty mom? How do you overcome these feelings?
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