Proverbs 31:10-31: “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
“She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes. She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns. Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: ‘There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!’
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.”
For some time, I have
secretly harbored resentment for the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31. So have many of you, ladies! This chick seems like a huge overachiever who makes us look bad. She’s like that celebrity actress who perfectly wears her string bikini six months after pushing out a ten-pound baby. Couldn’t she have kept some of the baby fat to make the rest of us feel a little better about ourselves?
Most of us gals naturally compare ourselves to others, and we oh-so-aware when we don’t measure up. So why did God include this passage in Proverbs that is guaranteed to cause most women to curl up in a corner and whimper at the mere thought of that woman’s to-do list? If I had to find wool and flax and then spin it to have clothing, my family would have to join a nudist colony. And if “bringing her food from afar” means traveling more than several blocks to the local grocery store or the pizza shop for take-out, I’m busted.
Listen, this woman gets up before dawn and her lamp stays on past dark. I need eight hours of sleep to bear fruit of the Spirit. She spins thread and makes her own bedspreads, for heaven’s sake! I once sewed a pillow cover; it’s unraveling now. Her children stand and bless her. My children slump on the couch and ignore my third warning to stop playing video games or suffer brain cell loss. She prepares breakfast. I serve boxed cereal or Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. She plans out the work for her servant girls. Wait! Servant girls?
Now this is the part of the passage that has always struck me! She had someone to help her. Actually, more than one someone since it is plural — servant girls. Now this changes everything! This is like opening up the magazine article that accompanies the front cover photo of the previously pregnant, now bikini-clad actress titled Gorgeous Gal’s 4 Secrets to Getting Slim and discovering those secrets are (1) her nanny, (2) her personal trainer, (3) her dietitian, and (4) her personal chef. Hey, if I had someone to watch the munchkins, plan and cook healthy meals, and make me exercise three hours a day, I could at least get back into the sweatpants I wore in college! How can I compete with that?
Clearly, though, the Virtuous Woman didn’t lie around on a chaise, eating Bonbons and ordering her extensive household staff around. She was a hard worker and cared for those around her. Yet she did have help, and she used that help wisely. So what if my help happens to come in the form of a restaurant drive-through employee or a lawn service?
She also didn’t accomplish her list of to-dos every single day. Sometimes, we read this passage like we could open up Mrs. Virtuous Woman’s day planner and see:
5:00 a.m. Get up while dark
5:30 a.m. Find wool and flax
6:30 a.m. Spin it
7:00 a.m. Bring food from afar
8:00 a.m. Prepare breakfast
8:30 a.m. Plan day’s work for servant girls
9:30 a.m. Inspect field
10:00 a.m Buy field
10:30 a.m. Plant vineyard
And so on. But this chapter is likely relating a number of things that Mrs. V.W. could be engaged in on any given day, but not every day. If you were to list all the things that you do for your family and household in the course of, say, six months, what would that list look like?
So what if you didn’t plant a vineyard today! Maybe in the last year, you repainted the bathroom, helped your child with his science project, taught Bible class for a quarter, mowed the lawn, did dozens of loads of laundry, shopped for clothes as your children experienced another round of growth spurts, took family members to the doctor, prepared hundreds of meals, and much, much more! And if you have servant girls, you probably accomplished all that and had time for a mani-pedi. Good for you!
Don’t wear yourself out trying to live up to any impossible standard — whether it’s our perception of the Proverbs 31 woman or the expectations of the world around us. Work hard, be generous, love your family. And remember that the most important part of this passage: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” How are you doing on fearing the Lord?
By the way, I love the line: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Now I don’t know how well I’m doing on that dignity thing, but I have learned to relax in the hand of my Heavenly Father and not fear the future. And as most of you can tell, I enjoy a good laugh!