I wish we knew her name… but there’s probably a reason we don’t.
So often Christian women hear that they should be just like the Proverbs 31 woman, but are so intimidated by the passage that they never pursue that goal purposefully.So instead we do to her what we do to so many other women – we compare ourselves to her.
Seriously, who do you know who actually lives like that? I’ve always been pretty overwhelmed by this passage personally. She seems to be the unattainable goal. For a long time, in my mind, I evaluated the Proverbs 31 woman the same way I would a Barbie doll. She sounds like “perfect woman,” and though she sounds amazing, I’ve often flipped back and forth between wanting to be just like her and then wondering if I even wanted to try.
And if you’re like me – big dreams, a strong personality, ample will, and a desire to change the world, this chapter might inspire fear in your heart. You might begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with you if the majority of this passage doesn’t sound appealing or sound like it matches the dreams you have for your life. However, the truth about the Proverbs 31 woman is that she is strong (vs. 25). But the woman who desires to be like her has to recognize that she cannot accomplish the things that the Proverbs 31 woman did in her own strength. Instead, all that she is and does must flow out of her relationship with Christ.
I love the way that Josh Harris taught on the Proverbs 31 Woman in Fall 2009 at Covenant Life Church. You can listen to his message here. The high points are below, but I strongly encourage you to listen to what he has to say about the life of a godly woman.
Context of Proverbs 31:
1. It was written by a mother to her son (vs. 1). Thus, it’s not a man’s view of “the perfect woman,” it’s a mother telling her son what kind of attributes to look for in a wife.
2. It’s an acrostic poem (beginning in vs. 10 – A-Z characteristics of a godly woman). It’s a poetic expression of how godly wisdom plays out in the life of a woman.
3. “It’s not a demanding description of every characteristic you should embody. No, it is a joyful celebration of womanly excellence, resourcefulness, and skill.”
4. “These characteristics are like a person stringing pearls on a necklace” – John Piper. God is describing the unbounded potential of a godly woman.
4 Characteristics of a Valiant Woman:
1. She fears the Lord. This is what is most important (vs. 30). “This is the key quality that holds up everything else about her. She has placed God as the center of her life. This is the starting point of wisdom.”
– Read the rest of Proverbs 31 and understand that this verse is the context for how she accomplishes the rest of her life.
– The fear of the Lord is the quality that really matters. This is the non-negotiable. The other qualities and characteristics will vary by woman, but the fear of the Lord must be present.
– Proverbs 31 is not a list of all the household chores a woman has to do. It’s a description of what wisdom in motion looks like in the life of a godly woman. It’s wisdom applied. This is what knowing and loving God unleashes in the life of a woman who loves God.
2. She is others-centered. What she does, she is not just doing for her own gain. What she does is motivated by a desire to be a blessing to others around her. Her life is interwoven with the community around her and she is spending herself for the benefit of others. It’s not about a certain list of activities. It’s all about your heart before God and your motivation for doing things. She courageously turns her back on independence and selfishness.
3. She is capable. These capabilities go beyond mere abilities. She’s been educated and has cultivated her mind in different ways. 1 Peter 4:10
4. She is influential. Proverbs 31 shows us a woman who has incredible power. Her godliness, her example, and her determination serves and influences others. She exerts an amazing influence on the world around her (vs. 28-29). She influences and teaches others with her words – her life gives her a platform to teach others – “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (vs. 26). Such women are desperately needed to teach and disciple those who are coming up behind them in the church (Titus 2).
I think that my favorite parts of this passage are found in vs. 10-12:
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain (vs. 11)
She does him good and not harm, all the days of her life (vs. 12)
vs. 10-12: These verses make a statement about the rarity of this kind of woman. This woman possesses “competent strength.” “There’s nothing wilting in this description. This is a strong woman. Womanhood, according to God’s Word, can and should be strong, even valiant. The word ‘valiant,’ means ‘strong and determined.'”
Based upon this understanding, the Proverbs 31 woman is a woman that I want to strive to be just like. It’s not about doing what she did. It’s about learning to fear the Lord the way she did… pursuing a heart like she had. This passage isn’t about DOING. It’s about BEING.
In addition, this understanding of her makes it okay for me to be me. It makes it okay for me to be passionate, determined, strong, and intelligent. And I can’t really explain the kind of relief that this understanding brings, but suffice it to say that the understanding that God created me this way with purpose brings great joy. Each believer should desire and pursue to fear the Lord, to be others-centered, to be capable, and to be influential. It should be part of our DNA as Christ-followers.
And now, the question is how. How do we attain this sort of spiritual strength? The Gospel. It’s because of Christ and His grace that we, as women, can be like this woman that we see in Proverbs 31. It’s in committing our life to Christ and in striving to live for His glory that our hearts are transformed to the point that we can live this passage out well.