The Proverbs 31 Woman: Why She is Not the Ideal Christian Wife
by Rich Deem


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.

Proverbs 31

The wife of proverbs 31 is definitely a remarkable, industrious, and caring woman. She possesses the character traits of a godly wife:

Trait Verse
Trustworthy 11
Does good deeds 12
Industrious 13-27
Loving 15, 20, 27
Strong 17, 25
Charitable 20
Dignified 25
Confident 25
Wise 26
Kind 26

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.

Conclusion Top of page

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.

References Top of page

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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.

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Last Modified March 18, 2015


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