We love to hate it.
All the pressure to live up to an impossible standard.
Generations of wives and mothers admonished, scolded, humiliated by church leaders for not being perfect.
I’ve known people to try to follow these verses to the very letter, even going into debt to actually plant a vineyard.
Perhaps, we should just look for the intent behind the lines.
We all want our children to be healthy and happy and kind, to love others and be loved well.
This chapter consists of two poetic sections. The first nine verses detail the qualities needed to be a wise ruler, and the second part are the qualities describing an excellent wife.
In most translations, verses 1-9 are called The Words of Lemuel. In The Message, verses 1-9 are entitled: Speak Out for Justice.
In The Message, verses 10-31 are entitled: Hymn to a Good Wife. The ESV calls the verses The Woman Who Fears the Lord. The Amplified Bible calls these verses Description of a Worthy Woman. The HCSB calls these verses In Praise of a Capable Wife.
For reference, here is the Bible version that many of us memorized.
Proverbs 31, KJV:
The Words of King Lemuel
1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
The Virtues of Noble Woman
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Yes, the poetry is beautiful, but I find some of the phrasing and word choice problematic. I like the footnotes on the text here.
The text-poem of the 31st proverb is a wish list of a queen for her prince-son’s wife-to-be. It was written in an ancient time and place with patriarchal values, when women were property and often nameless and powerless.
It was never really meant to be read as a checklist for Christian women to aspire to achieve. It’s not even possible and alluded to the idea of a supermom, which is exhausting and depressing.
As the mother of four children: three biological daughters and one biological son, I often dream of what their lives might be like when they become independent adults.
I too have a wish list for my children and their futures, whether or not they choose to get married or have children of their own.
Today’s Proverbs 31 Person
Child, do not listen to the admonitions of society, the prophecies written on the subway walls, as taught by the media, relatives, spouses, partners, friends, acquaintances, eBook authors, bloggers, wannabe therapists whose advice no one asked for.
Love one another.
Love one another.
Love one another.
Be a social justice warrior. Don’t just hide behind a keyboard. Get out and work for change. Teach your kids, friends, or anyone you know to love everyone and be kind always. Notice differences and privilege and strive to be anti-racist and inclusive. Yes, one person can make a difference.
Just say no to drugs. Try even to eschew the prescription drugs that American doctors seem to yearn to prescribe as bandaids in lieu of relationship. Find healthy outlets for your emotions and embrace all the feelings. Sit in your feelings until you understand them and find healing. Look to mindfulness and simplify, de-stress, slow down.
Virtue is subjective and often colonialist. Every society has different values. Know your worth and be unashamed. Claim it and proclaim it and don’t let anyone disrespect you. Don’t disrespect others.
Trust in your inner self, your intuition. Don’t believe everything that you breathe.
Have integrity before all, especially children. Lead by example.
Be a servant leader, knowledgeable in running an efficient household or business. Don’t ask others what you can do for yourself. Don’t ask others to do what you’re unwilling to do.
Be kind and think before speaking. Practice nondefensive and nonviolent communication.
Prepare for the future with investments. Be proactive but not anxious. Life of Fred Financial Choices recommends saving at least 25% of income. Yes, it’s hard during some seasons. Learn the value of not getting instant gratification.
Get that side hustle on. Or not. Use your unique skills and talents. But take care not to burn out. We are more than our performance.
Be grateful in all you do and joy will surely follow. Think positive and when you feel down, renew yourself in nature, in wide open spaces, or art, music, something awe-inspiring to remind you of your divinity.
Shop for the best deals on groceries, but don’t become a hoarder or extreme couponer. Add the digital coupons to the Kroger and iBotta apps each week. It’s just a few minutes of tedium but it does pay off quite a bit. Don’t buy something you don’t need. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale.
Empty the cat litter before trash day. Do the dishes and laundry before they pile up. Guide children and others to do chores regularly. Recycle and reduce waste. Be efficient and proactive to limit anxiety.
We are not responsible for what others think of us or say to us. We can live rent free in someone’s mind for years and that’s on them. Be at peace in your words and actions.
Learn to accessorize and what’s attractive for your body type and coloring, but don’t be vain or obsessed with appearance. Everyone has a unique beauty.
It’s important that we don’t compare ourselves to others or to fictional characters. We are individuals – each with our own histories, perhaps even traumas to overcome. Own yourself and all your flaws, imperfections, and your glory.
Be a blessing to others.
I am blessed to have four amazing children who I get to interact with every day as I seem them bloom and grow in our home and homeschool.
While I do dream of grandchildren, like most people, but I dream more for happiness and health. I want my children to experience great relationships with all people they come into contact with, romantic or not. I pray that my children are role models for others.
Children don’t just need to be loved; they need to know that nothing they do will change the fact that they’re loved.Alfie Kohn, The Myth of the Spoiled Child
I embrace my children for who they are and who they will become – whether they are cishet, nonbinary, trans, genderless, genderfluid, gay, or ace.
I love my children beyond what they can offer me.
It’s not about my comfort or what society told me my dreams and wishes should be for my children who are their own individual selves.
My children owe me nothing while I owe them everything.
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