I have met several amazing women in my lifetime. Some of whom I have learnt lifelong lessons from, others I have admired from a distance. However, there is only one woman I aspire to be like – she is the “Proverbs 31” woman. The story of the virtuous woman as documented in Proverbs 31:10-31 is one that most people are very familiar with. I have read this passage severally while trying to unravel the mystery this woman is – and I have pondered deeply in a bid to fully understand what this woman is really about. I am so blessed to be surrounded by women who exemplify some of the traits associated with the Proverbs 31 woman. Still, I have realised that finding a woman who perfectly matches the biblical description of this woman is not the easiest of tasks.
I find that there are several schools of thoughts when it comes to the Proverbs 31 woman. The first school of thought believe that no one woman possesses all the attributes described. They think that amiable characteristics from different women were pulled together to create an image of what the “ideal woman” should look like if at all she exists. They believe that women can strive towards perfection, but true perfection can never be attained. The second school of thought believe that a woman could possess all the capabilities, but not single-handedly. She must leverage on a lot of help to meet all these criteria. She must be able to effectively manage her time, people and situations to her advantage. The third school of thought believe that one woman could possess all the characteristics listed even with minimal help from the people around her. She is in a way “self-sufficient”: she relies solely on God for strength to keep going.
Irrespective of the school of thought you might belong, we can all agree that the Proverbs 31 woman possesses some stellar attributes. Every woman today can learn from these attributes. In fact, everyone can learn lessons from her if we see her as a representative of the bride of Christ, which we are. With inspiration from the Holy Scriptures, here are some attributes of this exceptional woman which we can learn practical lessons from.
1. She is very rare and exists in a class of her own
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies… Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all” (Proverbs 31:10, 29 KJV; Emphasis mine).
The “Proverbs 31” woman is not your typical everyday woman. She is one-of-a-kind! Rubies are one of the most expensive gemstones, and this is because they are extremely rare. Can you think of anything precious that is easily found? Well, rubies aside, very good things do not naturally come easy. They are most times hidden, and a lot of effort is required to find them. This woman is by far more valuable than this precious gemstone. As she is not ubiquitous, it takes special favour from God to meet her. I imagine that one can only meet a woman who perfectly personifies her attributes once in a lifetime. In addition to being rare, this woman does not fit into the same class as other women – she stands out in every way.
2. She is trustworthy
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. (Proverbs 31:11 KJV; Emphasis mine).
It is no coincidence that the first thing mentioned about this woman, aside from how rare she is, is her trustworthiness. She understands that the foundation of any relationship is based on trust. Her intentions are genuinely pure. This woman has over time, built up trust with her husband, and her loyalty to him is unquestionable. She has never (and would never) let him down. He does not need to worry about anything or to distract himself with frivolities.
3. She has good intentions towards her husband
“She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12 KJV; Emphasis mine).
Knowing the right thing to do and failing to do so counts as evil – the Bible calls this sin. She has painstakingly studied her husband. More than anyone else, she understands him. She knows his likes and dislikes, and makes conscious effort to do the things that he likes – the things that make him happy, satisfied and fulfilled. She avoids those things that make him displeased. She does not just do these on her “happy days” but every blessed day of her life. This is not trivial. This means that irrespective of her mood, she keeps doing what is right and does not allow her emotions to get in her way.
4. She is diligently industrious
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the ’ merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. She…eateth not the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:13, 14, 19, 24, 27b KJV; Emphasis mine).
This woman is not slack in her ways, neither is she idle. Once she determines to do something, she goes all out to get it done to the best standards possible. She seeks for the best quality materials that would be required to get the job done, and she uses these to get the job done. She is a master of her craft; she is loaded with knowledge and skills. She knows she can achieve anything she determines to accomplish.
5. She is watchful and vigilant
“She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:15 KJV; Emphasis mine).
While others sleep, she wakes up at night to commune with her heavenly father asking for wisdom and strength to do all she needs to do. She does not take anything for granted; she prayer-proofs her home. She can never be faulted because everyone around her is well attended to, not just her immediate family members.
6. She is strategic
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands, she planteth a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16 KJV; Emphasis mine).
Before she takes any step, she thinks critically about it. She is not one to act on impulse. She backs up her thoughts with her actions. She leaves everything in her care better than she met it. The Proverbs 31 woman did not leave her field to lie fallow: she transformed it into a beautiful vineyard, and she put in the work needed to bring about this transformation. She does not rely on anyone to get the job done; she puts her hands to work. Proverbs 31:16 is one verse that has been erroneously misconstrued by many women. I have heard disturbing stories of women who have gone ahead of their husbands to secretly make investments in a bid to become like the Proverbs 31 woman. Sadly, such women have through their actions compromised the trust in their marriage and in more severe cases, completely destroyed the marriage. It is important to recall that the Proverbs 31 woman has already won the trust of her husband. I believe her husband was carried along as she made investments with the family resources. One thing is clear concerning this woman: she maximally utilises the resources available to her for the benefit of her household.
7. She is an articulate planner
“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She looketh well to the ways of her household…” (Proverbs 31:18, 21, 27a KJV; Emphasis mine).
She is not “cheap”; she goes for excellent quality and durable supplies for household. She is on the lookout for the best deals for her home, and it is not in her to waste family resources. She puts in her very best in all that she does, and would not mind burning the midnight candle if she needs to get things done. She has a plan for everything – she does not wait until her stock is depleted before she replenishes it. She is always prepared for anything, and nothing takes her by surprise. No member of her household is left out of her nurturing care. Everyone is adequately catered for. She looks after her family not just in the physical sense, but more importantly, in the spiritual sense. She safeguards them all with prayers.
8. She is elegant
“She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain…” (Proverbs 31:22, 30a KJV; Emphasis mine).
No doubt, she is a stunning woman; beautiful inside out. She knows that her beauty comes from within, but she does not neglect her outward appearance. She understands that she does not need to reveal certain parts of her body that should best be left covered. She is comfortable in her own skin. Her outfits are of exceptional quality and show her taste for good things. Anywhere and anytime you meet her, she always looks well-kept and stylish. Her beauty is not all there is to her: underneath lie unquantifiable treasures.
9. She is genuinely concerned about others
“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20 KJV; Emphasis mine).
While she takes excellent care of those directly under her care, she goes the extra mile – she makes conscious effort to reach out to those who need help. She can quickly identify the needs of others and is ever ready to lend a helping hand whenever she has the opportunity to do so.
10. She brings honour to her husband
“Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23 KJV; Emphasis mine).
As a result of her stellar attributes, her husband is well known. He is the envy of other men – they continuously sing the praises of his wife and perhaps wish they could be as lucky as he is. This man should certainly not be taken for granted because he is exceptional. It takes a virtuous man to spot out a virtuous woman. He is full of wisdom, and this is what qualifies him to sit with elders.
11. She renews her strength every day
“Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. …a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:25, 30b KJV; Emphasis mine).
This woman knows that her strength is not from within – but from God. She waits upon the Lord daily to renew her strength; just as she puts on her clothing every day. She is optimistic about the future because she honours God and draws strength from him. She is confident that God would handle any difficult situation on her path, so she does not fret about it. Deeply rooted in her heart is the fear of God.
12. She chooses her words carefully
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26 KJV; Emphasis mine).
Under the pressures of wifely duties, motherhood and her numerous business ventures, it is easy to get all worked up and say things that might be somewhat hurtful. The Proverbs 31 woman is very mindful of this. She would instead remain silent rather than utter a hurtful word. She knows that her words are like eggs: once broken, they cannot be put together again. Likewise, when words are spoken, they cannot be recalled. This woman does not open her mouth carelessly. Every word she speaks is graceful, spirit-filled and well-articulated. She is very considerate of others in her thoughts, and this shines through in her words.
13. She is well commended – but she does not let this get into her head
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. …let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:28, 31b KJV; Emphasis mine).
Everyone who meets this woman has a kind word to say about her: her husband, her children, non-members of the family. She does not live a double life. Her conduct at home is exemplary to her household; those who have seen her in her worst state. Her life is a testimony.
These qualities might seem overwhelming to the average woman, but I firmly believe that this level of virtue can be attained by a woman who depends on God wholly every step of the way.