A Wise Woman: Priorities and Praise
What are the priorities of a woman of wisdom?
While not much is mentioned in this passage about this woman’s relationship with God, the poem does wrap up with a reference to her fear of the Lord (Proverbs 31:30). We get the sense her relationship with God is foundational to everything else she does.
For the married woman of wisdom, her husband seems to be the next priority right after her relationship with God. “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. . . Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:11-12 and 23). He never doubts that she will be faithful to him and will always seek his good.
“She brings him good, not harm. . .”. This is a caution to women to be careful to build their husbands up, not to tear them down. A wise wife’s words to her husband or to others about him must never cause him harm.
“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. . . When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet” (Proverbs 31:15 and 21). She clothes and feeds her family and is willing to sacrifice for them, as most mothers are, planning for their well-being, and even giving up sleep so their needs can be met.
“. . . she has no fear for her household.” It is significant that the sage comments on fear. Those of us who are parents know that we can be fearful for our kids much of the time. We worry about their safety, their health, their spirituality, their relationships, their finances, and their values. The godly woman doesn’t carry this fear. When we believe that God loves our children and that his plans for them will be worked out in each of their lives, we will not be afraid.
“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. . .” (Proverbs 31:15). She takes good care of those who work for her. Most of us don’t have household servants these days, but in our world, servants might be those who wait on us in restaurants, bag our groceries, plow our driveways, or do other tasks for us. Those who provide services for us should be treated with respect and compassion. We should pay them, tip them, and relate to them as human beings and not machines.
This verse also says that the wise woman not only takes care of them, but also that she directs and supervises their work. For us today, this likely refers to household management. Women today often need to oversee the care and maintenance of all aspects of their households just as the wise woman of Proverbs did.
“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20). Opening her arms seems to imply compassion, while extending her hand seems to indicate actively helping those in need. She has a lot of work to do in her own household, but she still has energy and interest to show compassion, kindness, caring to those in need.
What do others think of a wise woman?
“Her husband has full confidence in her . . .She is clothed with strength and dignity . . .’ Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all” (Proverbs 31:11a, 25a, and 29). The New Testament clearly states a wife should respect her husband. It’s interesting to see here the respect that this husband also shows for his wife. The community also sees her as strong, dignified, and noble. Women want to be acknowledged as capable, trusted counterparts to men in their homes, churches, and workplaces. This wise woman certainly was!
“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all’. . . Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (from Proverbs 31:28-31). This woman’s children and her husband acknowledge her importance to them. I imagine her husband’s praise is the most valued of all. He sees her as the noblest of all women and seems to regard it a privilege to be married to her. High praise, indeed!
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10). Deep inside we know our value comes from God alone, not from what other people think of us, but it is a special tribute when others recognize our character and our work.