The Wise Life: Lessons from the Proverbs 31 Woman
The Wise Life: Lessons from the Proverbs 31 Woman
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
At the end of each year (or semester), my wife and I typically take inventory. How did the year go? Is there any way we can do it better? Can I rearrange my schedule to have more family time and rest? No doubt, this is a great routine for every person—to reevaluate and see if one can better honor God and serve others. There may be no better way to do this than by considering the Proverbs 31 wife who is given to us as a model of wisdom at the end of the Proverbs. Her life speaks both to men and women about personifying wisdom.
It should be noted that nobody can perfectly model these virtues. Many women find the Proverbs 31 woman frustrating because no one can live up to her standard. However, this is common in Scripture. God says, “Be perfect as I am perfect,” (Matt 5:48) and he calls for husbands to “love their wives as Christ loved the church” (Eph 5:25). Each of these are impossibilities; however, we are called to aim for them and test ourselves against them for the rest of our lives.
As an introduction to the Proverbs, they are a collection of wise sayings primarily from fathers and mothers to their children about living a godly wise life. With that said one of the major focuses is finding a godly spouse. Jewish children were taught the Proverbs from childhood to help them know what to look for in a spouse and what to aim at becoming.
Throughout Proverbs, you hear the father call the son to stay away from the adulterous woman, the contentious woman, and the nagging woman. And here in this text, the mother of Lemuel, who many believe is Solomon’s mother, shows him what to seek after in a wife.
In Proverbs 31:10, she says, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Solomon’s mother makes it very clear that a godly woman is very hard to find. She compares her to rubies—showing how precious the godly woman really is. You typically won’t find a ruby outside on the street or randomly outside. Rubies, like diamonds, are formed under great pressure and found in remote places, and then placed in shops for others to purchase. It’s not easy to find this woman, and it’s not easy to become this woman.
It should be noted that Proverbs declares this is not only a dilemma for men but also women. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” This means that both godly women and godly men are rare and hard to find.
A woman you can find anywhere but a virtuous woman, one of noble character is hard to find. You can find a man on every corner, but a faithful man is hard to find. Like the virtuous woman, he is formed under pressure and is of great worth.
In addition, it is important to be aware that this part of Proverbs 31 is written as an acrostic poem. Every verse starts with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Many believe this was a Jewish catechism that children were taught by their parents to memorize. It demonstrates the type of woman every female should aspire to be and the woman that every man should seek to marry. But more than that, it demonstrates the godly character that all should seek to cultivate.
As we study the characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman, it challenges us to live a wise life. This woman is the crescendo of the Proverbs. She is the incarnation of wisdom and, therefore, is at the end of the book. We will walk through this text and pull out virtues to model. And, also, we’ll consider coveted characteristics in a potential spouse.
Big Question: What characteristics of a wise life can be discerned through studying Proverbs 31? In addition, how do these characteristics reflect desirable virtues in a potential spouse?
1. Be a Blessing
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life… Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
Proverbs 31:11-12, 23
Here it says she does him good all the days of her life, and he is respected at the city gates, which probably means he is an elder, an official in the land. The implication is that he excels because of her faithfulness at home. It has often been said, “behind every great man is a great woman” and this rings true about the virtuous woman. God gave her to the husband as a help meet, and she has helped him indeed—because of her, he excels.
But no doubt this is not only true with her husband, but with her children, her friends, and her family. This is true of anybody faithfully following God and, therefore, personifying the wisdom of Scripture. God told Abraham that he would be blessed and be a blessing (Gen 12:2). God’s desire for his people is to be a blessing. Psalm 1:2-3 describes the man who turns away from the wicked and delights in God’s Word as a tree—he produces fruit in season. People come and eat from him when depressed, lonely, discouraged, or lacking direction.
Are you allowing God to make you like a tree—a blessing to all around you?
As we apply this to searching for a spouse, one must ask, “Is this person primarily concerned with him or herself? Or is this person constantly seeking to serve others?” The person who is like a tree—a blessing to all—will be a great future spouse.
Application Question: How has your relationship with your friends, family members, and co-workers been? Are you allowing God to use you to bless and serve them? How is God calling you to be a blessing to those around you through prayer, service, or other means?
2. Be Delightful
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
Some versions say she looks for wool and flax and works with “her hands in delight” (NASB). She loves her family, and it is her delight to serve them. She knows this is what God called her to do as a wife and a mother—to serve her husband and her family. But most of all she loves God and that makes her work a delight.
Is this not what Christ has called us all to do? Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”
This woman knows she is not only serving her family and guests but her God, and therefore, she has a willing heart—a delightful heart. We see this attitude in the wise, they serve eagerly and heartily.
What type of attitude do you have at work and in your serving? Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God.”
For Paul, serving without complaining and arguing is a mark of being a child of God—it is a mark of spiritual maturity. How is your attitude?
Again, one must also consider the general attitude of a potential spouse. Is his or her disposition typically delightful and thankful or is he or she typically bitter and prone to complain? Solomon in the Proverbs warns about being in the house of a nagging or contentious woman—it’s like a constant dripping (Prov 27:15)—no doubt it’s the same for a nagging man. What one is while single will only multiply in marriage. In selecting a spouse, one must consider their overall attitude.
Application Question: How is your attitude been this year? Are you prone to complaining and arguing? How have you practiced being thankful to God for all things including trials (1 Thess 5:18)?
3. Be Balanced
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She works at home making sure her family has the best food. She gives portions or duties to her servant girls, but she also works as she purchases a field, plants a vineyard, trades (maybe the fruit), and sews. She is a homemaker and a businesswoman. And in both, she is balanced and thus personifies wisdom.
Obviously, for many, it is hard to stay balanced between home and work, as well as between family, friends, and leisure. However, by God’s grace, the Proverbs 31 woman excels at living a balanced life. As we will see later, her husband and children praise her and call her blessed (v. 28).
Are you living a balanced life with God, family, friends, work, and leisure? Sadly, many neglect God and family for work and entertainment. It is important to not neglect the most important for the less important. We must be balanced.
In addition, when selecting a spouse, their ability to stay balanced must be considered. If they are not living a balanced life between God, work, family, and leisure, they probably won’t be balanced in marriage. Neglecting God and family is all too common in most homes.
Application Question: Have you been balanced between God, home, work, and leisure? Are there anyways you can improve?
4. Be a Good Steward of Our Time
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls…She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night…She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:15, 18, 27
If taken literally, this woman doesn’t sleep. She gets up while it is still dark, and her lamp does not go out at night. She doesn’t eat the bread of idleness—the consequences of laziness and procrastination. The emphasis is obviously that she is a good steward of her time. She wants to maximize her time for the kingdom.
Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” “Making the most of every opportunity” can be translated redeeming the time. The wise person redeems the time by seeking to make the most of every opportunity God gives them. When one is not a good steward of time, they tend to fall into the evil of the day—whether that be gossiping, addictions, ungodly entertainment, etc.
How are you using your time for the Lord? Are you being wise or foolish? God will give you unlimited mercy, love, and grace, but he will only give you a limited amount of time. You must be a good steward of it to complete the things God has called you to do. Like Christ said, we must work while it is day for the night is coming when no one can work (John 9:4).
Similarly, when considering a potential mate, one must consider how they use their time. Are they seeking to diligently use it for God and the kingdom? Also, it is important to understand that relationships take time, both quality time and quantity of time. If the relationship is not prioritized before marriage, it will be neglected more when other priorities vie for your time like children, work, hobbies, etc.
Application Question: How would you rate your current time management? How is God calling you to become a better steward of the time he has given you? Consider creating a schedule where you plan out each hour of the day as it should be ideally used including time with God, work, family, rest, etc.
5. Be a Good Financial Steward
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
The Proverbs 31 woman makes wise investments, as she considers and buys a field, plants a vineyard out of her earnings, trades her fruit, sews, and gives to the poor. She is a good financial steward.
In considering finances, Christ spoke about money more than he did heaven or hell. We are supposed to provide for our needs and that of our family, but also care for those in need. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.”
Furthermore, Christ said this about our use of money in Luke 16:10-12:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?
God watches how we use our money and our faithfulness or lack of faithfulness with it will affect our present and future rewards. If we have been unfaithful with worldly wealth, how can God give us true riches which includes shepherding the souls of others, understanding his Word, and future rewards?
In addition, financial stewardship is also important to consider when choosing a mate. Finances are the number one reason for divorce. Does the person save their money? Does he or she faithfully give tithes and offerings? Is he or she generous? Does he or she continually waste money on luxuries like excessive clothes, eating out, electronics, etc.? These types of questions must be asked and considered.
Application Question: How is your current stewardship of God’s wealth? How can you improve? Are there some investments God is calling you to make, some people he is calling you to help, or some ways he calling you to cut back?
6. Be Healthy
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She works with energy and she has physical strength for the task. Obviously, she is healthy and takes care of herself so she can best serve God, family, and others.
How is the stewardship of your health? Theologian Jonathan Edwards was meticulous with his eating and his body. He used to measure the amount of food he ate. If you eat too much, you become tired and lethargic. If you eat too little, you lack energy. He really wanted to maximize the potential of his body for the kingdom of God. It’s no wonder God accomplished so much through him.
How is your stewardship of God’s temple?
Health is also important to consider when picking a future mate. Sadly, many young men and women live shorter lives because of not taking care of their bodies. They eat bad and have unhealthy addictions like overdrinking and smoking. One stat says that for every pack of cigarettes smoked a person loses twenty-eight minutes of life. All that abuse on one’s body will one day bear fruit.
This should also be considered because how one treats his body is often a picture of how they’ll treat their spouse. Consider what Paul said about husbands in Ephesians 5:28-29:
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church
Psychologists say that husbands who typically abuse their wives physically and/or emotionally are men who inwardly despise themselves, and therefore take it out on others. No doubt, this is true of bullies as well. If a person doesn’t take care of themselves, there is a good chance they will neglect or hurt others. When considering a spouse, one should consider whether they take care of themselves—including their physical body.
Application Question: How are your eating, drinking, exercising, and resting? Did you have energy and strength to complete the tasks God gave you? How is God calling you to be a better steward of God’s temple?
7. Be Prepared for the Future
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet…She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Proverbs 31:21, 24-25
She is not worried about snow because she provides good clothes for her family. She is economical; she makes money by making and selling garments. She is defined by strength. When people describe her, they would say she is strong and moral. Therefore, she laughs at the day to come.
The fact that she laughs at the days to come is a very interesting statement. Why does she laugh? No doubt, she has a great understanding of God’s sovereignty over all things (cf. Rom 8:28, Eph 1:11). He is in control so it removes worry and fear from the things that will come. But the context seems to focus on her industriousness, wisdom, and godliness (dignity). She has prepared and, therefore, is not worried about the future. Her family will be fine when it snows, because she made garments for them. She works with her hands and provides finances for her household. She also has prepared with dignity—no cheating or cutting corners. Therefore, she is not worried about the consequences of some sin. The NIV says “she can laugh,” meaning she has the ability to laugh and not necessarily that she does. This is true because she is so resourceful, prepared, and also godly. Because she has been righteous, God will defend her.
Certainly, this is an important characteristic for a future mate. Maybe, this is even more important for the husband who is called to be the leader of the home. “Is he preparing for the future? Will he be able to provide for a family? Is he diligently seeking to be prepared for future tasks? Or is he lethargic and unprepared? Is he characterized by integrity or compromise?”
Application Question: How is God calling you to better plan and prepare for the future? Are there any areas of compromise or laziness God is wanting you to get rid of?
8. Be a Teacher
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
No doubt she instructs her children, counsels her husband, and teaches her servants, young women, and all who will listen. She is teacher, and we can be sure much of her teaching comes from God’s Word.
In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, the Israelites were called to talk about God’s Word when they got up in the morning, when they walked, and when they ate. They were called to impress Scripture upon the hearts of their children. That’s what faithful Israelites did, they were teachers of the Book. God called Joshua to do the same thing in Joshua 1:8. He was called to never let the Word depart from his mouth, and everything he did would prosper.
We are called to be people of the book as well. Who is God calling you to teach and share his Word with? Teaching is one the most effective ways to grow spiritually, as it helps us learn, provides accountability, and brings God’s blessing.
This is also an important characteristic of a potential spouse. Husbands are called to wash their wives with the Word (Eph 5:25-26). One must ask, “Is he a spiritual leader? Does he love God’s Word?” Women are called to aid in training the children in the Word, as well as teaching other women (Titus 2:5). One must ask, “Is faithful instruction on her tongue? Will she be a good spiritual trainer for children and a wise counselor for her husband and others?”
Application Question: Who have you been sharing God’s Word with? Who is God calling you to disciple and mentor for his Kingdom?
9. Be Focused on God
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
In verse 30, we see the secret to all she does. The phrase “charm is deceptive” actually can be translated “bodily form”; it is the way that many women charm men. For many women, that is their focus—charm as displayed through clothing and their physical appearance. However, the Proverbs 31 woman doesn’t focus on that. She follows the instructions given to women in 1 Peter 3:3-6. It says,
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
The Proverbs 31 woman, unlike most women, is not focused on charm and body form. She is focused on God and worshipping him. And it is from this focus that every good thing flows. It is like Christ said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me and you will produce much fruit” (paraphrase).
Again she is the personification of wisdom, and therefore, her example applies to all. For the wise, God is the center. He is the focus on their lives and from that center comes much fruit. Have you been abiding in God? Is that your daily focus?
This is also the most important factor when considering a potential mate. How is their relationship with God? Is God their priority or just part of their life? Solomon’s mom essentially says, “If you can find a woman who truly fears and reverences God, grab her! Women like that are hard to find!” And certainly, this is true for a woman seeking a husband as well.
Application Question: Is fearing the Lord your defining characteristic? Is there anything distracting you from focusing on God? How can you grow spiritually?
10. Be Affirmed
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all… Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 31:28-29, 31
Her husband praises her, her children praises her, she is praised at the gates by everyone. Her ministry is approved by others and ultimately by God, as her example is placed in the Proverbs. When we are faithfully walking with God, he will encourage and affirm our ministry through others.
As we assess ourselves, it is important to ask our friends, family, and spiritual mentors if there are any ways we can grow or improve. Often God will speak through them to either confirm or challenge us.
Has God been affirming or challenging your life and ministry? Are you allowing him to speak to you through healthy relationships with the body of Christ? If so, are you listening?
This is also important when considering a potential mate, one must seek the advice of other godly brothers, sisters, and mentors. Too often people date in secret, with nobody else around to affirm or challenge their relationship, and therefore, they miss important relationship ques. Proverbs 11:14 says there is safety or victory in the multitude of counselors. Since who one will marry is the most important decision a person will ever make, after accepting Christ, having wise counselors to help approve and affirm is very important.
Application Question: Who are your trusted counselors—the ones you seek for wisdom and discernment? In what ways has God been affirming or challenging your life and ministry through others?
As we consider the Proverbs 31 woman, her life challenges us to live a life of wisdom—centered on fearing and worshiping God. Have you been living a wise life? To personify the wisdom of the Proverbs, we must:
1. Be a Blessing
2. Be Delightful
3. Be Balanced
4. Be a Good Steward of Our Time
5. Be a Good Financial Steward
6. Be Healthy
7. Be Prepared for the Future
8. Be a Teacher
9. Be Focused on God
10. Be Affirmed
Application Question: Which characteristic(s) do you feel most called to work on? How can you use these characteristics to help others (or yourself) find a godly spouse?
• Pray for God to give each one of us supernatural wisdom to guide our lives in a way that honors God and blesses us and others.
• Pray for God to give us strength to make changes in our lives for good and to help others do the same.
• Pray for God to bless families, that he would be their center, and that they would be guided by his wisdom. Pray for God to heal and restore families.
• Pray for God to prepare our singles to be godly spouses and that God would prepare godly spouses for them and bring them together in his time to build his kingdom.
• Pray for God to make our community, churches, and individuals wise and a blessing to all—nations, governments, schools, churches, families—as the Proverbs 31 woman is for his glory.