Truthfully, I never really liked the idea of the Proverbs 31 Woman. I rarely read the passage and when I did, I glossed over it haphazardly. It’s not that I had a problem with the biblical passage, per se. I just had a problem with everything people made it out to be.
I felt like it was often used to hold Christian women accountable to an imaginary standard they couldn’t live up to.
However, I’ve since grown to appreciate the words of Proverbs 31. They provide so much valuable insight on what the heart of a Godly woman should look like.
Where did we get the idea of the Proverbs 31 Woman from?
The iconic Proverbs 31 Woman comes from Proverbs 31, a poem written by King Lemuel based on words of advice given to him by his mother on how to conduct himself as a king. She speaks about everything from drinking wine and strong drink to standing up for the weak and poor.
Obviously, as a mother looking out for the best interests of her son, she advises him on how to choose a wife. She describes characteristics of a virtuous woman, so that Lemuel would recognize her when he saw her.
Women’s ministries everywhere took the idea of Proverbs 31 and ran with it, putting it on coffee mugs and t-shirts, writing devotionals and books about it, and encouraging young women to desire to become like this “virtuous woman.”
Unfortunately, this comes with the potential of putting an unnecessary burden on women.
While Proverbs 31 outlines many beautiful actions of the virtuous woman, it is not a checklist or commandment to live up to. It’s a poem.
The Proverbs 31 Woman Explained
Christian culture says that you have to be the perfect wife with five children, who attends all of their kids’ parent-teacher meetings, volunteer at every local organization, cook the most amazing meals for your family, and serve on your church’s outreach team.
While all of those things are amazing, none of them are necessary for being a Proverbs 31 woman. Truthfully, not all of us can relate to that. Some of us never will. And that’s okay.
There’s one crucial thing about the virtuous woman that we have been missing. This is what gives her the energy and the drive to do all of the things listed in the chapter.
The most important characteristic of a Proverbs 31 Woman
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.Proverbs 31:30
I know we like to quote it a lot but do we really understand what that verse means? While the Proverbs 31 Woman can be commended for all the wonderful things she does, what is most important about her is that she fears the Lord. She lives her entire life out of a desire to honor and serve the Lord. This is what makes her a virtuous woman.
What else makes someone a virtuous woman?
Virtuous women are in constant communion with God
The good things we do don’t make us virtuous. Virtue comes from constant communion with God.
Are you in his presence regularly?
Do you love his truth more than you love the world?
Do you seek his will before seeking your own?
I don’t believe that the Proverbs 31 Woman desired to praise or fame. I believe that she simply wanted to serve the Lord. She wasn’t trying to be perfect, she just knew it was her duty to honor the Lord.
It was natural for her to be a virtuous woman because virtue was already in her heart.
It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.Matthew 15:11
Jesus tells us that it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles someone, it’s what comes out. The things that come out of our mouth express what’s in our heart. Virtue can only come out of you if virtue is within you.
The Proverbs 31 Woman pursues the wisdom of God instead of the wisdom of the world
The P31 Woman is not concerned with what seems right according to the world. Instead, she focuses on God’s truth. Her biggest desire is to honor God. She works for God and not for man because she knows that her reward comes from God and him alone.
A woman who is genuinely pursuing God will naturally be virtuous. The problem is, we tend to flip it the other way and use it as a checklist for women who want to be found by the perfect man. But, it’s not a checklist at all.
Lemuel’s mother isn’t saying, “Go find a woman who does all of these things perfectly.” Instead, she’s saying, “Hey, heads up. If she does these things, chances are she’s a virtuous woman.” Her outward actions are an indication of the virtue inside of her heart.
Many women use their works as a measuring stick of their worth. They say, “If I do all of these things, It’ll make me a virtuous woman.” But, sadly, that’s a lie. That’s not the truth God promised us. Doing all the things isn’t going to make you virtuous. You naturally do good things as a result of the virtue in your heart.
She’s a woman after God’s heart
Like David was a man after God’s heart, the P31 woman is a woman after God’s heart. Interestingly enough, in Judges, we hear about a man referred to as a “mighty man of valor.” I read a commentary that said that the “virtuous woman” title is its female version. She is strong, wise, conscientious, loving, caring, hardworking, and faithful. But all of these wonderful qualities are byproducts of the most important thing about her. She seeks God and finds him.
The truth is, no matter what you do or how well you do it, you can never be a virtuous woman without the right heart posture.
Do you truly fear the Lord? Or is it more about appearance?
Are you walking according to God’s word? Or are you simply doing what society says is good?
If you want to be a true Proverbs 31 Woman, you have to lay down all of the unnecessary standards and live as a woman who fears the Lord.
Founder, Daily She Pursues
Shanté is the founder of Daily She Pursues. She is passionate about teaching women how to pursue the heart of God by studying his word, spending time in prayer, and committing to a daily walk with the Lord. Shanté is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies at Liberty University and some of her favorite things include tea, journaling, art museums, essential oils, and thrift shopping.