“I Don’t Need a Man to be Worthy.”
Modern-day women have had it with the Proverbs 31 woman.
Perhaps this chapter of the Bible has been taught in certain circles with an iron-clad punch in the face, causing women to feel “less than” if they’re not married with children. Or, perhaps the proverbial bar in Proverbs 31 seems set unrealistically high.
Some women wear themselves out trying to reach “her” level of perfection as they juggle less than perfect marriages, kids, jobs, finances, health – you name it.
Still, there are some women who are more than content to rock the Proverbs 31 t-shirt, bracelet, journal, and hashtag – when their lives couldn’t be farther from a Proverbs 31 woman. And, the women who know her are tired of her frontin’ on social media.
Sound about right?
All of this adds up to a subtle, growing resistance against hearing one more word about a Proverbs 31 woman.
And, you know what? These women have a point!
Deconstructing the “Virtuous” Proverbs 31 Woman
Let’s re-center ourselves, ladies, and take an honest look at the Proverbs 31 woman and ourselves.
First, before we were formed in our mother’s womb – God knew us – not you and your future husband and kids…YOU (Jeremiah 1:5).
When Jesus died for your sins – you’re right – you did not have to show a marriage license to prove that you were worth dying for. Our sins are not washed away based on how many children we bear.
Yes, sister. Your worth is not derived from being a wife, nor a natural mother, but from the truth that you were fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14).
Now. What you DO with your fearfully and wonderfully made self is totally in your hands.
Living that Virtuous Proverbs 31 Life
Sometimes, it’s good to get technical. So, what exactly does Proverbs 31 mean by “virtuous“?
Did you know that the Hebrew word for “virtuous” in Proverbs 31 – chayil – means strength? Did you also know that this same word was used to describe the types of men that were to be chosen as judges over Israel when they left Egypt (Exodus 18:21, see “able” men)?
Oooohwee, can’t you just hear the finger snaps and high-fives of modern-day “BOSS” women? Who’s ready to cosign on strength?
See, somewhere along the line, sis, “we” projected the virtuous, Proverbs 31 woman as only being a chaste, meek and lowly Sally-homemaker, didn’t we? Perhaps even in our singleness, we hated on her and instead of putting ourselves in a position to learn from her strength, we falsely adorned her in weakness that soon garnered our disdain.
If but for a moment, let’s put down the haterade against the Proverbs-31-woman-label, and take a closer look at what her life’s example is really trying to tell us.
Respect: Woman to Proverbs 31 Woman
To respect someone, you have to get to know the “real” person, their come-from. A quick surface snapshot won’t cut it. Here are 3 character traits I draw from the description of the Proverbs 31 woman – some things we can all respect and learn something from:
1. She is an overcomer with a testimony.
Eleanor Roosevelt has a popular quote that says, “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
Ask any strong woman you know – you have to go through something to find your strength. Being strong comes with a price!
Here we find 3 times in 22 verses – in the word virtuous, verse 17, and verse 25 – that the Proverbs 31 woman is described as having or being clothed in strength.
Have we ever honestly considered that Proverbs chapter 31 describes a woman after her seasons of “many are the afflictions of the righteous“, “my power is made perfect in weakness“, or perhaps “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength“? Is it too far-fetched to think that a woman of this distinct strength had moments of struggle, “took up her cross and followed Jesus” – paid the price for her oil?
We don’t know her beginnings, her childhood, or family status – but we can safely assume that her strength was earned under the watchful eye and loving hand of the Almighty God.
2. She is trainable.
Say what you want about the Proverbs 31 woman – sister had skills!
She was a businesswoman who burned the midnight oil AND rose early in the morning (v. 15, 18). She was skilled in tapestry design, and she knew how to negotiate business and real estate deals (v. 16) – all while juggling her life as a wife and mother and being a good steward over her money.
The Proverbs 31 woman wasn’t “born with it” (and it sure wasn’t Maybelline lol). Somewhere along the way, she not only received training, but she applied what she had learned.
How many of us were right there in class, we received the training – but didn’t apply ourselves or invest in the practice of what we learned? You’ve invested in a life coach and master classes – have you done the work, or merely heard what it takes to improve your life? How easy is it to quit when we don’t understand, or we don’t get it right the first time?
The Proverbs 31 woman took her teachable moments and bore fruit – long before tasting the fruit of marriage or motherhood. What seeds are in our hands today, ladies? What skills have you cultivated?
3. She Knows When to Speak and When to Be Quiet.
One thing we know for sure, our mouths can cause cataclysmic damage in a short amount of time. That little member called the tongue will wreck relationships, expose a filthy heart, and render any perception of our strength as impotent with just a few words.
Before she ever opened her business and sold one tapestry, the Proverbs 31 woman was rich with wisdom. She knew when to speak and what to say, when not to speak and what didn’t need to be said.
Isn’t this one of the hardest lessons to learn, especially for us ladies?
It requires us women to eat the fruit of humility – not exactly the tasty delicacy we crave on the regular.
When’s the last time our prideful hearts, knowing we were right, resisted the urge to let the world know it? How hard is it for us to keep our whole mind intact and not give someone “a piece” of it? Does today’s “strong woman” find strength in the strategy of silence, or “say it loud, put folks on blast”?
There’s no way the Proverbs 31 woman could win the respect of her family and community with loose lips. How are we doing with our unruly member (James 3:8)?
So, What’s the Play Call?
Bottom line – the “Proverbs 31 woman” is a mere glimpse of what’s possible for women of God when we learn to faithfully fear (honor) and serve the Lord.
Don’t compare your journey where you are right now with the Proverbs 31 woman’s ending. She didn’t get there overnight – and neither will we, wherever our “there” may be. Allowing others to misrepresent the true character and witness of the Proverbs 31 woman will cause us to miss the point of a beautiful, rich life with Christ.
There’s a virtuous garment of strength with your name on it – it only fits you. So, put on your strength, Daughters of Zion (Isaiah 52:1)! And, in those moments when you feel like giving up, find comfort, wisdom, and strength in God. He’s already promised:
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
The woman in Proverbs 31 is a witness!