As Proverbs ends, we encounter one of the most famous chapters in the Bible, a passage that describes the ideal Christian woman. This section is referenced throughout religion and literature, found on coffee mugs and journals, cited on magnets and bumper stickers, and repeated in wedding toasts and cards. In much of our modern culture, the Proverbs 31 woman seems to be intimidating, unattainable, only modeled by pastor’s wives. Yet King Lemuel, when listing these qualities, is simply repeating the advice his own mother gave to him when he was seeking a wife. That means this list, while often used to model for women how they should behave, was originally a list of criteria to guide men toward honorable wives, so that they could be sure to yoke themselves with women of good character.
This is a woman who cares for her family while running a business. She earns and invests her own money, works from early mornings to late nights, embraces hard work and long-term planning, tends to her employees as well as the poor, and always prepares for the seasons that she knows will come. These are not traditionally feminine qualities, yet these are the characteristics praised in Scripture — not beauty, not grace, not an unspoken “it-factor” — but instead a sense of responsibility, a servant’s heart, and a desire for wisdom.
Verses 25-26: “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.”
Verse 27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
Verse 30: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”