When I read this passage of scripture about the Proverbs 31 woman, I feel encouraged and convicted all at once.
I mean, she sounds like the most beautiful, productive, hardworking woman. She sounds like she is adored by those closest to her. She also sounds a bit unattainable and like a little bit of a unicorn.
The good news is grace.
But grace does not mean we are automatically forgiven, so we don’t need to try. God wants us to actively participate in our own lives, that is why He gave us free will. He wants us to pursue righteousness and chase after him.
The truth is if we have an active, deepening relationship with the Lord, He will speak to us and guide us. Then the proverbs 31 woman doesn’t seem so unattainable after all.
What makes the proverbs 31 woman seem unattainable is the lies our culture, and satan have us believing.
It says in Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God wants to give us a future, he gives us hope. Sometimes things in our lives can seem so hard, like we are climbing a never ending mountain. But we always have hope because we have God. God wants to give us an abundant life, both in spiritual giftings now, as well as our eternal life to come.
And I believe when we take to heart what it says in Proverbs 31 that we will have abundance in our lives. Se let’s dive in a little deeper.
King Lemuel is writing and this is a prophecy given by inspiration and direction of God. (As everything in the Bible is from God.)This is advice from a wise mother to her son. King Lemuel’s mother is exhorting him in this passage, at first it is about how he is to behave as a King and then it goes into finding a virtuous wife. From my studies, I do not think this definition was who King Lemuel’s mother was. BUT don’t we always want what is best for kids? Especially mamas and their boys? This mother wants to impart her wisdom onto her son.
Something else I want to mention is the proverbs 31 woman isn’t real.
This is not about Mary or Martha or Ruth. This is written as advice from a mother to her son. Think of the advice you would give your own child when they are picking their spouse. Especially, if they are in a leadership role (as Lemuel is a king) people are looking up to you in a leadership role and as a wife is the perfect partner and helper for her husband his mom wants her to be excellent.
In saying that, realize God gifted each of us in different ways. We all have different spiritual giftings and talents. So if you read proverbs 31 and think wow, I could never be that woman, I must not be Godly, then know that is a lie.
Also know the culture back then was very different, women had very little worth. Overall they were meant to stay in the home and bear children. So I love how King Lemuel’s mother brings out so many beautiful aspects in a woman, that are Godly and not what that culture signified as important.
10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
An excellent wife is so hard to find. There are many women in this world that will not live up to this standard. She is like a precious gem. Rare but if you look hard enough you will find her. She is also of great worth.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
You need to ensure you are being a trustworthy person, can your husband trust you with everything from finances to the way you speak? Will anything you do or say prevent him from gaining? Your character is important not only for yourself but how that reflects on your husband.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
Do good by your husband, treat him well, do not sit and complain with your girlfriends. Build him up, do not tear him down. All the days of your life, even when he is being difficult or you are in a tough season in your relationship.
Often when women get together their chats turn to degrading their husbands and complaining about all their flaws, commiserating in each other’s misery, gossiping to release some unhappiness.
Go to him, communicate with him. When you love your husband more that you love yourself (which is my top happy marriage advice) he in turn will love you the same way. We are often so selfish in our marriages no wonder the divorce rate is so high.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
In that time women would spin wool together to make their clothes and linens for the home. I think this verse means that hard labour is not above her. She will gather raw materials for her work, and be willing to work hard. She takes initiative, she doesn’t need to be prompted by someone else.
Your husbands are working hard outside the home, we have an equal call to work hard and we do it willingly and joyfully. So whether you work outside the home or not, there is work to be done inside the home and we need to do that with joy. Yes it can be mundane but we need to remember in everything we do we do it for the Lord.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
Again remember the culture. How we gather food in 2019 is very different from then, we have access to more convenient options in everything we do. I also think we can get addicted to the convenience and sometimes that can make us lazy. I think we are called to feed our families well. We all know good food is important to the growth and development and health of our families. So when we are making meals are we making good choices? Or are we going through the drive through every day? Fast food and junk food is not good for our body.
I think we need to put effort and thought into the food we eat. Look at all the good nutritious food options God has blessed us with. So even though we do not bring our food from afar (like merchant ships would have, to find the best options to sell) we do need to choose well in this area of our lives.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
I know many women struggle with this. “She rises while it is yet night.”
I fought this for years.
Claiming “I am a night owl” but then my kids would wake me up, I wouldn’t be ready for the day leading to being rushed, no time to start the day with God, snapping and angry with my kids because I would feel overwhelmed because there were things I wanted to do but didn’t “have the time for.” There are hundreds of books talking about how the secret to success in any area of life is early waking and a good morning routine and this is biblical advice and comes from this passage of scripture right here. I think what we can take from this is we need to be diligent and ambitious. Not being lazy and staying in bed for as long as possible until the kids force you out of bed. I think this helps us develop our self discipline and self control which is a fruit of the spirit. Be prepared for your family. We are mothers, called to take care of our children and our husbands.
I get up early, I don’t make my husbands breakfast for him (he doesn’t expect that of me like they would have in the culture back then) but I am there with him, connecting before he goes to work. I spend time studying the bible and praying before I start my day. I prepare for my kids to wake so I can set them up for a good day! I don’t have maidens but if I did I would be sure they were taken care of, in thanks to how and what they would do for me. And a little side note on maidens, even if we not have cleaning ladies, maidens or personal assistants we do have a whole slew of technology that make tasks easier for us. Dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, electric stoves and microwaves. I like to consider those my electronic maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
This portion off the proverbs 31 woman I love.
God has given me a very entrepreneurial spirit. From the moment I considered working, I knew I wanted to be my own boss. Now, not all women are entrepreneurial and remember, we all have different giftings but I think we are called to more. Again consider the culture – women were meant to be at home and bear children but not this woman. Note this advice is not coming from a man, this is a wife and mother who understands the intricacies and difficulties of fulfilling this role. So first we are to take care of our families and our homes. But that does not mean that is our only role. So whether you work outside the home, are a full blown business woman or you knit on the side to provide a little extra income we are called to be more than housewives. Some women are called to work in volunteer positions vs paid positions in their children’s schools or in churches but what I think we can get from this passage is we are called to do more than only take care of our families and homes. Our kids will be grown and we can only scrub our floors so many times, when there is no one left to dirty them.
We are to consider “our fields” meaning what else can we do to provide for our families, whether that is financially or in other ways. We are to be an example to our children. To consider “our fields” also means we are intelligent and knowledgeable about our work outside the home. But not only that we are to work hard with our hands to “plant our vineyards.” I think this passage of scripture exemplifies a womans potential. He created us to be great.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
I think we are called to be strong. To be strong we need to be constantly working to improve. We are not going to become this woman overnight. There is a lot of sanctification and conviction that needs to happen, but we need to take the initiative and move towards growth. When we do not strive for more and strive for excellence in our motherhoods it is very easy to become discontent. If you have been a mother for more than a minute, you know motherhood is not an easy task. We need to make ourselves strong physically, mentally and spiritually to live our lives well and our husbands should encourage that.
Ephesians 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.
So when we as women are trying to improve ourselves and make ourselves strong, our husbands need to be supporting that. After all it is only going to benefit him.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
OK so this is where I think a lot of women get caught up and think, nope no way never going to achieve it. I am not an entrepreneur and I love my sleep. This woman is not me.
I look at it this way, whether you sell merchandise or not I believe this means that whatever your work outside of the home is, that it is profitable. So whether that means you are volunteering at your kids school and on the PTA or running a 6 figure business. You put your efforts into things that are profitable. Either financially profitable or profitable to someone else. You are being helpful, you are being of service. And the “her lamp doesn’t go out at night” part I think just means hard work. There are plenty of places in the bible where God calls us to rest.
Genesis 2:2 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
Exodus 20 8:10 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, = but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
Mark 6:31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 2:27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
And he also talks about taking care of our bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?You are not your own,for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
We all know we need sleep, I don’t think what King Lemuel’s mother is saying here is a good woman never sleeps but rather that a good woman works hard. Her lamp doesn’t go out the minute it gets dark, rather she continues to work after her family responsibilities are done for the day. She isn’t lazy. She is a hard worker. She knows when she needs to burn the midnight oil.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
This is in reference to hard work again. Not only does she source her merchandise but she physically does the work as well. Again more talk about a strong work ethic.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
This woman is a giver. There are passages all over the bible calling us to be giving. To give sacrificially, to not keep everything you earn for yourself. To help others, this is a part of Jesus’ greatest commandment. Love others like you love yourselves. I don’t think I need to reiterate this here as it is a call to all Christians.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
This woman is a planner. She is not afraid of snow because she has planned ahead. Her kids are taken care of. I think she also knows how to budget well to purchase winter clothes for a growing family. The word scarlet refers to quality. In that culture more quality clothing would be dyed scarlet or purple in color. I think this woman wants to provide quality for their family, which again refers to budget she wasn’t providing just rags to her family.But planning ahead to giving them the best with what her budget allows.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
I think one of the ways women can honor God is to take care of herself and her home. Our environment and our appearance affects our emotions and our behaviors. When we look better we feel better. People are more apt to listen to you if you present yourself in a way that is honoring to who God created you to be. This is not to be mistaken for vanity or purchasing material things for your home in excess. But to make your living environment welcoming and your appearance welcoming. God wants us to be hospitable. People are attracted to people that look polished and like they have things together. When people look up to you, you have influence. When you have influence you can use that influence to speak about God’s goodness and and glorify him.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
A woman can help her husband in every aspect of his life. God designed us to be helpers. When we put forth our best, our husbands are able to put forth their best. The proverbs 31 woman is faithful, productive, trustworthy, hardworking.
This allows an average man to be great because he has this strong support system at home. He is not coming home to a lazy wife who complains all the time and who doesn’t take care of the needs of the home and children. You are clearing his mind and tasks so he can be the best version of himself. The gate in this passage is referring to where legal and business matters once took place. A man that was known at the city gate was well respected, successful in business and wise. Foolish men were not allowed at the gate.
A bad wife can limit their husbands success, wisdom and respect.
Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
Proverbs 21:9 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
The heart of a great women is inclined for more. She doesn’t want to settle for a life of ease or laziness. She wants to work hard for the Lord. For her husband and for her family. To help provide for her family. If a husband and wife come to a mutual agreement that the wife is to stay home, that’s one thing but our hearts should be to help. There are seasons when our children are young and they are a focus but once they are more self sufficient our work efforts can be focused in other places.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
Strength and dignity are the apparel of her spirit. She laughs at the time to come because she does not have fear and anxiety about the future. She trusts in the Lord and she knows she did her best in her life to provide for a good future. She is confident in the role and tasks God has given her. She has strength because God has given it to her and she has worked and served prudently. Another verse that talks about wearing strength as clothing is;
Psalm 93:1 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
God wears strength as His belt. He gives us that through the Holy Spirit, we know we have that same power.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
This is probably my favorite part of the Proverbs 31 woman. She opens her mouth and wisdom and kindness come out of it. She doesn’t gossip, she doesn’t slander. She doesn’t tear people down.
In Psalm 37:30 it says The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
In order to speak with wisdom we must be wise. The first step of wisdom is the fear of the Lord and the next step is regular study of God’s scripture. We cannot claim Jesus as our saviour and then only open our Bible’s on Sundays. God wants us to meditate on his word morning and night, He wants us to know him deeply. He wants to speak to us and make us wise but we need to pursue him relentlessly and listen for His voice. She also speaks with kindness. I believe she extends grace and mercy to others around her just like our heavenly father does for us.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her household is well cared for. She doesn’t just sit on the couch all day, she works hard and keeps her house maintained and clean. Our homes are a reflection of who we are. Our culture breeds comfort and laziness and the Proverbs 31 women wants nothing to do with that. She works hard, she is not idle, she keeps busy serving her family and serving the Lord. She knows idleness is of satan. God doesn’t use the lazy to carry out his kingdom purpose but satan sure uses lazy.
Ecclesiastes 4:5-6 Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Women that have excellent character are given great honors by those who love her most. What a good feeling that is right? When our kids and our husband hold us to such high esteem it is wonderful. They are the ones who live with us and see us at our worst moments. Not just what we put out to the outside world looking in. When they “praise us and call us blessed it is a testament to our true character.
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
This woman does seem unattainable at times. Reading this can seem overwhelming. but I don’t ever think it is a bad thing to strive for excellence. God wants our best. In every waking moment, can we give Him our best? Can we go above and beyond? As wives, as mothers? When we give our best, the outcome will be always be positive.
King Lemuel’s mother wants perfection for her son and this is the description. We all know not one of us is perfect. we are all sinners living in a broken world but that shouldn’t deter us from living a life of purpose, being diligent and committed in our role. Putting our everything into our lives.
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
I think this is such wise advice. We all know beauty fades with age and if we spend hours and hours on our appearance we are leaving little time for what is important. Yes you should take care of yourself and be presentable but our beauty standards get higher and more unattainable every year. The cosmetic surgery industry makes billions every year. It is estimated by 2023 that Americans will spend more than 10 and a half billion dollars on cosmetic surgery. I am sorry, but that is pathetic when there are millions of people literally dying because they do not have their basic needs met. Let’s put things in perspective America. Aside from medical cosmetic surgery needs let’s stop being so obsessed with our bodies and our looks and be grateful. I of course struggle with body image like most women do. It is hard when we live in this society that bombards us with we are not enough messages. But I am grateful for a healthy body that can run with my kids, the smile lines on my gave from laughter over the years and the stretch marks that are a reminder of how my body grew 2 amazing little humans. Our outer beauty is not what matters.
Charm. Let’s face the reality. Women can be very flattering and manipulative to get what they want from men. Men who fall for beauty and manipulation often end up unhappy in their marriages. If we want to honor God we cannot use deceitful charm on the men in our lives.
A woman who fears the Lord is beautiful in the eyes of God and her husband. True beauty comes from within, from your character, from your actions.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
Women are to be praised and honored when they behave in such a manner that is pleasing to the Lord. Women like this are beloved, respected, useful and honourable. I know I love when I get praise from the people I love. When my husband comes home and tells me the house looks great or thanks me for a delicious meal I get satisfaction in that. I think when we strive to be this woman our lives will be blessed abundantly.
I know this seems like a really tall order, but when we stop listening to the lies and distractions of our culture and focus on God’s words we will find so much more happiness. I know I have a lot off Proverb 31 areas to work on in, and I know there are areas I have already been applying to my life and I have seen the fruit of it. I am committing to make myself more like this woman. What can you apply to your life today to be more like the proverbs 31 woman?