By Pastor Jarrel S. Sena
Various attacks have been launched against the Bible. This is understandable since our world operates in direct opposition with God’s will. In attacking the role of women in the Bible, feminists normally point out the “superiority” of men over women. For them this leads to inequality and abuse. Consequently, God’s design for men to head their families is challenged even if this is clearly taught in the Ephesians 5:22-33.
As we celebrate “Mother’s Day” today let us be reminded that God has the final say when it comes to family structure for the simple reason that He is its architect. God created the basic unit of society and He, out of His manifold wisdom, has appointed husbands and wives their particular roles. Difference in roles does not automatically mean an inequality exists. Men and women are created to complement each other not to compete with one another. There is nothing wrong with a male-dominated society if God ordained it. It becomes wrong when the males abuse their position by subscribing to the evil intention of their sinful hearts. Also, is there an assurance that the abuses done by the males will not be duplicated by the females once the latter have been given the dominant position?
Proverbs 31:10-31 provides us with an idea of what God desires for a wife and a mother.
Let me first give some vital preliminaries before we discuss the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31.
1. An Intricate Poetry
In the original language, each verse of Proverbs 31:10-33 corresponds to the order of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. This is done for easy memorization. From here we can appreciate the artistic composition of the text because the initials of the verses match the characters of the Hebrew alphabet.
2. An Ideal Woman
It is a common misconception for every believer that the description of the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 must be achieved by every female follower of the Lord. The woman here is an ideal one but it is not necessary that her qualities must be present for every Christian wife-to-be or mother-to-be. This will loosen the gratuitous burden for Christian females and males out there who pray to build a godly home someday. However, this should not be an excuse for a woman to not excel in her roles as a wife and a mother.
3. An Instruction for Man
Noteworthy here is the fact that Proverbs 31:10-31 was not written by a man for a particular woman. The poetry came from the mother of a certain King Lemuel. In other words, Proverbs 31:10-31 is intended for a man. It is my opinion that King Lemuel’s mother is telling his son to help his future wife to become the kind of woman God desires for her. Husbands are responsible to give their wives avenues for them to excel in their God-given roles.
Now, what are the characteristics of a virtuous woman?
1. An Honorable Wife
The opening verse of the poetry tells this, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” A wife that brings honor to the marriage is a treasure of infinite value. Thus, their kind is of limited supply.
In the NIV “excellent wife” is translated as “wife of noble character” which suggests that this woman is decent and upright. Such quality is rooted to her fear of the Lord, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)
An honorable wife is trusted by her husband because he knows that her righteousness will keep her from any form of scandal. She is not boisterous or noisy. She is not an adulteress. She is not seductive. She knows her boundaries because she fears God the most. This woman brings honor to the marriage and a must-find. Proverbs 12:4 confirms this truth, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.”
Proverbs 31:23 furthermore describes the honor this ideal woman brings to her husband, “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” Elders of the land may refer to the city council composed of highly respected men who decide important matters. Back then, an official of the land must have an orderly household and this normally involves a well-behaved spouse.The woman of our text builds up the reputation of her husband that he has become part of the decision body of the city.
2. A Hardworking Household Manager
Major portion of Proverbs 31:10-31 proves this trait. The virtuous woman of the Bible is not lazy or idle in dealing with her home (31:27). She is an early riser (31:15). She looks ahead to prepare the needs of her family (3:21,25). She is an entrepreneur (31:16, 24). She gives to the needy (31:20). She is both diligent and meticulous (31:13,14, 17, 19,22). She is wise by the very words that she utters (31:26a). Her kindness is demonstrated by her teaching skills (31:26b) towards her children.
It is interesting to underscore the fact that the Hebrew word for "excellent" is chayil which is related with strength. From God's point of view, a godly woman is strong if she will remain within the role He ordained for her. Moreover, chayil is mostly used as a military term in relation with fighting men. The goal of becoming a virtuous woman of God is not easy. It is a struggle because the Enemy is always there to entice her to deviate from God's design. This is what he did with Eve in Genesis 3. Satan deceived the first wife by telling her she can act independent from Adam's leadership. The Apostle Paul made mention about this in 1 Timothy 2:13-14. Until this day, Satan is using the same modus operandi to disrupt the harmony of a God-glorifying marriage.
Let me end by stating that the godly woman of Proverbs 31 is beautiful inside out because of her fear of the Lord. She is praiseworthy before God. She is celebrated by her family.
In our modern day, Christian women can achieve this by relying to the Holy Spirit and fixing their gaze to the Lord Jesus who loved them selflessly. Moreover, their knowledge and application of the Word plays a crucial role in becoming the kind of woman God wants them to be. As one writer once wrote, "The greatest asset a woman brings to her marriage is not her beauty, her charm, her feminine wiles, or even her ability to bear a child. It is her theology” (When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James)