Yes, you read that correctly, the Proverbs 31 MAN! I’ve always been taught that Proverbs 31 is a description of the ideal wife; her list of job duties were what we as women were to aspire to. Men got to follow after extremely flawed leaders such as King David, Abraham, and King Solomon while we had to be the perfect woman, and if we couldn’t attain such greatness we could settle for being like the virgin mother Mary, Ruth the sexual trickster, or Esther the beauty queen. Those who were of the humble type could settle for being like Mary Magdalene the devoted member of Jesus’ core group of servant leaders, Rachel the barren over comer, or Naomi the redeemed widow. If you don’t have the characteristics of an ideal woman, you will be reminded of your unfortunate status courtesy of countless women’s bible studies and sermons on perceived ungodly women by the names of Eve, Jezebel, Sarah, and Vashti.
I’ve never desired to be the Proverbs 31 woman primarily because she didn’t exist. The “Capable Wife”, also known as the “Woman of Valour” is a character in a poem. She is the personification of wisdom. She is found throughout the Hebrew scriptures and in other proverbs such as 3:15 and chapter 8. I’m sure there are women who fit her description and they should certainly be praised, but I have no desire to model my life after fiction.
My desire in life is to have the character of Woman Wisdom as described throughout the bible and especially in Proverbs. The important thing for readers to realize and accept, is that these characteristics of wisdom are intended for both men and woman. God doesn’t have two different standards of characters and values that He expects us to obtain. God is a god of equality, His teachings are for all of humanity to obey, treasure, and follow.
King Lemuel’s mother is cautioning her not so wise son about the dangers of being seduced by worldly temptations. Nothing brings a powerful man down like drunkenness, bad company, and a penchant for the type of women who can only offer outer beauty and nothing else. This is a mother who wants her son to develop a character of wisdom, especially because he is a king. We have somehow forgotten an important part of Proverbs 31 where the King’s mother advises her son to, “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (v 8-9).
God wants both men and women to:
- be trust worthy (11)
- do good and not harm (12)
- work hard for a living (13)
- provide for the needs of your household (15)
- be a servant leader to those who work for you (15)
- have a home and take care of it (16)
- be physically strong and fit (17)
- have good economic sense (18)
- be skilled (19)
- help the poor in an honest way, and help those in need (20)
- be prepared for the unexpected and think ahead (21)
- dress appropriately and accordingly (22)
- associate with respectable people and earn your place among them (23)
- practice good business skills (24)
- be independent, confident, and worthy of respect (25)
- don’t fear the future (25)
- speak words of wisdom (26)
- speak with kindness and others will learn from you (26)
- look after your family and household instead of being unproductive (27)
- raise a happy family (28)
All of these values are important, they are what we strive for as godly people, but it is only the rare person who obtains them all.
Charm is superficial (30), God is looking for depth and authenticity. Beauty (30) is subjective and also doesn’t contribute to the depth of character that God is looking for. The only thing that matters to God is our relationship with Him and how we deal with others. A godly person who lives a life filled with wisdom is honoured and respected by his or her family and the community (31); wisdom is important for developing healthy relationships with others. Thankfully God has given us His Holy Spirit so we are not left to develop wisdom through our own efforts. The more we seek to do God’s will, the more wisdom we receive.
King Lemuel’s mother wants her son to rule with wisdom and inner strength. His mother expects him to be the Proverbs 31 wife, and his family are those he rules over. This teaching is in line with how God wants us to live; this is how God wants leaders, rulers, and kings to set an example for others to live. If a nation is lead with wisdom the leader will not only gain respect from the people, but he will also develop wise followers.
So husbands, I encourage you to see yourself as a Proverbs 31 husband. For those of either gender who are not married, I encourage you as well to become a Proverbs 31 person of wisdom.