“She goes out….” (Proverbs 31:16a)
“When she speaks, her words are wise…she gives instructions.” (Proverbs 31:26)
“Her husband praises her….” (Proverbs 31: 28b)
For some of you, I could stop and sign off right here, and you’d know exactly why I was here and what I just did. It depends, probably, on what you were taught by your particular religious organization, if you subscribe to one.
Today I simply want to say what I see in the Proverbs’ “Wife of Noble Character” passage with fair warning that I’m fired up about how narrowly some religious folks have defined what women should do and be. But to loosely quote Joshua, my household and I will follow the Word, and it couldn’t seem more clear to me.
In Proverbs 31:10–31, I see a woman who’s cherished and never looked upon as a burden. She’s categorized as an asset, inside and out—a very precious one. (She isn’t looked upon as a possession that needs to be controlled, fixed or condescended to, but rather she is elevated to the status of a rare jewel to be held out to the world in broad daylight, shown off and highlighted. The ones who get to benefit from her sparkle appear to see themselves as highly lucky.)
She is a businesswoman–a bold self-starter. And she effectively manages hired help to run the parts of her household she can’t while she’s out. (She makes business and management decisions both at work and at home.)
She has a job outside the home. (Please don’t hear me say this is mandatory. I’m trying to convey that there isn’t only one Biblically-sanctioned place women should work or job they’re limited to—namely, home, husband and kids. I’m not flipping the script to legalistically say all women must work outside the home. My dears, you have the God given freedom to be whoever He created you to be, is all.)
She’s a bit of a foodie, it seems, not necessarily buying the cheapest and most convenient food. (Is this a nod to caring about health or just having a hobby or interest in keeping life tasty?)
She is thrifty and frugal, always making sure to do her part in preparing for the future. (She can be trusted with money management and long-term planning. She isn’t wasteful. She understands delayed gratification.)
She is generous to people in need. (She’s a philanthropist and donor.)
And then she goes right ahead and dresses like royalty in expensive cloth. (She is going to enjoy all of God’s gifts and creation. She isn’t afraid, out of false humility or guilt, of some extravagance or looking beautiful. She doesn’t think that only others deserve dignity and self-worth.)
She manufactures products to sell. (So we see yet more entrepreneurship. It doesn’t say whether she does so at home or not.)
She is strong, dignified and brave as she looks ahead. (There’s not child-likeness or mental and emotional weakness to be talked down to or corrected by another.)
She is kind when instructing others. (But she does instruct others.)
She watches over all the important things in her life simultaneously and makes sure nothing goes downhill from laziness and passivity. (She doesn’t do it all herself either. With intelligent delegation, she effectively oversees all the many different types of projects and necessities of life. She bears responsibilities well, inside and outside the home.)
Her children and husband praise her, comparing her to others of lesser character and accomplishments, saying she comes out ahead. (They’re somewhat in awe of her capabilities and character and let her know it.)
She accomplishes this by having values and stability. She’s not superficial and doesn’t care overly much for temporal things while simultaneously not being afraid to enjoy the finer things when God grants blessings. She knows God intimately as Master, and in submitting to and learning His values, lives an admirable and capable and creative life. And she’s rewarded publicly for all of who she is and what she does by those who know her best at home. (She’s not viewed solely as a body, a servant for other-promotion, one to be hidden away or kept to self. She is lauded for all to see for her value as a separate, bright and unique individual, not a chameleon camouflaged to disappear behind the dreams of those around her.)
Believe me, I know a woman’s first impulse can be to hate this Bible super lady. But, if we can sneak around that initial insecurity—the feeling that we can’t or don’t measure up–to see the freedom and adoration we’re given in this passage, we can quickly get over the inferiority complex, I believe.
This Scripture expands our horizons as women–the sky’s the limit. It’s telling us of our intense, immense value and potential. It’s saying we can have a direct relationship with God just like the next person and that He applauds, validates and promotes our skills, passions, interests, capabilities and beauty, gladly helping us to be all of ourselves. It lifts any heavy burden of religiosity and legalism that wrong theology would try to place on us, instead telling us we’re created to be strong, brilliant and shiny, inside and out, unafraid and unashamed. And furthermore, it shows we can expect to be praised and treasured for our femininity by anyone with any sense, not criticized or stifled or put down or held back. This woman isn’t the brunt of jealously or domination from her family, as though there’s a conflict between her XX chromosomes and her achievement or reasonable independence. Instead they seem to say, Wow, you love and do for us so well, and we’re going to support and enthusiastically praise you for living out all of your strengths and dreams, just as you help us do the same.
Please don’t hear me say men and women aren’t different. I’m familiar enough with religious mindsets to hear some panic coming at me as I write today. I’m not saying women have no unique role for children and home. You can’t read Proverbs 31 without hearing plainly that she adores and works hard for her family, taking the responsibility very seriously when she gets married and brings little people into this world who need Mommy. Clearly, just by looking at biology and the brain, women have a role only they can fill in family life in many ways. But does this passage solely define this wife by her work at home or subservience to the goals of her family members? No. Nor does it assign all the responsibility of home to her or imply she should apply all of her individuality and strength only to her household.
However, it appears that large portions of the Christian church (other religions, too, but my wheelhouse is Protestantism) still haven’t given up teaching or implying that women are limited to 1) ministering to or managing other women and children, 2) staying at home, 3) serving their family’s goals without any of their own, 4) looking plain and/or 5) being directed, decided for or managed as one less valuable, less capable, less mentally or emotionally strong, less spiritual or less intelligent. Let’s just stop, now then, shall we? We can stop it.
If the Bible says we can look at women another way—the way God created us to live and breathe and be–then it’s possible to do so. As always, if it’s good enough for God, it’s more than good enough for me.
With Hope and Heart in Hand,
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