What is a Proverbs 31 woman?
If you have spent any time in the church at all you’ve probably heard several sermons, or perhaps read a book or two, on the topic of the Proverbs 31 woman. The sermons usually come around Mother’s Day, when pastors are working hard to affirm the role of mothers, and wives, and women in general. How can you go wrong with a passage that opens like this,
10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
and ends like this,
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
I recently had an opportunity to read an advance copy of a wonderful new book by Katelyn Beaty entitled, “A Woman’s Place”. In her book, Beaty (the Managing Editor of Christianity Today) makes a strong case that the church has been a bit deficient in portraying the Proverbs 31 woman, primarily by skipping verses 13-27. In doing so, the church has diminished the value of women and their work as worship.
The trouble starts, Beaty points out, with forgetting that the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28 is given to both Adam AND Eve, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” This is a helpful reminder for us that God’s plan for women in ruling creation and caring for culture as an act of worship is just as big and important as it is for men.
But, back to Proverbs 31. What is a Proverbs 31 woman?
Apparently, she understands real estate markets and knows how to flip properties for a profit. “She considers a field and buys it (v.16).” This would also seem to indicate that the woman has access to funds and the ability to make investment decisions.
Additionally, she knows a bit about agriculture and wine production, “with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” Consider, for a moment, that agri-science has come along way in 2500 years, and that this passage is applicable to the 21st century as well as the early agrarian economy for the Ancient Near East.
The Proverbs 31 woman is also well equipped for the marketplace. “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable (v.18)… She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant (v.24).”
Finally, the Proverbs 31 woman understands the importance of social justice and is directly involved in working to advance God’s initiative of compassion towards the poor, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy (v.20)”
It should go without saying that the value of this work is the same as any man's.
Of course, Beaty is effusive in her praise of stay-at-home moms and the work they do. Her point, however, is that God’s plan for women allows for and even encourages women to exercise their God given gifts of creation care outside of the home as part of God’s intended design for their means of worship.
I am thankful to serve at a church with so many gifted women who are serving, and worshipping, God through their gifts as mothers, wives, teachers, nurses, florists, engineers, accountants, department directors, real estate agents, therapists, investors, hostesses, nannies, and business owners who exemplify the Proverbs 31 woman.