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Proverbs 31, Shame and an Eye Roll

The Wife of Noble Character

Proverbs 31:10-31

       A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
     Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
     She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
    She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
     She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
     She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
     She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
     She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
     She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
     In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
     She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
     When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
     She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
     Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
     She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
     She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
    She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
    She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
     Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
     “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
     Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
     Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Have you ever felt, even if unintentionally done, shamed, when presented with these verses? Like, because you lack the accomplishments, the fortitude, the strength, or the motivation that is outlined in Proverbs 31, that you are not enough or that you don’t measure up? I know I have. In fact, I have to admit that almost every time I hear reference to Proverbs 31 “The Wife of Noble Character”, whether it be an article, a group, a ministry, a book, etc., I roll my eyes. I’m pretty sure I do this both figuratively and literally (I’m not sure about the literal eye roll since I’m not watching myself, but you get what I mean).

Then as I’m reading through what are seemingly straight forward verses,  I get to “she can laugh at the days to come.” That boggles my mind. Seriously. How does she laugh at what’s to come. Doesn’t she know everything that’s going on in the world around her? What kind of woman is this? Doesn’t she care?

So, first, I’m feeling shame at not measuring up to what I perceive these verses mean, and secondly, I’m puzzled by what (at least) one verse is saying.

I’m going to suggest that the problem is not with the Bible or these set of verses, but the problem is with my lack of understanding them properly. The problem is also how Proverbs 31 has been presented to us, and possibly the presenters themselves, who also lack a full understanding.

What comes to mind is, man putting his own stuff into it (kind of like adding to the law, Mark 7:8).

How do I know that Proverbs 31 isn’t a giant list of things you must do to be a “Wife of Noble Character”?

Because, no person like that exists. There’s no superwoman. We cannot do all of those things, nor do I think that God intends for us to do all those things.  We each have limitations that He has given us. We will excel in certain areas and struggle in others. We are dependent on the help of Christ and the other people that he puts in our lives.

If you read it again, maybe you’ll realize (or maybe you already know this and I’m just now catching on), that it’s less about the things that she’s doing and more about her character. She has excellent character qualities, and these are the qualities that God wants us to have. How do we get these qualities? Umm, God. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

“…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;  and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Proverbs 31 is not about all the things that we should be doing, but it is showing God’s work in us. It is a reflection of Christ in our lives. It’s a heart attitude that looks toward Christ for our every need.

When the Bible says “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3;23.  It means that whatever the Lord has given you to do, do it as unto the Lord, not what he’s given someone else to do. He’s not going to have me planting a vineyard or buying a field (although that is possible). I’m pretty certain I won’t be making any linen garments, and if I did I wouldn’t be selling any (no one would buy them!). But, he does want me to bring my husband good and not harm, to provide food for my family to the best of my ability, to extend my hand to the needy, and speak with wisdom, and so on.,

Your list is going to look slightly different from mine, but our heart attitudes can be the same if we belong to Christ. We can and will develop good character too, as an outpouring of Christ in our lives. We can have the same heart attitude and character regardless of our limitations, physical or otherwise. That is what “A Wife of Noble Character” looks like.

That should be a relief to you. It is to me.

My quandary over “She can laugh at days to come”…

If you read other Bible versions then you’ll know it uses words like rejoice, and smile, instead of laugh, so that may seem more reasonable, but I still wondered how a woman living in this world does such a thing, when thinking of an unknown future. Like, how did she get to that point? I don’t know fully, but I do have a partial answer. I think I’ll know fully when I am able to do this myself, laugh at things to come, but for now, this is all I know.

She can laugh at things to come because:

She has nothing to lose.
She has nothing that the Lord has not given her,
and nothing can be taken from her that the Lord does not allow.

I have nothing to lose.

I have nothing that the Lord has not given me,

and nothing can be taken from me that the Lord does not allow.

I’m just going to rest in that knowledge for now,

and I think laughing at the days to come will happen, eventually.

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