By Caley Jacob Meza
I have a very attractive wife. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. Of course, every good husband says that about his bride (and should), but it’s true. From her Technicolor-ed eyes to her imperfect smile, Sabrina is gorgeous. But when I ask my wife what she thinks about the Proverbs 31 women, a sort of tired annoyance overtakes her face. Her nostrils flare and her lips practically disappear. Where did my wife go?
It has become a common practice in the church for Proverbs 31 to mark the standard for all Christian women while simultaneously becoming the criteria for the men of the church who are looking for a girlfriend and/or wife. Her attributes are spoken of at length, and collectively, she embodies the whole package:
- She has an intense work ethic. (v. 13-15)
- She is discerning and business savvy. (v. 16, 26)
- She is a real estate mogul. (v. 16)
- She is a philanthropist. (v. 20)
- She is strong and confident. (v. 17, 25)
- And worst of all, she’s nice! (v. 26)
It seems that the passage itself knows that these are high ideals to strive for: “an excellent wife, who can find her?” (v. 10) Meaning she’s rare. Maybe even nonexistent. So what hope do any of us have in either becoming her or marrying her?
Sabrina is not a morning person. She loves sleep and it’s often hard to get her out of bed in the morning. She is a wonderful photographer, but isn’t exactly the greatest when it comes to running her business. I don’t think she knows much about the housing market (except that it’s expensive), and she has just as much insecurity as the rest of us. But I married a Proverbs 31 woman. So what are we missing?
Toward the end of the proverb, the passage reads, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”
Collectively, the woman described in the proverb seems to be the embodiment of wisdom from chapter 8—and the book as a whole repeatedly says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (9:10 cf. 1:7)
My wife fears Jesus. It was her relationship with Him that attracted me to her. Sabrina and I met when I was having a hard time with my faith, in which my life did not reflect any ideals of good, Christian living. Sabrina and I would often talk about God, and though I felt so far away from Christ, Sabrina always seemed so close to Him. Though our lives went separate ways for a season, it was that closeness and love for Jesus that kept her in my mind. When I finally did surrender my life back to God, it was our individual relationships with our Savior that brought us back together.
The problem with Proverbs 31 isn’t what it says, but how we are reading and teaching it. The attributes listed were never intended to become our new standards of perfection to idolize and labor over. They were written to describe what a woman who fears Yahweh looks like. If we want to resemble her, we cannot do it by waking up two hours earlier or by getting an MBA—we must do it by drawing close to Jesus and by sitting at His feet, making Him the object of our desires, not ourselves.
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
—Caley Jacob Meza