The book of Proverbs is a beloved book of the Old Testament that contains many sayings of wisdom and godly living. One of the most striking passages is the description of the ideal wife. It begins, "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels." (Proverbs 31:10). The description of this excellent wife goes on for another 21 verses.1 She certainly is a remarkable woman. In some Christian circles, the Proverbs 31 woman is upheld as the role model Christian wives should strive to be. However, I maintain she is not the ideal Christian wife.
The wife of proverbs 31 is definitely a remarkable, industrious, and caring woman. She possesses the character traits of a godly wife:
|Does good deeds||12|
|Loving||15, 20, 27|
Besides these traits, it is clear the wife of proverbs 31 is a woman of godly virtues. Is she lacking in anything?
Proverbs 31 wife: What's missing?
Proverbs 31:30 indicates that the ideal wife "fears the Lord," but it never indicates that she loves the Lord. Even the Old Testament says that we are to "love the Lord your God."2 When reading through the passage, one gets the impression that most of her worth comes from "her works" (Proverbs 31:31). Her faith seems to be somewhat undeveloped or unnoticed. There is a suggestion of it in verse 25, which says, "she smiles at the future." One wonders whether she smiles because of her preparation and her works or because of her trust in the Lord. The story about Martha and Mary in the New Testament clearly indicates how Jesus felt about faith versus works. Jesus had come to the home of Martha and Mary, who welcomed Him into their home for a meal. Martha was a typical type A personality, who busily did all the preparations for the meal. Mary wanted to be with Jesus and listen to what He was saying. Martha eventually got irked that her sister was sitting and "left me to do all the serving alone." She told Jesus that He should tell Mary to get to work and help her. Instead, Jesus said that Mary had made the best choice. I can't help but think that the Proverbs 31 wife would have been working in the kitchen instead of listening to Jesus.
What do we know about the Proverbs 31 woman's prayer life? Nothing! We don't know if she ever prayed. The New Testament is clear that we are to be devoted to prayer and pray without ceasing.3
A personal note
I have been pondering the characteristics of the ideal Christian wife since my wife Carole's passing 7 months ago. As I am writing this on what would have been our 26th anniversary, I recall how Carole not only provided for her husband and family, but she undergirded them with constant prayer. Carole's passion and love for Jesus guided her entire life—freely sharing His love with friends, neighbors, and strangers. If she had been in Martha and Mary's house, she would have been at the feet of Jesus, where I am sure she now is.
The Proverbs 31 wife is a remarkably industrious, caring, and godly wife. She probably is the ideal Jewish wife. However, the Christian wife is to be a woman of faith—loving the Lord and being devoted to prayer—qualities which the Proverbs 31 wife seems to lack. If you are a Christian woman, it is great to be a devoted, industrious wife. However, it is clear from the New Testament that the ideal Christian wife is not just focused on earthly matters, but is a strong spiritual woman, as well.
- An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: "Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all." Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10-31)
- Love the Lord:
- "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
- "You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. (Deuteronomy 11:1)
- "It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, (Deuteronomy 11:13)
- "For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, (Deuteronomy 11:22)
- "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
- in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. (Deuteronomy 30:16)
- "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)
- "So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God. (Joshua 23:11)
- O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful And fully recompenses the proud doer. (Psalms 31:23)
- Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of
thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2)
pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
We are what we think.
- 01/17/2017 08:00 AM
God’s Threefold Will For Us (Especially When Times Are Tough)
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”1 Over the last several months I have been praying for a number of my friends who are either battling life-threatening illnesses themselves or have close family members who are undergoing great suffering. It is often in times of such trial that we actively…
- 01/10/2017 08:00 AM
Take Up and Read: Confessions
This current blog series on Reflections is intended to encourage Christians to read more vigorously by providing a beginner’s guide to some of the Christian classics in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Hopefully a very brief introduction to these important Christian texts will motivate today’s believers, as St. Augustine was called to in his dramatic conversion to Christianity,…
- 01/03/2017 07:00 AM
Two Movies to Make You Think in 2017
Why do you go to the movies? For many people it is for sheer enjoyment or to escape for a few hours from life’s pressures. One of the things I most enjoy in life is learning something significant about truth and reality. Therefore I like watching films that make me think about the deep questions of life. Looking to the…
- 12/27/2016 07:00 AM
Take Up and Read: Mere Christianity
Given its dependence on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible, historic Christianity has always been a textual and literary religion. Because of their belief in a verbal, propositional revelation in Scripture (Old and New Testaments), Christians, like Jews before them, have been known as People of the Book. With that bookish past, I think Christians have good reason to be vigorous…
- 12/20/2016 07:00 AM
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Mortimer Adler
“It is man’s glory to be the only intellectual animal on earth. That imposes upon human beings the moral obligation to lead intellectual lives.”1 –Mortimer J. Adler Mortimer Adler was one of the most influential philosophers and educators of the 20th century, but what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to his fields of study? Here’s your crash…
- 12/13/2016 07:00 AM
How Do We Pursue Sanctification Amid a Sinful World?
“We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with.”1 —C. S. Lewis Personally, I always feel more comfortable and confident talking about the biblical doctrine of justification than I do about the doctrine of sanctification. Probably because I feel my own progress in sanctification always leaves something to be desired. Nevertheless, here are some of my recent…
- 12/06/2016 08:00 AM
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Ronald Nash
Ronald Nash was one of the most influential evangelical Christian thinkers of the last half-century, but what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to the Christian apologetics enterprise? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Ronald Nash—and why he still matters today. Who Was Ronald Nash? Ronald H. Nash (1936–2006) was born in Cleveland,…
- 11/29/2016 08:00 AM
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Walter Martin
Walter Martin was one of the most distinctive Christian apologists of the twentieth century, but what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to the apologetics enterprise? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Walter Martin—and why he still matters today. Who Was Walter Martin? Walter Ralston Martin (1928–1989) was born in New York City…
- 11/22/2016 12:07 PM
The Appeal of Common Christianity
Within church history, it seems some Christian traditions or denominations like to emphasize those beliefs that make their particular group distinctive. These unique features or beliefs often reflect an attempt to answer or resolve a challenging or paradoxical aspect of Christian theology (such as God’s sovereignty versus human freedom, views of the sacraments or ordinances such as baptism, perspectives on…
- 11/15/2016 08:00 AM
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Justin Martyr
Saint Justin, also known as Justin Martyr, was one of the first Christians to meet Greco-Roman thinkers on their own ground by using philosophy as a tool or handmaid (servant) to defend the gospel message. But what else did he contribute to historic Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Justin Martyr—and why he still matters…
Last Modified March 18, 2015