“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be like that incredible, virtuous Proverbs 31 woman. I’ve read those verses over and over again, marveling at this superwoman and trying to figure out how she did all these great things… but I’m learning that the answer to my wondering is hidden in what Proverbs 31 does not say.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight:
She did not do all this in a single day.
Absolutely no where in the Proverbs 31 description of this sister do we see that she did all of these good, hard works in one 24 hour period. Nope. Nada. Didn’t happen. Proverbs 31 is a tribute to this woman’s lifetime of accomplishments, not to her everyday.
So breathe, ladies. You can still indulge in your daily nap, take a little break, not quite finish that dreaded never-ending to-do list…. and you are still worth far more than rubies.
Although she didn’t do all of these things in one day, some of the traits described in Proverbs 31 are small, simple qualities that are necessary every day. Our Proverbs 31 woman is trustworthy and does “good and not evil all the days of her life.” That’s pretty basic. I think we can handle that much, right?
She works hard but not perfectly.
In these verses, we read about the amazing productivity of this skilled sister. Among other things, she:
- “seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands”
- “bringeth her food from afar”
- “giveth meat to her household”
- “planteth a vineyard”
- “strengtheneth her arms”
- “maketh herself coverings of tapestry”
- “maketh fine linen and selleth it”
The verses describe what she did, but not how she did them. The scriptures never claim that she did them perfectly – especially the first time. The end results were good but the process of learning may have been messy, long, and difficult. There was certainly sweat and maybe even tears.
These verses are heavy on praise but lean on details… We don’t know how many nights this exhausted sister collapsed in her closet to cry into some chocolate after her picky children refused the food she’d gathered for them or when the crops she’d planted didn’t grow or when her beautiful dress just didn’t come out right.
We know the big-picture story of her life without any idea of what was going on behind-the-scenes. As Pastor Steven Furtick would surely remind us, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of our daily lives that we stop seeing the big picture – but we don’t get to see the details of the Proverbs 31 woman’s life. Even when I’m working hard, I frequently can’t see the good that I’m accomplishing because the kitchen counters are a mess, the table is sticky and there’s still so much (laundry) to do! Instead of appreciating what’s been done, I focus on what isn’t. It ruins my joy and my perspective. Maybe, like Proverbs 31, I should consider the big picture and the end results without all the messy details.
She had help.
Sisters, she did not accomplish all this alone! She knew she would need help – and she made sure to get the help she needed. We know this because verse 15 tells us that she had maidens.
Bible scholars are quick to point out that, by definition, maidens are young, unmarried women. Therefore, these maidens could be servants or this woman’s own daughters. Nevertheless, these young women were also awake early to receive their portion and doubtlessly receive the assigned tasks that they would complete around the house that day.
My friends, she had help. She didn’t singlehandedly juggle all these magnificent tasks while simultaneously scrubbing the kitchen, raising her children and tending to all the other mundane tasks that come with being a wife and a mother. We don’t know for certain what burdens the maidens alleviated for her but we do know that she certainly benefited from the help.
It’s verse 30 that really matters.
Ultimately, Proverbs 31 is a big-picture story of a woman who balanced her homemaking and her home business while still making time for ministry. She was productive and trustworthy, earning money but also giving generously to the poor. She prioritized kindness and gathered wisdom. She didn’t waste her time or her money. Can you see how desperately needed these lessons are in our time?
Most of all, though, she loved God and worshipped him. Yes, verse 30 says she “feareth the Lord,” but the Guide to the Scriptures tells us that this means “to feel reverence and awe for him and to obey his commandments.”
We can do that much.
Maybe we’re a little more like the Proverbs 31 woman than we thought.
And if we keep practicing, keep trying, and keep getting a little closer every day, maybe our big-picture story will look more like hers than we could ever imagine.