If you’re female and Christian, you are no doubt familiar with Proverbs 31 — the Perfect Woman Passage — probably because you have had it gently slapped across your face. Proverbs 31 neatly complements Ephesians 5:21-24 — the Wives Submit Yourself passage that is half as long, and 10 times as quoted, as the Husbands Love Your Wives passage immediately following.
Interestingly, few men focus on these snippets torn out of context from a much, much longer book — probably because they know it wouldn’t go over very well with the average 21st century female, especially if they are married to her. No, generally women trot out the Perfect Woman Passage, sadly sighing because we 21st century females are so . . . lacking in our ability to fulfill the perceived requirements of perfection, grace, patience, meekness, placidity, temperance, submission, and getting up at 4:30 to shear the sheep to spin the wool to weave the cloth to sew together the garments for our family members.
Intelligent women have noted through history that there is no corresponding Proverbs 32 defining the perfect male, but it wouldn’t matter if there were, since it would be ignored like Ephesians 5:25-32 — the patently disregarded Husbands Love Your Wives section.
Here’s another observation: the Proverbs 31 Woman is not a doormat, slavishly following her husband around, picking up his socks, hanging onto his every word of wisdom, not daring to contradict or challenge because that would be unsubmissive somehow (by the way, read the passage, and see if you can find the word, or concept, “submissive” anywhere).
No, this woman is smart, financially savvy, hard to fool, concerned about nutrition, and able to stand up to men and hold her ground (when “she considers a field and buys it,” whom do you think she’s dealing with?) She’s creative, generous, well dressed (I will NEVER accomplish that one, so I sincerely hope it’s not an essential element to salvation, but I already know the answer to that), articulate, and . . . a quilter, because “She makes coverings for her bed.”
Before we go too deeply into the concept that all Christian women need to be quilters, let’s quit picking at the passage and grasp onto its general message: the Proverbs 31 Woman is wise, and we too often tend to look at its verses in bullet-point form, laying out one by one the things we need to do each day (when is the last time you held a distaff? Do you even know what it is?)
But while we conveniently ignore the part about supplying “the merchants with sashes,” we zing right onto the “does not eat the bread of idleness” statement, which means that no, you can’t sit down in the middle of the day and read a book, even though you got up “while it was still dark.” (Incidentally, part of the reason you did so was to provide portions for your servant girls. If you’re a normal person living on a regular income and you can afford household staff, write me. I’ll put your money-saving advice into my book.)
Proverbs 31 is not a shopping list of things we need to do, things we need to be, and consistently fail at. It is an amazing expression of admiration for womanhood in a society that esteemed them very little. Read it for yourself (and incidentally, the passage we’re concerned about is the latter two thirds of the chapter; the first part is also well worth reading, especially the “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” sentence, something that all of us, male or female, can do).
You’re probably more of a Proverbs 31 Woman than you — or the people who make you feel bad about not fitting into their reality — realize.
Think. Dream. Meditate. Analyze. Question. Seek. Love God; relax and let Him love you.
One of the aspects frequently mentioned about the Proverbs 31 Woman is her ability to use money well — this woman is financially acute. I have met a lot of Christian women uncomfortable with the concept that they are the major financial presence in the home, because money is a male thing, somehow, and should be (they think) in the controlling hands of the husband head.
And yet, who does the actual job of paying the bills, buying the groceries, and budgeting for clothing? Financial matters, like other areas of marriage, are a shared part of our partnership, and the person who is best at it — male or female — is probably the best person to be in charge.
My book, Live Happily on Less, is the result of 30 years of financial partnership between me and my Norwegian Artist husband, Steve Henderson. Saving money, and living well with the resources we have been given, is a lifestyle, in the same way that Proverbs 31 is a lifestyle — not that series of bullet-pointed tips I mentioned earlier. Follow the link; look through the book at Amazon.com, and see if it can’t help you with your own shared, financial adventure. I will not hurtle unrealistic expectations at your head, nor will I make you feel like a flop.
We live well, very well, on the resources we have been given. You can too.