However, during a major tangent during Bible study the other week, Mark P (a.k.a group leader and second dad to many of us) said that Proverbs 31 was a guide for Christian men. Just check out verse 1, where we are told the whole chapter is “An oracle that [King Lemuel’s] mother taught him”. So basically Proverbs 31 is advice from a mother to her son about what sort of wife she would like him to have. Does that mean only the boys should be reading Proverbs 31? Can we girls ignore everything that this chapter has to say on living a biblical life?
I’m going to have to say that there is most definitely something here so, girls and boys, it’s time to listen (or read?) up. The woman of Proverbs 31 might be one of the wonder women of the Bible but she is not an unattainable role model.
1) “She does him good, and not harm”
The woman of Proverbs 31 does good to her husband in everything she does. Such behaviour is not the result of an overnight switch. Being a person who does good “all the days of her life” results from years of developing the skills, habits and attitudes necessary. A life like that does not need to be motivated by the thought of marriage- I know, shocking! Even as a single girl, I still have opportunities everyday to work on doing good instead of harm everyday.
2) “works with willing hands”
Proverbs 31 is not just about a wife and mother. She is also a business woman. In an age when the medieval cottage industry ideal has seen rebirth in the form of the “bedsit industry” due to blogging, social media and e-tail, a biblical model for business women is so needed. Our wonder woman is a hard worker who deals directly with the merchants, selling the clothes she makes. She is even a landowner, buying it with her own money. You could almost be fooled into thinking she was from the 21st Century. While her business might be a little of her time, her attitude towards it is an amazing example of who a determined woman can be.
3) “She rises while it is yet night”
More advice on how to get the most out of a life… Make the most of your day! The married Proverbs 31 woman might use her early hours to catch on jobs that her children and husband might distract her from. Surely the single girl doesn’t need to get up so early? We might not have the need for those extra hours due to children but I’ve found the few extra hours can be a blessing. From giving myself time to read through a bible verse or study through to finding time to juice, getting up that little bit earlier has helped me start my day with more spring. For the Proverbs 31 woman, it is about making the best use of your time. Our role model used her time to provide for her family and work for her servants. We can use the few extra hours to our benefit too. I don’t know how you would use it, but for me it means extra time to blog on a Saturday (I always wake up at 8am despite an alarm of 9.30am) and time to straighten my hair Monday-Friday.
4) “She dresses herself with strength// and makes her arms strong”
So we have dealt with the habits and business of our Proverbs 31 woman. But what about the actual woman? The idea of being dressed with strength and strong arms is hardly the picture of a feminine woman. However, I would like to suggest that being both a business woman and doing good everyday requires an intense strength of character. Not only is she a smart and caring woman but she also has a strength about her. How many women do you know who are not strong, whether that be mind, spirit or strength, and hold down a job and look after a family? Strength is a necessary trait of the successful woman, whether she is out of Proverbs 31 or not.
5) “her clothing is fine linen and purple”
A strong woman with all the traits we have discussed could easily be seen as the stereotype of the formidable, suited, masculine woman. Fortunately for us, Proverbs 31 is not just all the above. She also knows how to dress! Fine linen and purple were the Chanel and Prada of her day. Yes, I am glad to say that the Christian woman is allowed to enjoy her wardrobe and to take a certain amount of joy in it. (But please don’t think that means you have to wear Chanel or Prada. I definitely don’t!)
So that’s my thoughts on how Proverbs 31 can apply to a single girl living in the 21st Century. To be honest, I don’t think there are actually that many differences in comparison with married women. A Proverbs 31 life as a single girl might not be possible if followed exactly to the letter. Then again, I don’t think any woman could follow our wonder woman’s exact example. But used in conjunction with the rest of the Bible, King Lemuel’s mother provides us with ideas and suggestions about how to live as a woman of God.
However, should a man want to use it as a guide for finding a wife, I hope he remembers verse 30.