I used to dread Mother’s Day at church. Every year when Mother’s Day landed on Sunday, my pastor would get up and speak on the Proverbs 31 Woman. There isn’t anything wrong with Proverbs 31, but my pastor would always speak just to the married women with children. Of course, he would always add, “For any of you single girls, just take this in to prepare for marriage and motherhood!”
Does this mean only married women with children can be virtuous?
What about women who are older who never married? What about those who can’t have children? What about women whose husbands left them, or suddenly passed away? What about those girls who want to be virtuous but haven’t gotten married yet, and haven’t had children? What about single moms?
Do you see where I’m going with this? There are women who come from all walks of life, yet are told they are discluded from the virtuous category, just because they don’t meet the requirement of married with kids.
Today, I want to set the record straight. Whether married with kids or not, you too can be a virtuous woman. Here’s why:
01. This passage was for a single man
Yeah, guys. This passage wasn’t meant for women at all. It was given to a single man from his mother, to guide him how to find a godly wife and queen. Check it out:
The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him
If this is King Lemuel’s record of what his mom taught him, doesn’t it stand to reason that the intended audience of this passage was male? How many Men’s Ministries do you know of that actually teach through this passage? Especially to their single guys? …Exactly.
We’ve been getting this all wrong. Our churches teach this exclusively to women, on how we can be godly wives, but we never consider that the passage was how to find a godly wife. King Lemuel’s mother was teaching him on what things to look for in a woman who might be a potential partner. Which leads me to…
02. King Lemuel’s potential wife couldn’t have done these things…yet
Imagine this: King Lemuel, still single, is walking through the streets of his kingdom, being escorted by his palace guards. Suddenly, he sees a beautiful woman from afar in the marketplace. He raises a hand for his men to halt, then approaches with bated breath. He slowly approaches her…
…then pulls out a checklist.
King Lemuel: Beautiful maiden, you are the one I choose to marry. But first, I must ensure you are virtuous. Do you… do your husband good, not evil, all the days of his life?
Maiden: Excuse me, your highness, but I am unmarried. I thought that was why you approached me?
King Lemuel: [mutters to self while crossing off on list] Doesn’t do husband good… [clears throat] Do your children rise and call you blessed?
Maiden: But sire, I am an unblemished maiden. I do not have children.
King Lemuel: Hmph. [crosses off on list] Do you rise early to feed your maidens?
Maiden: I’m sorry, my king, but I do not oversee a household. I am still with my parents until I marry.
King Lemuel: Tut, tut. You have utterly failed my mother’s checklist. Men! [leaves]
Do you see what I mean? It would be absolutely ludicrous for King Lemuel to have used his mother’s advice as requirements for a potential partner. If any woman he courted already had a husband with children, King Lemuel would have been making her a polygamist. Although we see from King David and King Solomom’s example that kings could have several wives, women were not allowed to have several husbands.
This means that Proverbs 31 would have been seen as a list of qualities that a potential wife was capable of. Maybe she didn’t have children she could clothe yet, but she certainly would be willing to do so when she eventually had kids. She didn’t have the income to invest in vineyards yet, but she had the mindset of gumption and industry so that someday, she would probably buy property.
03. Proverbs 31 is a list of examples of general qualities
In our “Proverbs 31 Woman” Bible study, I have you list in a chart the described qualities of each verse. In this way, any woman can apply the characteristics of a virtuous woman, without actually doing the activities described in the passage.
You too can be:
- Resourceful (v14)
- Diligent (v18)
- Industrious (v13)
- Faithful and trustworthy (v12)
- Helpful (v15)
- A business woman (v 16, 24)
I’ll give you an example for why this is important to know. One time, I was researching another Bible study company’s managers (this was way before the days of Deep Roots). I came across a blog by a woman that analyzed any Christian woman in the public eye, by comparing their life choices with Scripture. She claimed she was keeping Christian leaders accountable like the Bereans. So in the blog post I came upon about the Bible study company’s managers, this blogger made snide remarks about how the managers were both mothers and business women. The blogger claimed that these women were abandoning their children for their careers. “Let me find that in my Bible,” she repeated over and over, as she analyzed each staff member of the company.
Of course, part of the problem here is that the blogger has way too much time on her hands if she’s dedicated herself to judging and writing about Christian leaders. However, the main issue is that women in business IS biblical. Proverbs 31 describes it in detail!
She goes into the marketplace (without her husband) to haggle and sell her products. She makes clothing and sells them (on her own). (Verse 24)
She invests her own money (not her husband’s) into buying property, then expands that property’s value tenfold by cultivating the land into an industrious vineyard. (Verse 16)
King Lemuel’s mother calls for people to “give her the product of her hands”. (Verse 31)
This means you can have a career (or even your own business) WHILE being a wife and mother, However, you don’t have to be career oriented if you don’t want to be. You can still exemplify these qualities by being industrious, financially responsible, and resourceful. There’s no specific way you have to pursue these characteristics – it’s how ever the Lord leads you.
04. Only one woman in the Bible was called virtuous specifically
The Hebrew word for virtuous used in Proverbs 31 is chayil (khah’-yil). It also, oddly enough, denotes in the Bible an army, strength, and a soldier. However, only one woman in the Bible was called chayil directly. Can you guess who…?
It was Ruth!
Can you guess by who…?
Check it out: “Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.” (Ruth 3:11)
The phrase of “woman of excellence” translates to virtuous, the Hebrew word hayil, a form of chayil. I know this may sound like, “Oh, that’s cool. No big deal.” But guys, you don’t understand. Ruth was a Moabite. In Deuteronomy 23:3-4, God forbids any Moabite from entering the Tabernacle, because “they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.” In verse 3, God clarifies that no Moabite descendant, “even to the tenth generation” was allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord. This means that Ruth would have been forbidden from fellowshipping and worshipping God with the Israelites. Although she believed in the Hebrew God, she would never able to observe Jewish rituals and customs.
So that the Lord purposefully only had Ruth be called virtuous in the Bible is huge. This means that even if you are marginalized, shunned, or just not included into the norm of certain communities, the Lord still sees you as virtuous and beautiful. He sees you as virtuous regardless of what anyone else says.
1 Corinthians 1:27 says, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”
Which leads us, finally, to…
05. You can be virtuous, regardless of relationship status
If you’re single, married, a student, career gal, divorced, widowed, childless, a mother, a grandmother, a step mom, a foster mom, and/or an adoptive mom, you can be a virtuous woman, regardless. Virtue is not based on your relationship status or whether you have children. Virtue is based on your heart. Period.
I want to note here that if you are single, remember that Proverbs 31 is like “How to Find a Wife 101” meaning men should be looking for these qualities in ladies like you. Are you willing to wake up early to make food for friends and family if they need it, like maybe they have a tough job interview at 8am and you making them breakfast would be a big help? Are you willing to save your money, then use your earnings to make smart investments? Would you be a help, not a hindrance, to your future husband? Etc. Those are things for you to think about.
It’s also important to note that while the passage should be studied men, we ladies need to study it, too, regardless of your lifestyle or relationship status. That’s why I wrote the “Proverbs 31 Woman” Bible study, for ladies like you. Check it out:
Now what about you? What do you think about this virtuous woman, how we as the Church perceive the passage, and what is the reality? Tell us in the comments!