Proverbs chapter 31 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible among Christian women. Such a beautiful description composed by a man whose God-given wisdom was known throughout every country and kingdom in the present world - and one who certainly was exposed to his fair share of women - begins by asking a compelling question: “Who can find a virtuous woman?”
The question almost sounds rhetorical. Could there be such a woman who knows the depths of her worth, someone who is pure in body and spirit, full of spiritual, emotional, and even physical strength and one who is respected, honored, and praised by all? Certainly she is rare and a picture of beauty and Christ-like perfection.
Our response to the description of this virtuous woman typically flip-flops between intimidation and determination. We might think, "I could never be that put together!" or our attitude could be, "I am going to be the virtuous woman if it's the last thing I do!"
Certainly, it is a good thing to be a virtuous woman instead of being a vain, foolish woman. However, idolizing "The Virtuous Woman" and her attributes while neglecting the inner woman, is in itself foolishness and vanity. We can make lists about all that she does and does not do, but we must dig deeper to find the source of why she does what she does.
Solomon spoke of a woman who was much more than hard working and respectable. Her efforts were not exhausted in what she did but were accomplished in who she was at her core. Yes, she had an excellent work ethic, a blissful marriage and children who probably listened to her and obeyed her. But her virtue came from doing what she knew was most important. She was not a hearer only, heaping up knowledge and instruction, reading book after book, wearying herself with learning. In essence, she was a doer. But her doing had nothing to do with duty and had everything to do with love.
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?"
This exquisite woman came to realize that the work set before her was too great and that she needed a Savior. She saw the weight of responsibility was too heavy and her propensity was to resort to fear and self-pity, so she needed grace. She heard the cry of the world to "make her mark" ringing in her ears, yet she submitted her days to the Lord.
Satan wishes for each woman to be overwhelmed by their relationships and responsibilities. He wants nothing more than to deceive us into thinking we must either work for the grace of God, or make us believe He won't give it. Our enemy would love for us to strive to attain the virtuous woman's icon through self-righteousness and pride. Likewise, he'd like to see us throw up our hands in defeat!
Meanwhile, Jesus is calling all women to humility. He stands with gentle, open arms offering peace, rest, and freedom and supplying all the strength we could ever need. His message is overflowing with love and all He wants from us in return is a perfect marriage, obedient children, a Pinterest-perfect home, no overdue bills, participation in church ministries, daily devotions, and some sort of elaborate skill to distinguish us from all the other women. NO! NO! NO! All Jesus wants from us is our heart - our love and affection and complete trust.
Love is the why of the virtuous woman.
It's selfless, it's sacrifical, it's Christ-like, it's the glue that holds everything in her life together, it's complete and it's enough. It's the motivation behind all the labor.
Why is it that, despite all the pain and intense labor of bringing a child into this world, one look at your precious newborn made it all worth it? It's love. Christ-like, perfect love. This perfect, complete love channeling through us by the power of the Holy Spirit is the central characteristic of the virtuous woman.
If you want a happy marriage, love God. If you want a happy home, love God. And yes, if you want obedient children (or rather children who love God), then you must love God. If you want to be used by God in the church... If you want godly friendships... If you desire heavenly rewards... If you want to impact the next generation... If you desire purity, contentment, inward strength and security, then love God. If you feel intimidated by the Proverbs 31 woman... If you find yourself tirelessly working to become her, love God.
Truly, a virtuous woman has proper priorities - loving Jesus first, followed by serving others, then caring for herself. Answer the call to this sustaining, never failing, all-encompassing love and experience the freedom found in humility, the beauty in our ashes, and the ability to make a unique difference with our lives.