When I first began this post for Mother’s Day, my thought was to explain this famous passage in a way that a modern, liberated woman could understand it, living in a society that champions equality and strength and proficiency. But when I read this passage again, it struck me, that this is not necessarily a to-do list to be a perfect woman, it’s the hopeful prayer of a mother, having raised a son (a king, no less) who is attempting to instill a portrait of a woman with Godly character.
Proverbs chapter 31 is not only the last chapter in this collection of wisdom literature, but it breaks the pattern of wisdom living as outlined by King Solomon, and invites a different author to contribute to this book of how to practice practical virtue.
This particular passage is advice from a mother to her son. She wants him to understand the qualities of woman of character. Qualities that she, no doubt, prayed for since he was a baby in her arms. When she watched him take his first steps, she probably had a glimpse of his wedding day and hoped the woman who would come into his life would be the best representation of sacrificial love and honor that he deserved.
While this is not an attempt to “interpret an interpretation” of scripture, my hope is to encourage you, precious woman, to apply this passage to your life in a practical way, whether you are a mother, a single woman hoping to be married, or struggling to love the man you have.
I encourage you to realize your value and worth through the eyes of a God-fearing mother, and to hear the heart of a Father who made you and dispenses wisdom for living, freely, and for His glory.
If I were to give similar advice to my son, this is how I might express it:
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
No one can measure the true worth of a woman. She is far more valuable than you can imagine. She has qualities and characteristics that will be distinct from your own, but carefully consider these in every good way, because you may learn much from her as she may from you.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
You want a woman you can confide in, someone who listens to you and honors you in all your strength and your weakness. Someone who honors and protects you in front of others without making herself smaller at the expense of anyone else. She will be diligent to do everything she can to support your relationship and never intentionally or spitefully puts you down to lift herself up.
She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.
A good woman will find ways to make the most out of what she has, and she will know or figure out how to make things work on a tight budget. You want a woman who is prudent with money, who knows how to save and shop for deals so that nothing is wasted.
She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
Son, a good woman will make informed decisions, not impulsively, but after careful research and planning. She will want to be smart with her money because she understands the value of a hard days work. She will not be afraid to undertake a challenge and get her hands dirty or strengthen her body and mind in focused pursuit.
She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.
You want a woman who is diligent, consistent, and continues to pursue projects that are meaningful and fulfilling. She doesn’t give up easily, and maintains an awareness of changing circumstances. She is willing to sacrifice even sleep sometimes to learn to do things herself because she knows it will build her character.
She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.
You want a woman who is compassionate, kind, and always giving. Someone who would never think to bless herself before others are taken care of. In every single act of service, she gives part of herself to people, and they see the light of the Lord in her. Find someone who lives to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but takes steps to connect with people on a real level.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
You will want someone who is not easily anxious about life’s difficulties. She will prepare to face them in strength and honor, clothing herself in confidence and dignity. Her demeanor is admired and her courageous countenance will precede your family wherever you go. You will be proud of her to be admired by others for the stability of her character.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.
You want a woman who loves to share and encourage the gifts and talents God has given her, someone who desires others to be equipped as she is, in hope for a brighter and healthier generation after her. She will want to pass on the skills she has learned
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Son, a good woman will not feel the need to say everything that comes to her mind. She will take pause and wait for the best moment to share her thoughts, without contention or criticism, always with the other in mind. She will be known for kindness and grace.
She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
You want a woman who keeps an eye on her priorities, keeps her family first always, and does not allow the majority of her time to be snatched away by things that don’t matter.
Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.”
Son, when you find a wife who carries some, if not most of these traits well, you and your children will feel her love, benefit from her wisdom and prudence and see the fruit of her influence in your community. That you will want to bless her in return.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
If you let the beauty and charisma cloud your judgement for what really matters in a woman, you will come up empty more often than not. What you really want to find is a woman who loves God will all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love others. The measure of a good man is how he brings out the best in the good woman by his side.