PROVERBS 31:10-31. It appears that the writer of this section perceives it impossible for a woman to climb these heights of character, and yet she is nonetheless described.
We are best being careful how we apply these standards, especially in such a tenuous area as marriage and family. And, still, we’re to consider them.
What are the qualities of this woman – this wife of a noble man?
She is Trustworthy in verses 11-12. She is safety for him, a partner who can reliably be leaned upon, for she is sponsored by the Lord.
She is Diligent in verses 13-19, 21-22, 24 and 27. Oh how Wisdom owes a significant part of her very self to this one trait, diligence. It is only right that the writer of these proverbs considers diligence such an important characteristic for the wife of a noble man that there are at least twenty-three lines of text dedicated to it.
Willing hands are hers and the tyranny of physical distance adds no anguish to her. Rising early is a treat to such a woman – to get the joy of her day underway (for she is clothed with strength). She is one who is not only capable, but willing to work hard for her entire family, including the leadership of the servant-girls. From dawn to dusk, and then beyond, she is still working, and she is prudently purchasing both perishables and land. She is not only mentally and emotionally strong, physical strength is hers too. And above all – a learner – she’s skilled too. Again, we must be reminded; we are to aspire to such a lofty standard of energy and joy – and not be driven toward it in a way to criticise ourselves. We hold to the vision of it without letting its pressure crush us.
She is Kind and Generous in verse 20. Even if only one verse is dedicated to her kindness it is foundational in her service to all. She reaches out passionately and unreservedly. She also teaches kindness (verse 26).
She is Full of Faith in verses 21 and 25b. This woman doesn’t fear for her household. Her diligence has served her and now she can comfortably and confidently rest in her faith.
She is Her Children’s and Husband’s Delight in verses 28-29. What a leader of the family is this wife. Many might be apt at thinking the wife is not the leader; that the husband is. This view doesn’t take into consideration the vital leadership role of the wife and mother in every family – and the marital couple as co-leaders or leaders in partnership. For the Proverbs 31 woman, her most excellent deeds have “surpassed them all,” in the context of others, in the esteem of her family. They have eyes and admiration only for her. How might present-day wives respond to such single-minded and single-sighted familial devotion?
The ‘capable wife’ of Proverbs 31 inspires women to reach for the skies in nurturing virtue, whilst it compels husbands to praise God for their wives. But it is not intended to put unnecessary pressure on women. We aspire to nobility, but we don’t hold to it as an onerous standard over ourselves.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.