How to Be the Proverbs 31 Woman
- Mary Southerland Journey Ministry, Inc
- 2021 7 Oct
I have a love-hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. I was so relieved to learn that she was not real. The mother of King Solomon came up with her as a standard for the woman her son would marry. As the mother of an incredible young man, I can so relate! The Proverbs 31 woman is a woman of great value, who strains toward excellence with every breath she takes and every step she makes. She is a woman God says should be our role model as women. I have struggled with this standard during the last year. A Covid-19 Pandemic will mess with your mind and honestly with your faith. Thankfully, the Word of God addresses my struggles with these words from Proverbs.
Proverbs 31: 28 – 31 (NCV) "Her children speak well of her. Her husband also praises her, saying, 'There are many fine women, but you are better than all of them.' Charm can fool you, and beauty can trick you, but a woman who respects the LORD should be praised. Give her the reward she has earned; she should be praised in public for what she has done."
The Proverbs 31 woman had it all: Success, influence, friends, family, career, and beauty.
Many women today have all of these things and are still miserable. But not this woman. She was content and seemed to live a life of celebration. What is her secret?
I believe the Proverbs 31 woman understood the rewards of living a life that is worthy of respect. Interesting, right? Stay with me. In this passage of Scripture, "respect" means "to honor, cheer or applaud."
Hebrews 12:1 (NCV) "We have around us many people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back."
The audiences of our lives affirm the genuineness of our faith. Our grandchildren have certainly taught me that they are always watching their grandparents. And they don't miss much! Our son and his family were visiting us. Dan and I were quietly playing with Lelia and Jaydan, twin grandchildren who were about three years old at the time. Lelia and I were building a tower of Legos. Lelia certainly had a plan in mind; my job was to watch and help when instructed. Dan and Jaydan were coloring pictures Lelia had brought for just such an occasion. Dan was coloring the image of an elephant. When he finished, he held it up for Lelia to see. As she inspected the picture, a huge smile spread across her face. Clapping her chubby little hands in pure delight, Lelia exclaimed, "I proud you, Papa! Good job! You did it!" That was all the motivation Dan needed to begin coloring another picture for his granddaughter.
Who is watching us run the race? Who is in our cheering section? Whose respect must we earn?
First: We must earn the respect of our children.
Key: Be consistent.
Proverbs 31: 28a (NCV) "Her children speak well of her."
Respect is not a gift. It must be earned. Respect is gained and lost in the choices of everyday life. It is hard to earn the respect of our children. Kids are a tough audience. They come equipped with built-in bunk detectors. They live with us, see us at our worst, and then try to push us beyond terrible to horrible.
1 Kings 8: 61 (NCV) "You must fully obey the LORD our God and follow all his laws and commands. Continue to obey in the future as you do now."
Respect is a lifetime goal and is continually earned through a daily commitment to God. I get the impression this woman began and ended each day committing herself to God.
1 Timothy 4:12 (ICB) "Be an example to show the believers how they should live. Show them with your words, with the way you live, with your love, with your faith, and with your pure life."
We cast a shadow of influence by how we live, and that shadow quickly falls across the lives of our children. The Proverbs 31 woman cast a shadow of excellence by: Loving her husband, making her home a priority, pursuing her personal goals, helping people in need, taking care of herself, and controlling her tongue.
In other words, she earned the respect of her children by her consistency in every area of life. An inconsistent life dilutes and waters down the influence of that life. I have always thought that being consistent is the hardest part of parenting. Our daily attitudes and choices engrave a lasting impression. We are often land mines exploding all over our children because they have stepped in the wrong place. Sadly, part of the falling debris from that explosion is their respect for us. We will blow it with our children, but we will also earn their respect when we admit our mistake, ask for their forgiveness, and begin again. Respect cannot be repaired, but it can be re-earned. I have had to pull my children out of small group Bible study or a classroom to ask their forgiveness for an unforgiving attitude, a harsh word, or an emotional explosion. I have even had to call one of our kids to apologize before I could stand to teach God's Word.
Through the years, I have discovered an amazing thing. Our kids know I am human. They know I will fail in my relationship with them, but they also know that I will eventually come running after them, that being human is okay as long as I am consistent in my love for them.
Second: We must earn the respect of our husbands.
Key: Be committed.
Proverbs 31:28b-29 (NCV) "Her husband also praises her, saying, 'There are many fine women, but you are better than all of them.'"
I heard the story of a young man who took a picture of his girlfriend to a photographer friend because he wanted the picture framed. The photographer began to work but was stopped by an inscription on the back of the photograph:
I love you with all of my heart.
I love you more each day.
I love you forever and ever.
I am yours for eternity.
P.S. If we ever break up, I want this picture back!"
Commitment is the very heart of respect. Steadfast commitment has no P.S. in it. The husband of the Proverbs 31 woman is crazy about her. He is proud of her. I suspect the truth is that he is proud of himself for being smart enough to marry her. He brags on her to anyone who will listen. His confidence in her is absolute, and his trust is complete.
Proverbs 31:11 (NCV) "Her husband has full confidence in her."
"Full confidence" means "total trust and involves the heart, the mind, the whole being." The husband of the Proverbs 31 woman can trust his wife because she is committed to him and makes sure he knows he can count on her to have his back. Notice that her commitment was not just for as long as he lives, but for as long as she lives.
Proverbs 31:12(NCV) "She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life."
She made him look good at the city gate, which was the business center of town: Proverbs 31:31 (NCV) "Let her works bring her praise at the city gate." This woman was recognized as a capable and even aggressive businesswoman. But everything she does adds to the good of her family, builds up her husband, and brings her honor.
Honoring a woman at the city gate was not generally done in Israel. But her life was the kind of life that demanded unusual recognition. Of course, we can have successful careers and impressive ministries. We can even achieve great fame. But fame and success are worth nothing if we have not first earned the respect of our children and our husband. And that takes commitment.
Third: We must earn the respect of God.
Key: Be obedient.
Proverbs 31:30 (NCV) "Charm can fool you, and beauty can trick you, but a woman who respects the LORD should be praised."
We work hard and spend a lot of time and money trying to improve what's on the outside. But God warns us that charm and beauty are poor substitutes for respect. God is not concerned with outer appearance. God is concerned with our heart attitude, the "setting" of our hearts.
1 Samuel 16: 7 (ICB) "God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart."
What's in the heart determines what is in the life. God looks past our appearance and searches our hearts for one thing – the desire to obey. Then, God scrutinizes our hearts and considers the setting we have chosen.
Psalm 108:1 (NCV) "God, my heart is steady. I will sing and praise you with all my being."
"Steady" literally means "fixed" or "constant." The heart of the Proverbs 31 woman was fixed on seeking God. The focus of her life was constant. She "respected" the Lord. In this verse, "respects" is the idea of a servant committed to obeying his master. Obedience demands a will that has chosen to submit to God. Obedience requires a mind that is guarded by the truth of God. Obedience grows from a heart that is set on pleasing God.
When the bottom line of our soul is to please and obey God, we have the respect of God! When we honor Him with a heart that is set on obedience, He will honor us.
Fourth: We must learn to respect ourselves.
Key: Be a woman of integrity.
Proverbs 31:31 "Give her the reward she has earned; she should be praised in public for what she has done."
When our public life lines up with our private life, we have integrity. Therefore, this verse implies that the Proverbs 31 woman should be praised not only for her public life but also for her personal life.
Think about how many lives this woman touched.
Proverbs 31:25 (ICB) "She is strong and is respected by the people. She looks forward to the future with joy."
She could look forward to the future with joy because she was a woman of integrity in the present. An honest life produces health and authenticity, joy and peace, respect, and integrity. Integrity is doing what you said you would do. It simply means you keep your promises.
Romans 12:17 (NLT) "Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable."
A promise is a holy thing – whether it is made to a board chairman or a child. The Proverbs 31 woman was a woman of integrity. The Proverbs 31 woman is quite a woman! The standard is high, but the reward is great. I want to be that kind of woman – don't you? That is God's plan. He promises to empower our choice to yield to Him.
Philippians 1:6 (NLT) "I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again."
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Ridofranz
Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, Fit for Life, and 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.