You know her.
You may envy her. Perhaps admire her. Maybe even hate her.
But there’s no ignoring her: the Proverbs 31 Woman. The epitome of righteousness. The measuring stick many Christian women use to determine if they’re doing ok or not.
She’s considered by many a Christian superwoman. How can she not be when she makes her own clothes, keeps an immaculate house, cooks organic meals from scratch, and supports her husband’s public figure, all while wearing a perfectly-matched outfit and laughing all day?
It’s no wonder so many of us sag under the weight of such a burden.
Is God really calling us to live frazzled, sleep-deprived, guilt-ladden lives?
The Problem: Commercialized Righteousness
Make someone feel bad enough about themselves, and you can sell them anything. That’s how the fashion, diet, and technology industries all work: creating in us extreme dissatisfaction and then offering us a product to solve our problem.
In our case, the guilt is well-placed. We have all missed the mark of God’s righteousness. We fall woefully short of His standards of perfection.
And we need something–someone–to solve our problem. That Someone is Jesus.
Unfortunately, too many Christian women turn to the “Proverbs 31 Woman” instead.
Search Proverbs 31 on Amazon and you’ll find 10,779 books. Google returns 4,530,000 hits. And the internet is full of heartbreaking memes that speak to our discouragement when faced with the perfect P31 lady (like the one below).
Perhaps in our zeal for righteousness we have replaced our Savior with an idol.
The Solution: Stop Trying to Be Your Own Savior
Perhaps we’ve been reading this text all wrong.
Maybe, instead of reading Proverbs 31 as a manual of everything we ought to do to be righteous, we need to start with this key truth: Jesus paid it all so we can stop trying to impress Him and just be faithful where we are.
When God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. If you’re a believer, that applies to you, too.
His Spirit within us brings us to a life of freedom and joyful obedience rather than dutiful observance of the law and multipliers. And while advice on how to raise our families may be helpful, nothing but Jesus’ sacrifice secures God’s favor and grace.
We do not earn God’s smile by our own works after we are saved any more than we did before we were saved:
- God won’t be happier with you if you homeschool your children than if you send them to public school.
- Your decision to eat grass-fed organic beef burgers on gluten-free buns with tomatoes and lettuce grown in your own garden won’t impress Him.
- In fact, He doesn’t shower special blessings on women who quit their careers to stay home with their kids.
The truth is this: every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is available to every believer who walks in the Spirit, regardless of whether or not her lifestyle matches what the church at large promotes as the stereotypical righteous woman.
You can breathe easily now.
Instead of striving to become a “Proverbs 31 woman,” do this: accept the finished work of Jesus on the cross and be faithful where He has placed you.
The Matthew 25 Woman
For as much attention as the church gives Proverbs 31, you’d think Jesus would be all over it, quoting the passage on His Sermon on the Mount, giving His disciples advice on how to find a “virtuous wife,” and praising Martha for her efforts to win Proverbs 31 Woman of the Year.
You might be surprised to find He doesn’t even mention the mythical woman.
But He speaks a whole lot about His followers, male and female alike, being faithful to what God has called them to do.
In Matthew 25, He explains that followers of Jesus need to be responsible with the roles and resources they have, like the wise virgins (vv. 1-13) and the wise servants (vv. 14-30), which looks like serving those around us as if they were Jesus Himself (v. 40). There are many such parables and teaching moments throughout Jesus’ ministry.
It’s time we stopped reading Proverbs 31 as a Christian womanhood manual and started reading it for what it is: the cumulative picture of women who are faithful where they are.
As I read Proverbs 31 now, I picture all the different women represented in this chapter.
- Some women are crafty and honor God with their sewing projects. …And some are not.
- Some women are business-savy and make deals that make my head spin. …And some are not.
- Some women are super-athletic and run marathons twice a year and eat only organic. …And some are not.
- Some women are gourmet chefs and throw pinterest-worthy parties. …And some are not.
- Some women are early birds and set their worlds in order by 7am. …And some are not.
- Some women are night owls and stay up late into the night, buzzing with ideas and projects. …And some are not.
- Some women are master planners and have their life goals, meal plans, holiday shopping, and bills all color-coded in a smartphone app. …And some are not.
And you know what? That’s ok.
You don’t have to be an indigo-copy of the mythical “Proverbs 31 Woman.”
The bottom line is not whether a woman is all of those things and more, but whether she is serving the people around her with her time, energy, and resources. When we reach the throne of God, He won’t ask us whether we crocheted, canned, or made a side income. He will ask us if we were faithful to serve where we were: our family, our neighbors, our coworkers, the homeless on the street corner, the widow in the grocery store, the pregnant teen, and any other person He places in our lives.
Stop trying to be someone you’re not and embrace the unique talents and gifts God has given you to serve Him right where He has placed you. (c.f. 1 Corinthians 14)
Simply be faithful. Rest in the finished work of Jesus. Celebrate your sisters who are gifted differently than you. Invite the Holy Spirit to continue molding you in the image of Jesus.
And rejoice in the sacrifice of Jesus that clothes you in His righteousness right now, just as you are.